Wednesday, December 25, 2013

January is 'National Train Your Dog Month'!

The APDT (Association of Professional Dog Trainers) has declared January, Train Your Dog Month.  After the hustle and bustle of the holiday season it's now time to refocus on our furry friends!

Check out the free webinars and training tips on their web site.

Then give me a call and I will customize a training package just for you!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Watch our for sugar free gum!

Hi all, I just wanted to provide a reminder that there are lots of things around our houses that you may not know are very dangerous for your dogs.

Most people know about chocolate, poinsettias and antifreeze, but did you know that sugar free foods that contain Xyletol are also very dangerous?  Recently I received an email from a client letting me know that their beloved Havanese was very ill from eating just 1/2 a container of Ice Breakers sugar free gum.  It takes very little of this substance, only two grams to kill a dog!  For more information on Xyletol you can read this

More importantly, please take a look at the list below, you might be surprised to find other foods that are dangerous to your dog, and be sure to post the poison control hotlines near your phone, just in case!

Poison Control Hotlines
It's always a good idea to post close at hand your veterinarian's number, the number of an emergency clinic, and the number for the Poison Control Center. Before you call, note the time your pet was exposed to the toxin, the type of product ingested, the manufacturer's name and any ingredients you can find listed on packaging.

      ASPCA Ani-Med   1.888.721.9100

      ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center   1.888.426.4435

      National Animal Poison Control Center   1.800.548.2423
         If you need to speak to a veterinarian there, this service will be billed to a credit card. An alternate
         number is (900) 680-0000. A veterinarian's services on this line will cost a flat fee for the first five
         minutes, and an additional fee per minute for each additional minute. These charges will be billed
         to your phone bill. (Call them for current pricing)

      Kansas State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital    1.785.532.5679
FREE 24 hours poison control hotline for pet owners and veterinarians. Be patient. The person
         answering the phone may have to take a few minutes to consult the vet on duty.

      Pet Lover's Helpline   1.900.776.0007  

      Tuft University School of Veterinary Medicine   508.839.5395

      Poison Helpline, is an animal poison control service available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners            and veterinary professionals who require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet.  Pet Poison Helpline        is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680.                                     

Plants and Foods Toxic to Pets
Here is a quick reference guide to the more common house and garden plants and foods (and other substances) that are toxic to most all animals. If you have these plants or foods, you need not dispose of them--just keep them away from your pets. Although it is impossible to list all possible poisons, these guidelines may help you begin to remove or place out of reach most potential problems.
This list is NOT ALL INCLUSIVE and may not include items poisonous to Hamsters/Guinea Pigs/Iguanas/etc

            * Indicates that a substance is especially dangerous and can be fatal.

Foods which are toxic and poisonous to pets:
Alcohol (all alcoholic beverages, ethanol, methanol, isopropyl)
Apples seeds
Broccoli (in large amounts)
Cherry pits
Chocolate (all types)*
Coffee grounds, beans & tea (caffeine)
Hops (used in home brewing)
Macadamia Nuts
Moldy/spoiled foods
Pear seeds
Plum seed/pit
Potato (leaves & stem, peelings, and unripe green potatoes)
Rhubarb leaves*
Sugar Free items with Xylitol (see below)***
Tomatoes (leaves & stem, and green tomatoes)
Walnut hulls
Yeast dough

