Health & Wellness

Dog Aggression- Finding Help

Aggression: Find Someone to Help

If your dog is showing aggression, a well-planned program of obedience training and behavior modification can help you manage, control and save your relationship with your dog.

It’s important to take action when assertive behaviors appear. Look for defensive, fearful or reactive responses. A dog may stare, growl or show teeth. A stiff body posture, raised hackles and a raised, slow tail sweep are warning signs, too. Dogs may be protective of food or objects, snap or growl when pushed or handled or chase fast-moving objects.

Find a qualified trainer or behaviorist if your dog is showing any of these signs. Ask the following questions before making your decision:

• How much experience do you have dealing with aggression?
• What techniques do you use?
• Have you written or lectured on the subject?
• Do you have client or veterinary references*?

There are many ways to handle aggression. A skilled and reputable trainer should acknowledge this and never promise a sure-fire “cure” for your dog’s condition. There are no guaranteed, permanent fixes but many dogs can be safely managed and controlled.

Avoid trainers who use dominance to control aggression. While a highly skilled handler may be able to restrain an aggressive dog, few dog owners can do so safely. A frightening additional warning: if a child attempts to mimic these dominance-based techniques, he or she could be severely injured.

* Some forms of aggression respond well to medication. Find a trainer willing or experienced to work with your veterinarian.

A skilled trainer will identify the type of aggression your dog is showing, work with you to identify the triggers and design a multi-faceted plan to manage and rehabilitate your dog.

Usually, canine aggression can be managed but it cannot always be “cured.” Ultimately, you are responsible for the safety of your dog and the people he comes in contact with.

Dog Training 101: Leadership

The Basics of Leadership

When I was in grade school, gym class was a torment. Led by a muscular, energetic man with very little knowledge of what it’s like to be a twelve-year old girl, Mr. Dix (seriously, that was his name) would pick the two best athletes in the class and then let these girls pick their own teams…and woe to the slow, the clumsy and the uncool. As the pool of candidates shrank and the choices got more difficult, Mr. Dix would blow his whistle impatiently and shout “Just pick one!” Thirty years later, I’m still a little mad at Mr. Dix. He was a bad, bad leader.

A good leader or team captain is empathetic, supportive and patient, bringing out the best in everyone. As your dog’s team captain, always be the kind of leader you would want to follow. Don’t be a Mr. Dix.

Use the 5:1 Ratio

Consider your dog’s perspective and be patient as you train her. She doesn’t understand the difference between a stick and a chair leg—wood is wood in her mind. She may think it’s her job to protect you from intruders, even if the “intruder” is your 85-year old great aunt. Try to think like your dog and use training exercises to guide her towards a better way of reacting.

A good team leader encourages more than discourages. Aim for a 5:1 ratio – say GOOD DOG five times for each NO you say. By focusing on good behavior, you make your dog feel good about herself, and she will cooperate more. Use food and toys to motivate your dog early on, but never let these rewards take the place of verbal and physical praise.

Tip: It is important to say your commands once, clearly and firmly. Repeating a direction like “Come” or “Sit” is confusing and delays understanding.

Beat the Heat!

As summer approaches temperatures spike and the dilemma of regulating body heat becomes a canine’s chief concern. With few pours on their body to release perspiration metaphorically it could be liken to our wearing a fur coat 24/7. As you’re enjoying the pleasures of this season keep these points in mind to insure that your dog is not only safe-she is comfortable too.

➢ Access to water Place dishes of fresh water about, indoors and out. If you prefer that your dog not drink from toilets, fountains or pools have a large dish along side each of these locations. Should your daily fun include an excursion, take a collapsible bowl and a bottle of clean water with you.
➢ Keys in the car Pack an extra set of keys in the glove compartment of your car. Should you need to leave your dog in the car for any reason, lock it with the ignition running and the air conditioning left on. A car can overheat in minutes.
➢ Slowing metabolism During the hot months your dog’s metabolism will slow down naturally. Do not be alarmed if her food consumption drops or her interest in exercise and play dwindles, especially during the hottest part of the day.
➢ Feel the pavement Your dog’s “bare” paws are the most sensitive part of her body. If walking on pavement, place the palm of your hand down before forcing your dog to follow you. Too hot? Walk in the shade or hose the area down.
➢ Access to shade and pools of water When leaving your dog alone, a cool indoor location is ideal. If forced to spend time out of doors provide access to shade, a shallow pool to lie in and plenty of fresh water to drink.

Left to their own devices a dog will enjoy the pleasures of the extreme: a sunny spot to warm themselves and a cool shaded or wet location to cool themselves down.
One entertaining observation in our own home is how our big black dog Whoopise enjoys shuttling from the warmth of the sun into the cool of our cubbied shower. Self-regulating, she often slurping a large swallow of water on her way!

