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Oh Yuk!

Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 12:24:32 PM EST by Cam Day

When dogs eat bad things...

You don't really want to read this! Dogs really do some revolting things occasionally but when your dog eats its own droppings, it can really make your stomach turn - especially when it wants to come and greet you afterwards with that oh-so-lovely Fetid Fido grin.

I am sure you do not want any more gory details, but some dogs eat their droppings when their produce has matured on the ground for a little while. Some eat them while they are factory fresh and steaming and others prefer the offerings of other animals, especially cattle, horses, cats and kangaroos.

Just to prove there is a word for everything - the term for this charming behaviour is coprophagia.

What are the solutions?

Firstly, ensure your dog has no medical reason for its wayward behaviours. Ask your veterinarian to test your dog's stool for parasites of any type. Your veterinarian may also wish to test the functioning of your dog's pancreas.

Put Pooch onto a highly digestible and nutritionally balanced diet to eliminate any chance that a dietary problem is the cause.

The digestibility will ensure that it can extract as many nutrients as possible from the food presented and will reduce the volume of faeces produced.

The faeces will also be consistent in form and nature. Lastly, such a diet will ensure that no dietary deficiency is causing the coprophagia.

If your dog has a dietary allergy causing bowel irritation, then this may lead to coprophagia too. Therefore, to normalise bowel function even further, it is also a good idea to feed your dog a restricted protein or hypoallergenic diet. These diets contain protein sources that are not commonly used in dog food.

A suitable diet to achieve all the above is available from your veterinarian.

Behavioural Remedies

Having eliminated any medical cause, now turn to behavioural therapy.

Bored dogs that live in small backyards and have dull lifestyles often practice coprophagia. Such dogs need the No Bored Dogs Routine technique to blow away boredom.

To keep a dog on its toes and to provide brain work, a Kong Toy is perfect. These pyramid shaped balls bounce unpredictably and are great for aerobic exercise.

When you have finished playing with your dog, you can place some food treats in the hole in the middle of the Kong and leave it with your dog. Pooch will then spend quite some time exercising its brain and working out how to get the food out of the hole.

Training the dog not to eat its own produce, or those of others, can be done in a variety of ways, but, how can you train the dog if you do not know when it is going to gobble the googlies?

Try to make the passage of your dog's own googlies more predictable.

Generally your dog will want to soil within an hour or so of eating. If possible, restrict it to one meal a day. Conveniently time the meal so that an hour afterwards you can watch the dog closely. Perhaps you will need to keep the dog inside the house so that you will know when it wants to go out.

Try to catch the soiling behaviour so that you can either praise the leaving-it-where-it-is behaviour or softly discipline the google-gobbling behaviour

When motions are produced, praise the leaving behaviour. Use a technique I call the A Good Dog Routine for this. Wait till your dog passes its offering, then,in a kind voice say 'leave'. Wait for about five seconds, and if Pooch does 'leave it' call him or her to you and liberally praise this sequence of good behaviours.

The above method is the preferable one. However, occasionally, disciplining googly gobbling is necessary. The method is similar to the last but with a different emphasis. It is a process I call the ABad Dog, Good Dog Routine.

Timing is critical. Wait until Pooch goes to take a mouthful. Then, in a very stern voice, shout 'Leave'. The voice should be as sudden as a gun shot and be stern enough to distract and punish the dog. Wait for five seconds to see if you have had effect. Call the dog to you, make it Sit and Stay, and then praise this alternative good dog behaviour.

Usually, the 'Bad Dog Good Dog Routine' is replaced in time with the 'Good Dog Routine' as the dog learns and punishment is no longer needed.

A process I call the 'Stool Pigeon' approach can be tried too. This is a form of 'self-discipline'. Leave a tasty-looking stool in an obvious spot but cover the stool with a hot sauce or a bittering spray such as Bitravet (available from veterinary surgeons). It is even better if the sauce or Bitravet is injected into the stool so your dog cannot smell the additives.

Lastly, a product called Wild Forage (available from our office) is also useful. When added to the dog's diet this often helps to control coprophagia.