Plants which are toxic and/or poisonous to pets:
Amaryllis bulb*
Apple seeds (contain cyanide)
Autumn crocus (Colchicum Autumnale)*
Avocado (leaves, seeds, stem, skin)* (fatal to birds)
Azalea (entire rhododendron family)
Bird of Paradise
Bleeding heart*
Bracken fern
Buttercup (Ranunculus)
Calla lily*
Castor bean or castor oil plant* (can be fatal if chewed)
Cherry pits (contain cyanide)
Cherry Chinese sacred or heavenly bamboo*
Chocolate Choke cherry, unripe berries*
Chrysanthemum (a natural source of pyrethrins)
Crocus bulb
Croton (Codiaeum sp.)
Crown of Thorns
Delphinium, larkspur, monkshood*
Dumb cane (Dieffenbachia)*
Elderberry, unripe berries*
Elephant Ear
English ivy (All Hedera species of ivy)
Fig (Ficus)
Four-o'clocks (Mirabilis)
Foxglove (Digitalis)*
Hyacinth bulbs
Holly berries
Iris corms
Jerusalem Cherry, Winter Cherry (Solanum pseudocarpum)
Jimsonweed* (Datur stramonium, D. metaloides, D. arborea)
Lily (bulbs of most species)
Lily (Easter Lily, Tiger Lily)
Lupine species
Marijuana or hemp (Cannabis)
Mistletoe berries*
Morning Glory*
Mostera, aka Split-Leaf Philodendron or Swiss Cheese Plant
Mountain laurel
Mushrooms & Toadstools (various)
Narcissus, daffodil
Nightshade (various species)
Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)
Oak* (remove bark for use as a bird perch)
Pear seeds
Pencil cactus/plant* (Euphorbia sp.)
Periwinkle (Vinca rosea)
Peyote (Lophophora williamsii)
Philodendron (all species)*
Plum pit/seed
Poinsettia (many hybrids, avoid them all)
Poison Ivy
Potato (leaves & stem, peelings, unripe green potatoes)
Precatory Beans (Crabs Eye, Rosary Pea, Jequirity Bean)
Used in jewelry. Extremely toxic when seedcoat is broken, as it is when the seeds are strung
Rhubarb leaves*
Rosary Pea (Arbus sp.) (can be fatal if chewed)
Scheffelera (umbrella plant)*
Shamrock (Oxalis sp.)*
Skunk Cabbage
Spurge (Euphorbia sp.)
Tomatoes (leaves & stem, green tomatoes)
Walnut hulls
Water Arum

Other substances that are very harmful include (but are not limited to):
Boric Acid
Brake Fluid
Carbon Monoxide
Carbuerator Fluid
Cigarettes and other nicotine products and smoke
Cleaning Fluids
Crayons (dangerous for birds)
Diet Pills
Drain Cleaners
Furniture Polish
Hair Coloring
Laundry supplies & fabric softener
Metal Polish
Mineral Spirits
Nail Polish & Nail Polish Remover
Paint Remover
Permananet Solution
Photo Developer
Rodent poison
Rubbing Alcohol
Rust (dangerous for birds)
Shoe Polish
Sleeping Pills
Slug/Snail Bait
Sugar Free foods (see below)***
Suntan Lotion
Window Cleaners
Wood preservatives and shellac
Fumes dangerous to birds: smoke-filled air, insecticide spray, deodorizers, spray cleaners, fumes from fresh paint, gas, and overheated Teflon (very deadly).

Toxins Explained

Chocolate/Caffeine: Chocolate contains theobromine, a compound that is a cardiac stimulant and a diuretic. After their pet has eaten a large quantity of chocolate, many pet owners assume their pet is unaffected. However, the signs of sickness may not be seen for several hours, with death following within twenty-four hours. Symptoms include Staggering, labored breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, tremors, fever, heart rate increase, arrhythmia, seizures, coma, death. Cocoa powder and cooking chocolate are the most toxic forms. A 10-kilogram dog can be seriously affected if it eats a quarter of a 250gm packet of cocoa powder or half of a 250gm block of cooking chocolate. These forms of chocolate contain ten times more theobromine than milk chocolate. Thus, a chocolate mud cake could be a real health risk for a small dog. Even licking a substantial part of the chocolate icing from a cake can make a dog unwell. Semi-sweet chocolate and dark chocolate are the next most dangerous forms, with milk chocolate being the least dangerous. A dog needs to eat more than a 250gm block of milk chocolate to be affected. Obviously, the smaller the dog, the less it needs to eat.

Onions/Garlic: Onions and garlic contain the toxic ingredient thiosulphate. Onions are more of a danger. Pets affected by onion toxicity will develop haemolytic anaemia, where the pet’s red blood cells burst while circulating in its body. Symptoms include Hemolytic Anemia, labored breathing, liver damage, vomiting, diarrhea, discolored urine. The poisoning occurs a few days after the pet has eaten the onion. All forms of onion can be a problem including dehydrated onions, raw onions, cooked onions and table scraps containing cooked onions and/or garlic. Left over pizza, Chinese dishes and commercial baby food containing onion, sometimes fed as a supplement to young pets, can cause illness. While garlic also contains the toxic ingredient thiosulphate, it seems that garlic is less toxic and large amounts would need to be eaten to cause illness.

Grapes/Raisins: As few as a handful of raisins or grapes can make a dog/cat ill; however, of the 10 cases reported to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC), each dog ingested between 9 ounces and 2 pounds of grapes or raisins. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and lethargy.