Keeping Your Dog Safe and Happy in the Summer Heat

As first seen on the Bedford-Katonah Patch

As the temperatures continue to inch upward, my dogs spend most of their time wandering from the deep shade beside the training studio to the enticing cool of the frog pond.

Balder, still young enough to muster some dramatic bursts of energy, expends most of it during our early morning romps. The rest of the day is spent sprawled next to Whoopsie, patiently waiting for the relief of sunset.

I don’t envy dogs during the summer. Trapped in fur coats without the ability to produce a cooling sheen of salty sweat, dogs pant to regulate body temperature. And while I’m not a huge fan of sweating, it certainly beats panting.

Checking the weather for the next few days, it looks like another weekend of sweating, panting and frog pond dipping…temps in the 90s and plenty of scorching sun. Here are a few tips to keep your fur-clad kids safe and comfortable during a summer heatwave.

Water Water Water
Dogs have a rough time keeping their body temperature in check. To help your dog stay comfortable, have water bowls available at all times and if possible fill a small kiddie pool for your dog or puppy to wade in. Hard plastic pools are best; your dog’s nails may pop an inflatable. Look for one with a drainage hole and refill the pool each day— it will double as a giant water dish, so keep it clean!

Air Conditioning
Humans are not the only ones who love air conditioning. For those blessed with central air, you may notice little change in your dog’s energy level or mood…until you take him outside. The heat will hit your dog like a ton of bricks and he’ll hurry through his routines in order to get back to his air conditioned den.

Not very wolf-like, but there you have it. The only downside to this uniquely modern doggy lifestyle is energy management. Indoors, it feels great and your dog wants to go, go, go. Outside, it’s stifling and he wants in, in, in.

Confined, restricted and a little bit bored, your dog may start to misbehave by barking or chewing. Older dogs may revisit puppyhood issues, becoming overstimulated when people come and go. Plan a few adventures to get you and your pampered pooch out of the house. Be sure to pick a place with plenty of shade and maybe a water feature. Take walks in the early morning or evening, after the pavement has cooled. Lay your hand on the surface to check the temperature.

Two keys please
All dogs love a car ride, mine included. I love taking them with me. They always jump in the front seat while I’m gone and they always take up the same seats: Balder drives, Whoopsie rides shotgun. For the past few weeks, however, I’ve had to sneak out of the house, carefully cupping the car keys to avoid the telltale jingle that screams “CAR RIDE!!!!”

Cars heat up shockingly fast. On an 85 degree day, your car can reach 125 degrees within 30 minutes. If you must bring your dog, carry an extra set of keys so that you can leave the air conditioning running while you’re gone. But be aware that this is not an entirely safe solution; dogs have been known to press the AC button while they roam around the interior. With the windows shut tight, the consequences can be disastrous. Leave your dog home whenever possible.

For more summer tips, including tips on pool safety, you can download my newsletter online. Have fun and stay cool—no matter how many paws you walk on!


Holidays are upon us: hide the chocolate!

This week’s coinciding religious celebrations brought certain business to a stand still while racheting up others. Perhaps at no other time in the year were so many chocolate bunnies, coins and eggs, sold and eaten in one three-day period. Whether your ritual hides eggs or matzoh, the general reward for either is a large douse of chocolate in a variety of forms, and while that is celebratory for children (and many adults), it is something that could be potentially deadly to a dog. Before you panic and induce your 100-pound Golden Retriever to vomit up an M& M, read this article to understand how much and what type of chocolate poses a real threat.

First, let me start by saying that holidays, regardless of what is ingested, are stressful times that require a mindful effort to attend to the needs of our dependents. Just because you are rushing to fulfill your holiday checklist does not mean that your dog or child will be any less needy. In fact, our stress pushes them to cling more. Often our distraction results in a host of attention-getting rituals that rarely jive with our timetable. Children are more accident-prone, whinny or delinquent; dogs are more impulsive and pushy. Such is life.

When impulsivity mounts, a dog generally has few other outlets than to steal and scavenge. The first inclination is to mirror your activity, pilfering items held in recent possession. Unlike cats, who will “consider” the source before ingestion, a dog will generally eat first and suffer the consequences. Chocolate, though never savored in a canine’s mouth, is often devoured if it is left out.

Now the question comes down to what is in chocolate that causes a reaction, and how much is dangerous. Is eating a Kit Kat bar, for example, as dangerous as eating a pound of Bakers Chocolate? The short answer is no, but here is why.

Dogs are allergic to the drug “theobromide” found in the cocoa bean used to make chocolate. In concentrated form, even small doses are deadly. The dilution of the cocoa bean used in the formulation of milk chocolate, drink mixes and white chocolate, limits its effect quite considerably.

