Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Puppy Love . Chewing

This is the first in a series of posts for those of you who have puppies in your lives.

Puppies learn about their environment by putting things in their mouths. With that in mind, puppy proof your home before bringing puppy home. Remove those cute collectibles on low shelves, as well as framed photographs, books, CDs, etc. Exposed electric cords need to be hidden. Drapes to the floor? Great for a game of tug. And, of course, wooden table legs are always a favorite of teething puppies. If you have young children, understand that puppy does not know the difference in kid toys and dog toys. If you are not a neatnik you might want to become one, since shoes, socks, underwear, purses, cell phones, remotes, magazines, newspapers, candy dishes on low tables, etc. are puppy favorites.

Make sure there are appropriate chew toys available for puppy:

  • Kongs (keyword search "kongs" on this blog for stuffing suggestions)
  • Sterilized natural bones - stuff just like the Kong
  • Nylabones
  • Plush squeaky toys - only with supervision, as you don't want the squeaker to be removed and ingested by a playful pup
Do not buy toys with small sewn-on parts that can be easily torn off and ingested. If part of a toy or chewie becomes lodged in puppy's intestines, surgery may be required. In the very worst case, death can occur. Always supervise puppy's play. Puppies have more ways to get in trouble than you can possibly imagine. And literally everything goes in their mouths.

Puppy proof not only your home but your deck, yard, and vehicle. Poisons (including house plants like dieffenbachia, lily of the valley, mistletoe, philodendron, and poinsettia) mustbe put away. There should be a gate at every stairway and trash cans should be out of reach. Yards are full of things puppies like to investigate. Make certain all poisonous substances (fertilizer, antifreeze, etc.) are out of reach. If your yard is fenced in, make sure there are no spaces a puppy can squeeze through and never leave a young dog unsupervised outdoors. Put the gardening tools away. Their handles make wonderful chew toys. Understand that if you have a yard your new pal may dig holes, bed down in the flowers, chew the corners off of deck steps, and bark at everything from butterflies to falling leaves. She may eat dirt and rocks and parts of trees. She is, after all, a dog.

Remember to praise puppy for playing with her toys rather than household items. And enjoy her, despite her razor sharp teeth. Soon enough she will be a mature adult and that adorable puppy will be only a fond memory.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Facebook Privacy

Facebook has agreed to let 3rd party advertisers use your posted photos WITHOUT your permission.To make sure this doesn't happen, open your FB account and following these instructions:

  • Click on SETTINGS (located on top of page in blue bar, next to logout);
  • Select NEWS FEEDS and WALL;
  • Select the TAB that reads Facebook Ads.
  • There will be a drop down box; select NO ONE.
  • Save your changes & then PASS THIS ON!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

7 Stages of Puppy Development

To better understand why your puppy doesn't listen at times, you need to understand her developmental stages. Remember that these are generalizations - each dog will progress at his or her own pace.

Stage 1
The Transitional Stage, 2-3 Weeks.
It's during this time that a puppy's eyes open, and she slowly starts to respond to light, movement and sounds around her. She will become more mobile during this period, trying to get her feet under herself and crawling around in the box (or wherever home is). She will start to recognize her canine family and objects placed in the box.

Stage 2:
The Almost Ready to Meet the World Stage, 3-4 Weeks
Your puppy undergoes rapid sensory development during this time. Fully alert to her environment, she will begin to recognize the humans who tend to her. It's best to avoid loud noises or sudden changes during this period. Negative events can have a serious impact on her personality and development at this time. Puppies learn how to be dogs during this stage, so it's essential that they stay with their mothers and littermates.

Stage 3
The Overlap Stage, 4-7 Weeks
Puppies begin the most critical social development period of their lives now. They learn social interaction with their littermates. They learn how to play and all about bite inhibition. They also learn discipline at this point from their mothers. Mom will begin weaning the pups around this time and will start teaching them basic manners, including accepting her as the leader of the pack. Pups should be handled daily, but should not be separated from either mom or littermates for more than about 10 minutes per day. Puppies removed from the family unit too early frequently are nervous, more prone to barking and biting and have a more difficult time with socialization and training. Puppies need to be left with mom and siblings until at least 7 weeks of age - and preferably a little longer - for optimum social development.

Experts say that the best time in a puppy's life to learn social skills is between 3 and 16 weeks of age - that's the window of opportunity you have to make sure your puppy grows up to be a well-adjusted dog. It is extremely important that puppy stay with her canine family during as much of this period as possible. Don't discipline for play fighting, housebreaking mistakes or mouthing - that's all normal behavior for a puppy at this stage.

Stage 4
The "I'm Afraid of Everything" Stage, 8 Weeks - 3 Months
This stage is characterized by rapid learning as well as a fearful period that usually pops up around 8-10 weeks. Not all dogs experience this, but most do. They can appear terrified over things that they took in stride before. This is not a good time to engage in harsh discipline (not that you ever should anyway!), loud voices or traumatic events. At this time your puppy's bladder and bowels are starting to come under much better control, and she should become capable of sleeping through the night. Simple behaviors like come, sit, stay, down, etc. can be taught now. Leash training can begin. It is important not to isolate your puppy from human contact at this time, as she will continue to learn behaviors and manners that will affect her in later years.