Macadamia Nuts: Macadamia nuts are another concern, along with most other kinds of nuts. Their high phosphorus content is said to possibly lead to bladder stones. Dogs develop a tremor of the skeletal muscles, and weakness or paralysis of the hindquarters. Affected dogs are often unable to rise and are distressed, usually panting. Some affected dogs have swollen limbs and show pain when the limbs are manipulated.

Bones from fish, poultry, or other meat sources: Can cause obstruction or laceration of the digestive system. Cooked bones splinter EVEN MORE.

Milk and other dairy products: Some adult dogs and cats do not have sufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose in milk. This can result in diarrhea. Lactose-free milk products are available for pets.

Raw Eggs: Contain an enzyme called avidin, which decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin). This can lead to skin and hair coat problems. Raw eggs may also contain Salmonella.

***Sugar Free foods with Xylitol: Veterinarians warn that a commonly used sweetener might cause liver failure in dogs, and perhaps even kill them. Researchers said for dogs, ingesting even a small amount of xylitol, found in many sugar-free foods, can trigger significant insulin release, which drops their blood sugar and can be fatal. Their report in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association appears to strengthen the suspected link between the sugar substitute xylitol, thought to make dogs sick, and possible liver failure. Xylitol, a naturally occurring product, is found in many sugar-free chewing gums, candies, baked goods and toothpastes. Researchers Sharon Gwaltney-Brant and Eric Dunayer with staff at a poison unit of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Urbana, Illinois, gathered information on eight dogs treated between 2003 and 2005 after eating products containing xylitol. Each dog became ill, and five died or had to be put down because of liver failure, possibly from ingesting xylitol. One dog who had to be euthanized had eaten four large, chocolate-frosted muffins containing about 1 pound of xylitol. "People don't think sugar-free gum can kill their dog. I didn't before I got into this. But this is something people should be aware of," Gwaltney-Brant, who co-authored the study with Dunayer, said in a statement. Gwaltney-Brant said for dogs, ingesting even a small amount of xylitol can trigger significant insulin release, which drops their blood sugar and can be fatal. "A 22-pound dog who consumes one gram of xylitol should be treated," she said, adding that further studies were needed to definitely establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

NOTE: Pets owners should not assume that human food is always safe for pets. When it comes to chocolate, onions, garlic, raisins/grapes and macadamia nuts, such foods should not be given at all. Be sure that your pets can’t get into your stash of chocolates, that food scraps are disposed of carefully to prevent onion and garlic toxicity and that your dog is prevented from picking up macadamia nuts if you have a tree in your garden.
Top 10 Human Medications That Poison Our Pets  from

Although pet parents are well aware of poisons lurking around their home, many don’t realize that some of the biggest culprits are sitting right on their own nightstands. In 2007, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center received 89,000 calls related to pets ingesting over-the-counter and prescription medications. To help you prevent an accident from happening, our experts have created a list of the top 10 human medications that most often poison our furry friends.

If you suspect your pet has ingested any of the following items, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435. And remember to keep all medications tucked away in bathroom cabinets—and far from curious cats and dogs.

NSAIDs NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like ibuprofen or naproxen are the most common cause of pet poisoning in small animals, and can cause serious problems even in minimal doses. Pets are extremely sensitive to their effects, and may experience stomach and intestinal ulcers and—in the case of cats—kidney damage.

Antidepressants Antidepressants can cause vomiting and lethargy and certain types can lead to serotonin syndrome—a condition marked by agitation, elevated body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure, disorientation, vocalization, tremors and seizures.

Acetaminophen Cats are especially sensitive to acetaminophen, which can damage red blood cells and interfere with their ability to transport oxygen. In dogs, it can cause liver damage and, at higher doses, red blood cell damage.

Methylphenidate (for ADHD) Medications used to treat ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) in people act as stimulants in pets and can dangerously elevate heart rates, blood pressure and body temperature, as well as cause seizures.

Fluorouracil Fluorouracil—an anti-cancer drug—is used topically to treat minor skin cancers and solar keratitis in humans. It has proven to be rapidly fatal to dogs, causing severe vomiting, seizures and cardiac arrest even in those who’ve chewed on discarded cotton swabs used to apply the medication.

Isoniazid Often the first line of defense against tuberculosis, isoniazid is particularly toxic for dogs because they don’t metabolize it as well as other species. It can cause a rapid onset of severe seizures that may ultimately result in death.