If your dog ingests chocolate, quickly gage the amount and the type in relation to their size. If it is even near the “toxic” level, induce vomiting. I use hydrogen peroxide to sthis end, although speak to your veterinarian to hear his suggestion and discuss the proper dose for your individual pet.

Symptoms of poisoning include rapid breathing and increased heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, urinary incontinence, seizure or coma, and the effects may be draw out as the effects of the drug are protracted.

Of course, prevention is worth 10 pounds of cure. Especially if those pounds are weighed in chocolate.

Sarah Hodgson has trained dogs in Westchester for over 20 years and published many books on this subject, including Puppies for Dummies and Dog Perfect.

Healthy Tips for Keeping your Dog Tick Safe this season

Tick season is particularly bad this season. Here are some tips on keeping your dog tick safe this summer!

Pros and cons of a topical solution… sold through your veterinarian it’s very effective, but extremely toxic…after all, they kill ticks. Aside from not wanting such toxicity near my dogs, I’m an avid dog hugger (like me). My children curl up with the dogs too and as per the instructions on the box you should not touch the neck region for three days. I do not use these products.

Consider an herbal alternative. Start with a spray bottle filled with water, add 40 drops eucalyptus, 10 drops lavender, 5 drops tea tree oil. (Viles of these oils can be bought on line). Spray your pets before going outside. I use this spray on humans too!

Lawn treatments. If you’re blessed to have a yard, chemical sprays are available as well as a sand spray that is said to be affective in reducing tick populations.

Purchase a flea comb and use it during or right after your pet’s exposure. I use it on my children’s hair as well as my own! Fine toothed it lifts the ticks out of the fur before they’ve attached.

Getting in the habit of the using the Spider Crawl! Wiggle your fingers across the surface of your dog’s coat daily: keep your feelers out for anything bumpy.

Find a friend who can show you how to remove ticks. Ticks stick their head into your dog’s skin: I envision the tips of my nails as tweezers and pinch the head out. There are also special tick tweezers on the market. Either way, this will cause a pinch, so praise and treat your doggie while you do it!

Dogs In Snow, Let’s Go!

In much of the country, winter mean snow. Here’s how to keep your dog safe when the snow falls:

Dogs, like kids, get excited when they see white. It’s wet, it’s fluffy, it’s cool to the touch. Don’t take it personally if your dog doesn’t listen to your directions very well. He’s just having… well, fun! Pure unadulterated joy, and that is as it should be. Don’t let your frustration creep up and get the better of you or your dog will have just one more reason to keep his distance.

To avoid being a wet blanket (no pun intended), think Yum, Run and Hide. If you’re loaded with treats like a human Pez dispenser, a quick shake of the container will attract your wanna-be sled dog. Yum! Try racing around, kicking up snow and tossing snowballs in the air. Run! Your dog will excited by your enthusiasm. He’ll stay close and watch you for clues—what next? If the snow is deep and clingy enough, hide behind a drift or snow-laden bush. Call your dog’s name as you run and hide. Combine this game with the shaking treat cup and it’s a sure-fire winner; a game the whole family can play.

Now think about where your wet blanket instincts may have lead you: staring at your dog and shouting “COME” repeatedly at the top of your lungs. Bo-ring. Your dog is like a little kid—especially when the snow falls. Toss off that wet blanket and explore the fun that awaits you!

OK, now that I’ve got everyone revved up, let me offer a few warnings. If you’re playing in an unconfined area close to roadways, you may need to keep your dog leashed. When possible, use a long line (25-50’). Hook a leash onto the very end of it and let it go. Your dog will feel like he’s free, but you’ll have a handle on him should he stray or bolt. Keep your eyes open though: a long line can get tangled around things, especially feet. Make sure youngsters are agile enough to jump-the-rope if necessary.

Excitement can cause predatory behavior in young or untrained dogs. This may lead to combat postures and the clothing grab. If this sounds familiar, do not exercise your dog with young children. Instead, focus your dog’s attention on large balls or empty gallon jugs. Pack a spray bottle or small mouth spray to defend yourself if you catch your dog running too fast in your direction.

I strongly suggest that you call a trainer to get a handle on your pooch before he hurts someone–by accident or intent. Dogs should never be confrontational in their relationship to humans.

Finally, beware of ice. Ice cuts are the number one cause of emergencies in temperate conditions. While snow can be a blast, if there is a sudden freeze it can conceal a layer of ice that can rip into your dog’s foot pad like a sharpened butcher knife.

As I write this piece, I’m watching my three kids–two human, one dog–making snow angels in our front yard. The resulting forms are all shaped very differently and some require a bit of creative interpretation…but they all look like angels to me.