If you need help with this problem, feel free to book a consultation with Dr Cam - he's seen this many times before!

Nine simple steps to combat your dog's storm fear

Posted: Monday, June 12, 2017 at 2:03:28 PM EST by Cam Day

Dogs with noise phobias worsen without effective remediesStorm fears are deadly

We have been hammered by bad weather of late.

That's no news to you but how is your dog coping?

If your dog is fearful of thunder he or she is exhibiting one of the most common phobias that affect dogs.

Dogs also react to lightening, explosive noises, hot-air balloons and many other noises that are part of a dog’s life in a human environment.

If your dog is sensitive to thunder, the nine point plan below will help.

For solutions to noises other than thunder please work through our Noise Fear Pet Pick.

1. Predict the problem

When you compare your dog’s fear of thunder with other noises that may worry it, thunder is different. Thunder is reasonably predictable if you listen to weather forecasts, the radio or look at weather or radar websites.

  • They mostly occur in the afternoons and less so in the evenings or overnight
  • Weather forecasters over-predict thunderstorms (which is better than under-prediction)

The major problem with thunderstorms is that:-

  • Your dog hears the thunder booms and lightening cracks
  • Your dog will see the ominous darnkess before the storm
  • Your dog will feel the storm if he or she is left outside during a storm
  • And your dog will smell the approach of the storm which is why you dog is so able to predict the storm before you can.

So that means, predict the storm,take action BEFORE the storm, and above all remove your dog from your garden and place is a safe sound-proof location.

2. Be home with your dog

The worst problem is when your dog experiences a thunder fear when you are away from him or her. Your dog will be much more fearful if left alone during a thunderstorm. So, if you have predicted that a storm will occur, be home with your dog at that time if at all possible of have someone care for your dog.

3. Remove your dog from your garden

Dogs left outside during a thunderstorm are much more seriously affected than dogs which are inside. Dogs left outside will attempt to escape form your yard or to ‘inscape’ into your home. While the damage to your fences and your home can be extreme and costly it’s the damage your dog could do to itself that is dangerous – or deadly.

The best location for your dog is the most sound-proof area of your home.

4. Place your dog in a sound-proof Den

You know thunder is noisy, looks scarey, smells a lot and your dog will feel it if outside.  So an obvious move is to move your dog to a sound-proof room inside your home where he or she will not hear, see, smell and feel the storm.

This room is called a Den.

Go from room to room to find the most sound-proof location but you are likely to find that:-

  • Brick walls are much better at sound proofing than timber walls and block walls (e.g. Besser block walls) are often the best
  • Walk in wardrobes are often very sound proof because they are surrounded by many walls and the texture of your clothes (and the smell of your shoes) may help your dog to be comforted
  • Stop firework noise entering through windows of your Den by covering the windows with heavy curtains.
    • Foam rubber cut to fit the window cavity is ideal
    • Cut an old mattress to fit or visit your local foam rubber shop with the dimensions of the window and they will cut the foam rubber to fit.
    • If needed build a sound-proof Den. using sound proof wall cladding. You local hardware store will help with that

5. Use masking noise

Another way of reducing the noise is to mask it by adding other noises to the Den your dog is in. This is the same principle as the music used in shopping centres to mask the noise of activity in the shop.

Play a radio in the Den or better still, use our Frightful Noises Audio CD to teach your dog not to react to fireworks and then use the firework tracks on the Audio CD to mask the real firework noise. (More details below).

6. Use medication where needed

If your dog is seriously affected, your vet will be able to prescribe medication that may help. Generally speaking a ‘when you need it’ occasional use medication can be helpful but ..

  • Ask your vet to avoid heavy tranquilisers if possible – some tranquilisers can make dogs more sensitive to noises
  • You MUST test the dose needed BEFORE the event to know:-
    • what dose is effective
    • how long it takes to work and
    • how long it lasts for

That will allow you to use the right dose long enough before the fireworks to help your dog.

Some pet owners find that homeopathic preparations are useful.

7. Use Pheromones

Dog pheromones (called the Dog Appeasing Pheromone) can be very effective for calming noise-fearful dogs with up to 70% effectiveness.