Pseudoephedrine Pseudoephedrine is a popular decongestant in many cold and sinus products, and acts like a stimulant if accidentally ingested by pets. In cats and dogs, it causes elevated heart rates, blood pressure and body temperature as well as seizures.

Anti-diabetic Many oral diabetes treatments—including glipizide and glyburide—can cause a major drop in blood sugar levels of affected pets. Clinical signs of ingestion include disorientation, lack of coordination and seizures.

Vitamin D derivatives
Even small exposures to Vitamin D analogues like calcipotriene and calcitriol can cause life-threatening spikes in blood calcium levels in pets. Clinical signs of exposure—including vomiting, loss of appetite, increased urination and thirst due to kidney failure—often don't occur for more than 24 hours after ingestion.

Baclofen Baclofen is a muscle relaxant that can impair the central nervous systems of cats and dogs. Some symptoms of ingestion include significant depression, disorientation, vocalization, seizures and coma, which can lead to death.

Friday, September 13, 2013

New Puppy - OMG What Did We Do!?

Getting a new puppy can be an exciting new adventure.  At the same time it can be nerve wracking, terrifying and tiring!  I recently read a post in a professional chat room talking about what advice trainers give people who have just acquired new puppies. Most trainers will tell you in order to make the transition easier you should keep the visitors to a minimum the first couple of days, provide the new puppy with a place of it's own (crate) somewhat away from the hustle and bustle of the household (but not separated from everything), create a routine so that there is some predictability and to play with your puppy and get to know them.

In addition, a good way to jump start a puppies training is to begin using a clicker to mark the behaviors you want the dog to repeat. If you are not comfortable with a clicker you can use a word to mark the behavior, like 'Yes!' ,and follow up with a treat. Here is a list things I would do with my own puppy during the first 2-4 weeks.

  1. Every time the dog eliminates outside - click and treat (C/T)
  2. Every time the dog makes eye contact - C/T
  3. Every time the pup walks into the crate - C/T
  4. Every time the pup comes up to you, reach down and gently touch their collar or pat their head, then C/T
  5. Every time the pup brings a toy to you - C/T
  6. Every time the pup lies in their bed - C/T
  7. Every time the pup moves toward your side as you are walking - C/T
  8. At least one meal a day, as your dog is eating walk by the bowl and drop something even better than their kibble into the bowl. Have all family members do this.
  9. Drop treats in between your puppies paws every time you go to snap on the leash.
  10. Put treats in your dogs crate when they are not looking so that they can discover them when they walk into the crate.
  11. Every time you find the dog in their crate, toss a treat in.  No need to make a fuss, just toss the treat and walk away.
  12. Present a flat palm to your puppy, when they walk up to sniff it and touch it with their nose, C/T
  13. Ring the doorbell when no one is at the door - C/T
  14. Manage the puppies environment so that they are successful.  I.E. puppy proof the area the puppy is in so the puppy can't get into trouble, crate the puppy when you can't watch it so they don't eliminate in the house, use gates and tethers to keep the pup in a safe area of the house.  Use drag leashes in the house while the dog is under your supervision so that you can grab the leash if the pup starts to head into trouble.
  15. Never, never leave puppies and children alone, even for a second.  Neither has the self control or awareness to understand how to interact and the only defense a puppy has is it's teeth, which are razor sharp and can inflict painful cuts quickly!
  16. Find and get started with a good training program.
  17. Finally, socialize the puppy to different environments, people, places, noises and smells.  Attend puppy class or puppy play groups with dogs of similar age at least once a week.  Avoid large gatherings of adult dogs, dog parks and areas where there may be adult dogs that are off leash.



The kids just started school, I've got a new job, the house is being renovated... I'm just too busy to train!!!!

I know!  I get it!  I train 4-5 other people's dogs every day, go home and make sure the kid has his homework done, or take him to tennis, cook dinner, clean and do laundry and then listen as my husband tells me all about his day.  While my dog is now almost 9 years old, I know that if I don't practice with her every day she will (and does) go backwards in her training.

Why would a well trained dog go backwards in their training?  Simple, dogs learn and are reinforced (or not) for their behavior every day, all day long.  Behaviors that are reinforced will repeat, those that don't get reinforced eventually go away, even in well trained 9 year old dogs!

So, how to I incorporate training into my day?  Here's a sample of a typical day for me.