Stage 5
The Juvenile Stage, 3-4 Months
It is during this time your puppy is much like a toddler. She will be a little more independent and might start ignoring the cues for behaviors she has recently learned - just like a child does when trying to exert new-found independence. As in "I don't have to listen to you!" Firm and gentle reinforcement of commands and training is what's required here. She might start biting you - play biting or even a real attempt to challenge your authority. A sharp "No!" or "No bite!", followed by several minutes of ignoring her, should take care of this problem. Continue to play with her and handle her on a daily basis, but don't play games like tug of war or wrestling. As your puppy's strength grows, she is going to want to play-fight to see who's stronger. Even if you win, the message your puppy receives is that it's ok to fight with you. And that's not ok!

Stage 6
The Brat Stage, 4-6 Months
It is during this time your puppy will demonstrate even more independence and willfulness. You may see a decline in her urge to please you. Expect to see more testing-the-limits behaviors. She will be teething during this time and will looking for things to chew on to relieve the pain and pressure. She may try to assert his new "dominance" over human family members, especially children. Continue her training in obedience and basic behaviors but make sure to never let her off his leash during this time unless you're in a confined area. Many pups at this age will ignore a cue to come to their owners, which can be a dangerous, even fatal breakdown, in your dog's response to you. If you turn her loose in a public place and she bolts, the chances of injury or even death increase. She will also begin to go through the hormonal changes brought about by growing toward maturity. You may see signs of rebelliousness (think adolescent child). If you haven't already, you should have your dog fixed during this time.

Stage 7
The Young Stage, 6-18 Months
Sometime after your dog reaches 6 months, she will plunge headlong into adolescence – where hormones rule. Like people, dogs react differently to puberty. Some have an easier time of it than others, but a teenage dog of any breed can display unpredictable, even uncharacteristic behavior. It's not unusual to discover a puddle of urine, left by a formerly housebroken adolescent dog. Females use urine to attract mates; males use it to mark their territory. In adolescence, such tendencies may remain even though your dog is fixed.

The urge to chew also drives your teen-puppy's actions, and often is the first evidence that your dog is in adolescence. If you've let your crating rules lapse, you may arrive home one day to find significant damage done to a sofa, wooden furniture, or any chewable object. Around this time, your dog also goes through an intense period of shedding her puppy coat and acquiring the type of hair distinctive to her breed. Be prepared to brush him and vacuum your home often. The fact that your dog's skeleton and muscles are growing by leaps and bounds during her teen months can be a blessing for your relationship. You can't help but admire the enthusiasm and perseverance she applies in trying to coordinate gangly limbs.

Post-adolescence is a great time in your dog's life. She is young and exuberant but she's also learning all the things she needs to become a grown-up dog. Be realistic in your expectations of your dog at this time. Just because she's approaching her full physical growth and may look like an adult , she's not as seasoned and experienced as you might think. Gradually increase the scope of activities for your dog, as well as the training. Extend her activities to include more people and other animals. Allow her to interact with non-threatening, non-aggressive dogs.

Congratulations. You've survived the 7 stages of puppyhood and now you have a grown-up dog to enjoy for many years to come.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Emergency preparedness for your dog

Love your dog? What happens if he has a health crisis in the middle of the night or on the weekend? Be prepared.

When you finish reading this, put these phone numbers in every phone you own:
  1. Your veterinarian
  2. Local emergency vet (24/7)
  3. ASPCA poison hot line - 888.426.4435. There is a consultation fee and it's worth every penny.
While you are on the ASPCA's site, read up on plants that are toxic to your dog.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sago Palm Can Kill

Home improvement stores are selling a houseplant that is poisonous to pets and children. The Sago Palm or Cycad is used in outdoor landscaping in the southern U.S. and as a houseplant in colder climates. The entire Sago Palm is toxic, including the seeds and root ball. Signs of illness include vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. The toxins in the plant can cause liver failure. It is estimated that 75-80% of animals ingesting this plant will die in spite of aggressive medical treatment. Please teach your dogs not to eat plants. Many green growing things are toxic.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

They Gathered in Mississippi

Heat, humidity, and hope found their way to Oxford, MS last weekend where Mike Stewart hosted a Diabetic Alert Dog Workshop at his world-renown Wildrose Kennels. Diabetics and their families gathered there to learn and share information. From the very young to the not quite so young, the common denominator was Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetics live with the knowledge that some night in the future they could drop into a diabetic coma, no one would know, and they could die alone in their sleep. Can a dog prevent this from happening? Can a dog warn a diabetic when his or her blood sugar is dropping into the danger zone or going too high?

The simple answer is yes. The more complex answer is ... this service dog specialty is in its infancy. As a result, properly trained diabetic alert service dogs are rare ... good trainers even more so. And there is no training protocol. The good news is that a plan is in motion to change all that. There are a committed few who will, before year's end, announce the formation of a Foundation whose mission it will be to create the international standard for diabetic alert dogs and train dogs to those standards.

Mike Stewart will conduct another diabetic alert dog workshop at Wildrose in late 2009 or early 2010. See you there!