These will not work for dogs that are outside but they combine very will when placed inside a sound-proof Den.

You will find more details, including podcasts, on our Pheromone Pet Pick.

8. Practice calming strategies

When your dog is panicking, it needs to develop a calm demeanour.

Thus, your job is to do whatever you need to do to create calmness.

Sometimes that DOES mean giving the dog comfort and attention when it’s panicking. Many advise that ‘praising the fear’ by giving a panicking dog attention rewards the panic.

This is nonsense.

A panicking dog is not able to learn. He or she is far too ‘emotional’ to consider you may be rewarding its fear.

You may be able to calm your dog by:-

  • Using calming massage concentrating on the major muscle groups such as the cheek, forehead, neck and shoulder muscles
  • Using firm finger-tip massage doing a circle about the size of a 50 cent piece. Use your thumb and index finger in tandem
  • Using a novel device called a Calming Cap in combination with a Gentle Leader
    • these two devices used together can have a significant calming effect on dogs but your dog needs to be trained to happily accept both before the firework event
  • Wrapping your dog’s body tightly with a towel
  • Giving your dog a firm hug around his or her chest
  • And showing your dog YOU are calm by:-
    • cradling your dog’s face in your hands as if it was a football and make it look at you
    • then blinking your eyes as if you were falling asleep
    • show a soft smile (and certainly not a worried expression)
    • and whispering to your dog is the softest whisper you can manage.

9. Teach your dog to tolerate thunder noise

Desensitising your dog to the noise of fireworks is often possible using quality recordings of thunder. These recordings are incorporated into the Frightful Noises Audio CD.

There are more details on this process here but the steps are:-

  • Determine if the recording, when played through your audio equipment, does alarm your dog but do this once only.
  • If so, expose your dog to a level of the recording that causes NO fear and repeat that daily for a few days.
  • Then incrementally increase the volume of the noise daily while ensuring your dog remains calm and content.
  • Once successful, the same noise tracks can be used mask the noise of fireworks as detailed in section 5 above.
  • If the recording played through your audio equipment does NOT alarm your dog, then you can immediately move to using this as a masking (see section 5).

Solving fear of noises is very complex and difficult. If you want personal assistance with this problem please contact our consulting rooms on 07 3341 9153 or complete an assessment form.

Other information of use

Nine Steps to Calm Your Dog In Thunder

Noise Fear Pet Pick

Escaping Dog Pet Pick

Separation Anxiety Pet Pick

Why reward-based dog training triumphs over punishment

Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 1:06:16 PM EST by Cam Day

Punish the bad or reward the good?Reward based training triumphs

There are two ways of changing your dog's behaviour - you either punish the behaviour you want to weaken or reward the behaviour you want to strengthen.

Which is better?

Mostly, rewarding the behaviour you want is better that punishing your dog's unwanted behaviour.

The main reason for that is you can reward the behaviour you want many times per day but you can't punish the behaviour you don't want many times per day - unless you are cruel, heartless and uncaring.

With reward-based training, you manufacture better results with speed, develop a stronger relationship with your dog and improve your dog's contentment and quality of life.

What is reward-based training?

Reward-based training is where you focus is on creating behaviour change using a reward when your dog exhibits the behaviour you want - or one that's getting progressively closer to what you want.

That is in contrast to the most commonly-used means of punishment-based training which usually entails adding something unpleasant to reduce an unwanted behaviour.

The interesting point is that whenever your dog is doing something wrong, you almost always have the choice of rewarding an alternative, more appropriate, behaviour or punishing the behaviour that annoys you.

That means you have a choice.

For example, if your dog is barking at the fence at another dog passing by, you could punish the dog by saying "No - bad dog", or you could throw a tin can with rocks inside at your dog or you could use a remote, electric stimulus collar.

Alternatively you could command your dog to Come and Sit and combine that with rattling a food-treat container to indicate a reward is not far away.

Now it's your dog that has a choice.