6:00 am - the alarm goes off (ugh really not liking these high school early start hours), the dog has figured out that fairly quickly she's going to get fed, so in hopes to hasten that event I hear a low growl.  It's not menacing, just a message that she would really like me to pick up the pace.  Instead, I attach her to the tether on our bed, a message that growling or any demanding behavior gets nothing!  After I get dressed and brush my teeth, I return and release her (she is settled and calmly waiting now) to follow me down stairs. I ask her to wait at the top of the stairs so I don't get run down in her haste to get her food more quickly.  When I am safely down the stairs, I release her and toss her a quick treat!  No I don't wear my bait bag to bed, but I do have treats strategically stashed around the house in dog proof plastic bins.

6:15 am - We are on a tight schedule these days, so this one really helps.  Winter and I walk out the front door, I ask for a wait before opening the door, this is key as the front yard is NOT fenced and I have startled several deer on occasion as they were feeding on my hosta by the front door. Once I determine the coast is clear I release Winter with the command 'get the paper' and she swiftly runs down the 100' driveway, snags the paper and races back to get her well deserved treats!  She then gets released to go back out to do her business which she does with alacrity because breakfast is yet to come!

6:20 am - I prepare the dog's food first, this takes a bit of time as sometimes it needs to be defrosted, so while I'm doing this, I ask for a sit, down, sit, stay or some other string of behaviors that ends with a stay. This serves to keep Winter still so that while the microwave is doing it's thing I can also start prepping the rest of the families breakfast without having her under foot.  Once the food is thawed, I pick up her dish (yes, she's still in a stay) bring it to the counter, place the food in the dish and then release the dog.  We heel across the kitchen to her feeding station, she sits automatically as we stop and holds a perfect 'watch' for at least 20 seconds.  I ask her to 'wait' while I put the dish down, and release her to eat once I get out of the way!  That entire behavior chain is reinforced with a single bowl of food!

6:45 am - While eating breakfast, Winter is asked to hold a down/stay at my left side, the side away from my son.  At 15 he no longer drops as much food as he did when he was 6 but she's still ready to beg if given the opportunity.  For holding the down stay she might get 1-2 treats at random intervals.

7:00 am - We are out the door, and if it's a day I can't take Winter with me I will hide treats throughout the house just before we leave.  She holds a down stay until we are ready to close the door, at which point she gets a much anticipated 'Find it' command so that she can spend up to 45 minutes searching the house with her nose for the hidden goodies.

If Winter comes with me (only in the cooler weather!) we often go to the park after dropping my son at school, and before I open the back of the car, I ask for a wait, no need to reward this behavior, being released to get out to go for a walk is enough of a reward.  We will walk around the track with a few friends, but even as I am chatting there are lots of opportunities to reinforce and practice cued behaviors.  Every time she approaches the kids playground or sand box area, she get's a 'leave it' command and appropriate treat for complying.  We heel for several meters along the way, and she is reward for the really nice happy heeling I like.  If a dog comes at her that I know plays too rough, we practice 'hide',  where she buries her head between my thighs to stay safe from the overly rambunctious types, she gets rewarded while holding the position and I get to shoo the dog away.  I call her to come at least 5-6 times during a 30 minutes walk and reward her at least a couple of those times for the best recalls.  If I have to use my emergency recall (three short whistles) I ALWAYS reward her with a high value treat!  This is one response I always want her to return for so it gets special treatment.

During training sessions with other dogs Winter often stays in the car, if I am working outside near the car, she has developed a bad habit of barking, this is a demand behavior.  To counter condition this I place a Manner's Minder device in the back of the car with her. It can be remotely triggered to deliver a treat and as I am working near the car, I periodically reward her for being quiet.

In between each client I find an area to take Winter for a break, each time she comes out of the car she is asked to 'wait' before she is released to jump out of the back, this let's me disconnect her car seat belt and check to make sure it's safe to let her out.  She is always on leash during these breaks, so each break is an opportunity to reward good leash behavior.  If we run into someone we know or someone stops to admire her, we now have opportunities to reward good greeting behaviors, although with Winter getting attention from someone is reward enough!

She does, of course, act as my neutral dog when I am working with reactive dogs, so during those sessions there is lots of heeling, looks, stays and various other cues I use to direct her to change or maintain her body position.

2:30 pm  I may have to stop by the bank in the afternoon, this requires a wait before we leave the car and each time we go through a doorway.  Heeling into and out of the bank building, sitting each time we stop, waiting patiently for the next teller to open up (I know I could use the ATM but where's the fun in that), sitting nicely for the bank manager who always has to say hello and maintaining her composure even though there are lots and lots of people around who might just want to pet her!  All of these behaviors get rewarded, some with pets (like the bank manger greeting), but many with food, particularly the hard ones, like not getting overly excited when people talk to me about how well behaved she's being!

3:00 pm Once we get home for the afternoon and evening things are pretty quiet, I'm often tied up with phone calls, answering emails and working with my son on his homework. Winter likes to go hang out in the fenced in back yard or sleep in the kitchen on the tile floor.  Recently I noticed she was no longer providing me with a solid cue for going out, so now before I let her out I ask her to 'speak', releasing her to the back yard is enough of a reward that I anticipate fairly soon she will begin giving me the bark at the back door signal to go out again.

6:00 pm Dinner time!  Winter is all about the food, so will begin to dance and sit by the refrigerator right around the time I start making dinner.  This can get annoying but is once again an opportunity to reinforce good behaviors  and/or give her alternative behaviors for ones that can be annoying.  One example is her propensity to sit right in front of the fridge and stare at it during dinner preparations.  She is of course hoping to make me go to the fridge to get her food for her.  Since I have a fairly small kitchen this places her smack in the middle of my prep area!  So we work on 'go to mat' in the doorway, this also serves to keep other people out of my kitchen and out of the way!  After asking her to go to mat, which I strategically place in the kitchen doorway, as long as she stays in place I periodically place a reward on the mat at random intervals. Again, while eating dinner, Winter is asked to hold a down/stay at my left side so that she does not beg at my son's chair.

8:00 pm  TV time in the den.  This is the time when the whole family retires to the den for a bit of TV and down time.  Winter likes to cuddle on the couch with us, but is not allowed up unless asked.  So she positions herself in her best "please may I?" attitude, butt on the floor looking lovingly into our eyes!  When we are ready she is permitted access to the couch with us.  Again, no need to reward with food, her reward here is cuddling with her people!

So how much training have I done on a day I've had no time to do a formal training session in?  If I do not count any time we spend training with other dogs, there are probably 40-50 interactions each day that can be rewarded in one way or another.  If I fail to reward those good behaviors periodically the behavior will, over time, diminish until it is gone.  How sad to have worked hard to create a cued behavior only to have it die of neglect!

So it's not always about making the time to train, as much as it is about taking the opportunities you are given throughout the day and reinforcing the behaviors you want and have already worked hard to establish!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Overheating Can Cause Your Dog’s Agonizing Death Within Minutes – Yet It’s Entirely Avoidable

by Dr. Karen Becker

The hot summer months are almost upon us, and tragically, many pets will succumb to heat-related deaths between now and the arrival of cooler weather in the fall.

Most cases of dogs dying from heat exposure go unreported, so no statistics exist on how widespread the problem is. But estimates are that several hundred dogs suffer this slow, agonizing and entirely preventable fate every summer.

The loss of a beloved pet is hard enough when death is expected and the passing is painless. But losing a furry family member to an avoidable case of heatstroke is something many pet owners can never forgive themselves for.

Leaving a dog unattended in a vehicle in extreme temperatures is currently a criminal offense in a handful of states and several cities and towns. Most of the laws on the books have rescue provisions that allow certain individuals – typically police officers, firefighters, animal control officers, and store employees – to take whatever action is necessary to free an animal from a vehicle in dangerously hot or cold weather.

No matter where you live, if you see an animal left in someone else’s parked car in the heat, notify a store employee or mall security right away. If the pet’s owner can’t be located immediately, animal control or the police should be called. A pet can suffer permanent damage or death in a very short time when left in a parked vehicle on a hot day.

Symptoms of Overheating in Dogs

On an 85-degree day it takes only 10 minutes for the interior of your parked car to climb to 102 degrees. In a half hour, it can reach 120 degrees. And leaving windows partially open doesn’t drop the temperature inside the vehicle.

Keep in mind your dog has a higher body temp than you do and she can’t cool down as efficiently as you do, either. Your dog is designed more for insulation from the cold than cooling down in the heat.