To bark, or to eat: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to be a woofer,
Accepting the dins and screams of my enraged owners,
Or to take the charms of an alluring treat against this sea of troubles,
And by accepting that? To eat: To rest: To learn.

Apologies to Shakespeare but if you are close enough and your dog is food-focused, it's likely to work well.

The punishment technique above is a problem because:-

  • Your dog is not doing just one thing when you punish him or her - so you are expecting your dog to know which of the many behaviours it's doing at that poing is the wrong one. I am sorry but your dog is just not that smart.
  • Punishment does not remove the dog away from the stimulus causing the problem - once the punishment stops the dog will go back to bark again which means you will have to punish your dog again. So, your dog becomes more confused.
  • Punishment does not create a calm state - and if your dog is barking it needs calming.
  • And punishment does not show your dog what he or she is supposed to do when another dog is passing by.

Rewarding your dog for coming away from the fence is good because:-

  • When your dog gets a reward for the Come and then the Sit you are rewarding a pin-point sequence of just two actions. Even the dumbest dog gets that.
  • Rewarding the Come even without the Sit, moves your dog away from the stimulus of the passing dog. Your dog starts to become calmer.
  • Creating the Sit and maintaining that for five seconds, creates a very calm state where your dog is no longer thinking about barking.
  • And it shows your dog what he or she is supposed to do when a dog passes.
  • And even if your dog is not good with Come and Sit, rewarding just a bit of progress towards that goal is terrific because you can keep rewarding that simple sequence in many other situations and the behaviour is bound to become stronger.

Rewarding 'little bits' of an achievement towards an ultimate clearly defined goal is called shaping a behaviour and is one of the strengths of reward-based behaviour.

Shaping creates a situation where your dog is enthusiastic about learning a new behaviour and will rapidly accumulate new knowledge. Just be clear on your own goal then shape your dog's behaviour to achieve that goal.

Punishers you should try to avoid

  • choker chains and prong collars
  • slapping, hitting or kicking your dog
  • the awful technique of stringing dogs up by their collar until with their four feet off the ground
  • electric stimulus collars
  • ultrasonic punishers
  • throwing tin cans
  • using a rolled newspaper
  • using BAH, AH AH, NO, and your dog's name as a punisher
  • the 'dominant down' - in fact anything to do with the dominance concept
  • scruffing your dog

Reward-based training triumphs because it:-

  • encourages your dog to think for itself.
  • gives your pet a better chance to learn what you are teaching.
  • works well with hand actions.
  • helps new 'dog knowledge' to accumulate quickly.

Example - Baby the Body Basher

A principle of reward-based training is that, whenever you can, you ignore the bad but reward the good after creating it.

Let’s take Baby for example.

Baby is a loving, bouncy Maltese Terrier cross, who loves jumping up on her owners to get attention.

Her owner's reaction is to automatically push Baby down shouting NO! BAD DOG.

Baby is not getting the message because when her owners push her away and shout at her, Baby's need for attention is not being satisfied.

The reward-based solution is to create a Win-Win situation.

Baby's owners were encouraged to simply turn around with their arms folded and ignore her when she jumps.

Immediately they then encouraged Baby to SIT for 5 seconds. (That was easy to create with food).

Then they rewarded the sit after five seconds.

  • Baby gets what she wants - the attention.
  • Her owners get what they want - a non-jumping dog
  • And the Sit-for-five-seconds can be repeated hundreds of times per week very easily

What can you use as a reward?

Many items can be used as rewards - not just food.

The list can include:-

  • small food treats (no bigger than your smallest fingernail)
  • toys
  • pats, strokes, cuddles.
  • squeaky voices
  • a smile

It’s a good idea to use a variety of rewards, rather than just sticking to one or two.

You could, for example, use a treat after one behaviour, a toy after another, and a squeaky voice and cuddles after another. In fact, mixing the rewards up like this is a good way to prevent your dog from becoming dependent on only one type of reward – we’ve all heard of the dogs that won’t do anything unless there’s food involved.

So now that you know what reward-based training is all about try it with your own dog. All you need is a few rewards, pats, and a positive attitude.

More information

Dog training pet pick

Get help with your pet's behaviour

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