You have sweat glands all over your body, but your dog’s are confined to her nose and the pads of her feet. A dog that is heating up can only normalize her body temperature through panting, which just doesn’t get the job done under extreme conditions. In a very short period of time, an overheated dog can suffer critical damage to her brain, heart, liver and nervous system.
Symptoms of overheating in dogs include:

Heavy panting Elevated body temperature

Excessive thirst Weakness, collapse

Glazed eyes Increased pulse and heartbeat

Vomiting, bloody diarrhea Seizures

Bright or dark red tongue, gums Excessive drooling

Staggering Unconsciousness

Some dogs are at higher risk for heat-related illness than others, including brachycephalic breeds (dogs with flat faces and short noses), older dogs, puppies, dogs that are ill or have a chronic health condition, dogs not used to warm weather, any dog left outside in hot weather, and dogs that are allowed to overexert themselves in the heat.
From Overheating to Heatstroke

If your dog’s body temperature gets to 109°F or higher, heatstroke is the result. The cells of the body rapidly start to die. The brain swells, causing seizures. Lack of blood supply to the GI tract causes ulcers. Dehydration leads to irreversible kidney damage. All these catastrophic events take place within a matter of minutes.
In the early stages of a heat-related illness it can be difficult to assess your dog’s condition, since it’s normal for him to pant when he’s warm or while exerting himself.
I recommend you learn from your dog’s vet how to take his temperature (it must be done rectally), and invest in a digital thermometer that you designate for doggie use only. It could come in handy if you’re ever concerned your dog is overheated and need to know his body temperature.
I can’t stress enough how important it is for pet owners to take every precaution to prevent overheating. By the time a dog is exhibiting symptoms of heatstroke, it’s often too late to save him.
How to Help an Overheated Dog

If you think your pet or any dog is experiencing heatstroke, you should take immediate action and move him to a cool area, preferably with air conditioning. At a minimum you should move him to a shady spot.
Next, try to determine his condition. If he’s standing, or if he’s at least conscious and panting, offer him small amounts of water to drink and take his temperature if possible.
If his temp is 104ºF or lower, remain with him in a cool environment, watch him carefully and keep offering small drinks of water. A large volume of water all at once might cause him to vomit, which will add to the risk of dehydration. When he seems more comfortable, call your veterinarian for next steps. The vet may want to evaluate your dog even if he seems fully recovered.
If the dog is unable to stand on his own, is unresponsive to your voice, touch or the sight of you, or is having seizures, check for breathing and a heartbeat. At the same time, have someone contact a veterinary hospital (or make the call yourself if you’re alone with your pet) to let them know you’ll be bringing him in right away. It’s important to alert the clinic you’re on the way so they can prepare for your arrival.
Begin cooling your dog down by soaking his body with cool water – cool, but not cold. Use a hose, wet towels or any other source of cool water that is available. Take his temperature if possible. Concentrate the cooling water on his head, neck and in the areas underneath the front and back legs. Carefully cool the tongue if possible, but don’t let water run into the throat as it could get into the lungs. Never put water in the mouth of a dog that can’t swallow on his own. Put a fan on him if possible – it will speed up the cooling process.
After a few minutes, re-check his temperature. If it’s at or below 104ºF, stop the cooling process. Further cooling could lead to blood clotting or a too-low body temperature. Get the dog to a veterinary clinic right away, even if he seems to be recovering.
Tips for Preventing Overheating

Provide plenty of fresh, clean drinking water at all times. If your dog will be outside for any length of time in warm weather, she should have access to complete shade. Periodically encourage her to play in the sprinkler or hose her down with cool water to prevent overheating.
If your dog has a long coat, give her a summer cut. Her fur can be shaved to a one-inch length to make her more comfortable when it’s hot. Just don’t go any shorter than an inch, because her coat protects her from the sun.
Exercise your dog early in the morning or after sunset, during the coolest parts of the day. Don’t overdo exercise or play sessions, regardless of the time of day. And if it gets to be 90°F, your pet should be indoors where it’s cool.
Don’t walk or exercise your dog on hot pavement. Not only can it burn her paws, but the heat rising from concrete or asphalt can quickly overheat an animal that is close to the ground.
And once again, never leave your dog alone in a parked car on a warm day. Leave her where she’s cool, hydrated, and waiting in comfort for your return home.
Tips for keeping your pet safe on hot days

HEALTHY PETS DISCLAIMER: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or doctor. Dr. Karen Becker cannot answer specific questions about your pet’s medical issues or make medical recommendations for your pet without first establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship. Your pet’s medical protocol should be given by your holistic veterinarian.
Reprinted by permission. For more information on Healthy Pets with Dr. Karen Becker visit
More links to check out:
Hot Weather Tips from the ASPCA

4th of July Fireworks Aren’t Very Pet-riotic

11 Ways To Cool Off, As Told By Overheated Dogs

Keep our Treats & Bones in the freezer for a cooling pup-cicle for your pooch

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A New Conservation Area to Explore for our Last Adventure Class

Once again Adventure Class is over for the season, to resume again in the fall.  Here are some shots from today's foray into the Spring Hill Conservation Area in Acton.  This is over 360 acres of woodlands, very little swampy areas, although my dog did find a bit of mud to frolick in.  As one of my adventures said today, "If the dogs come back clean it wasn't much of an adventure was it!".   I know I'm not getting that quote quite right, so feel free to correct me Marcy, Raji and Wendi!  :-) 

The Whole Gang

Perfect Angels!

My Stick!

Dirty, Dirty, Dogs!

No!  My Stick!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cognitive Science for Dogs!

There is a new program available that helps owners dicover how their dog thinks.  I am exploring it now and would be interested in knowing if this is something that interests you.

The program includes a series of games you play with your dog to determine which cognitive strategies your dog uses.  So far, the games have been interesting although I'm not sure Winter agrees!

Here is an article on the topic and the companies web site.  Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What treats should I use as a reward for my dog?

This is a question I hear almost daily.  The answer of course is whatever your dog really likes!  Some dogs go ga-ga for their kibble or commercial treats, some go crazy for chicken, liver or leftover steak and a few will eschew the food for a good game of ball or tug!  Whatever you find to be your dog's motivators remember a few basic rules:

1. If you are using a food reward make it TINY, most dogs do well on 1/4" cubes of whatever you are using

2. Moist treats are always easier to eat quickly so you can move on to the next behavior, you really don't want to have to wait while your dog chews an entire milkbone to practice the next skill.

3.  Some dogs are SO food motivated that you have to dial it back a bit (think labradors and goldens!), if your food treats are too high value all they will be thinking about is the food, not the behavior.  For those dogs you can try carrots, peas or dry kibble (small bite please).

4.  A good option for small or, mouthy dogs is liquid treat dispensed out of a plastic bottle with an adjustable tip.  There are a couple of good liquid treats on the market, a food enhancing powder mixed with water works well, but don't use broth (too high in salt and may contain onion or galic in large quantities)!  This is also a good option for the chunky dogs as it is low in calories. 

5.  Another option for small dogs is a bit of peanut butter or cream cheese smeared on a wooden spoon, it beats bending over and trying to get a tiny treat into a tiny dog!  Click, Lick and you are ready to go again!

6.  If you are using a favorite toy, reserve that toy for training only!  Better yet, have 2-3 very favorite toys that your dog only gets during training time.  Use it just like the food,  click, play (2-4 seconds) take it back, next behavior please!

7.  When using toys or tug as a motivator you MUST teach a cue for the dog to drop/relinquish the object before using it in training.  You don't want the training session to denegrate into a game of chase! 

8.  If you are using a tug toy, it's a good idea to teach your dog Tug/Settle.  This is a game you play where you play tug for a bit, and on the word 'settle' (or some other appropriate cue) your dog knows to reliquish the toy and calm down. This prevents the dog for getting so worked up over tug it takes over!

9.  Finally, remember if you are using a clicker you MUST give a treat each time you click a behavior!  Be sure and click first, THEN move to take the treat out of your bag and give it to your dog.  Clicking and moving to get the treat at the same time takes the dogs attention away from the behavior and puts it squarely on your bait hand! 

10.  If you are not using a clicker remember you only have 1.5-2 seconds to deliver the treat to your dog for the dog to associate the reward with the behavior.  (HINT:  Clickers are a much clearer way to communicate with your dog)

BTW, for my local customers, I have been experimenting with a couple of recipes for liquid treats and will have a stock of good gravy powder and dispensers available by April 1.

Friday, March 8, 2013

At The Clicker Expo!

I arrived by train yesterday ahead of the storm.  It was nice to have the ability not to have to drive or fly!  I am excited to be here among so many really talented trainers and behaviorist!  Am looking forward to hearing Ken Ramirez talk about keeping training on track, Theresa McKeon talk about TAG Teach and Emma Parsons talk about emergency behaviors for your dog, and that's just today's schedule.  Networking is great, I'm getting to put faces and personalities with many of the trainers I've 'spoken' to by e-mail recently.  I'll post pictures hopefully later today.
With Susan Friedman and Karen Pryor.