Make your own hoops for Hoopers training!

For lot of good information on “Hoopers” go to http://www.caninehoopersuk.co.uk .

Supplies needed: 

Measuring tape

Hack or table saw (or ask your building supply store to cut pieces for you).  

1 X 34” to 36” piece of ¾” PVC

2 X 16-18” pieces of ¾” PVC

2 X 12” pieces of PVC

2 X ¾“ T-joint (or 1 X 4 way PVC joint but I could not find them in my building store so improvised with 2 X T joints).

1X ¾” elbow joint

1X 1” of ¾” PVC

2 X ¾” caps (optional)

1X hoola hoop (30” in diameter)

Assembling the hoop:

Take the 36” piece of PVC , place it horizontally and add the elbow piece to one end and a “t” joint to the other end . Add the 1” piece of PVC to the other end of the T joint so you can attach the 2nd T joint (or use a 4 way joint if you can find them).

Add the 2nd T joint to the base by attaching the lower part of the T to the other end of the 1” piece of PVC.

Add the 2 pieces of 12” PVC to the second T joint and add caps to ends of the 12” pieces of PVC .

Add one of the 18” pieces of PVC to each end of the 36 inch base so the 18″ pieces are upright to the 36” piece.

Cut the hoola hoop so each end can be inserted into the vertical PVC. Depending on the size of the hoola hoop (I use ones that are 33″ in diameter and cut enough off so they fit to bottom of the 16- 18″ upright PVC pieces and end up being 36″ high).

Insert into the upright PVC pieces.

The finished hoop looks like this:

Spring Safety!

Soon we will have warmer weather and many of us will be spending more time enjoying the outdoors with our dogs.   It is a good idea to be aware of potential hazards when we are enjoying the outdoors.

Make sure your dog is fit enough for the length and difficulty of the hike you choose to do.

Be familiar with the area you are camping or hiking in. Know where there may be steep drop offs/cliffs or where there is fast-moving water or roadways you may suddenly come upon.

Make sure that your dog is either leashed or trained to such a degree that he or she will always respond to your cues, so they do not harass wildlife or farm animals.

Many species of wildlife are more likely to feel threatened when they have offspring to raise and protect.

Protective raccoons can be dangerous to dogs. Coyotes are a bigger risk to small dogs than larger ones, but coyotes have been known to lure a larger dog into bush where other coyotes ambush the dog. A cornered black bear can easily kill a dog.

On hikes keep your dog close to avoid them disturbing wildlife who are more likely to feel threatened when they have offspring to raise and protect.

Farm animals are also more vigilant when they are raising their young and some can easily injure or kill a dog they feel poses a threat.

Carry fresh water with you for you and your dog. Diseases like leptospirosis are transferred through drinking from infected water sources like ponds. Prolonged exposure to water containing the virus increases the risk of transmission through swallowing, contact with mucous membranes or through an open sore. Dogs that walk-in areas frequented by wildlife are at increased risk of this disease.

Giardia is a parasite picked up from drinking from water sources where giardia may live (for example, untreated water from lakes, streams, or wells) or by swallowing water while swimming in lakes, rivers, springs, ponds, and streams

Check your dog for ticks after being in an area where there may be ticks and talk to your vet about tick and flea prevention. Lyme disease isspread through the bite of infected ticks especially in the spring and fall when ticks are seeking hosts so check your dog (and yourself) for ticks.

Take a first aid course for pets so that, if your dog has an accident despite your preparation to avoid hazards, you can assist your dog immediately and then get him or her to the vet.  Pet first aid kits are available and fit easily in backpacks.

Make sure your dog is wearing identification, so if he goes missing, you are reunited as quickly as possible.  Affordable tracking devices that work with cell phones are now easily available.

Enjoy the outdoors with your dog but be safe out there!

How to know when play is safe (and when it isn’t).

Lucky and Sammy playing together

A question I get asked a lot as a trainer is whether the play between 2 or more dogs is safe or “good” play. Owners get concerned if they hear growling or a yelp or observe a nip and they sensibly want to know when to intervene or whether they should intervene at all.

Luckily for dog owners, scientists have been busy studying play between dogs and can shed light on what is healthy play and the signs the activity is no longer play.

Why dogs (and other mammals) play is not fully understood but play involves the use of communicative skills and the coordination of actions and movement. Play is thought to increase cooperation between dogs. For example, when one dog has offered a play action like running and offering to be chased is willing to give that up if the play partner initiates another play action. Other functions of play may be to prepare an individual for new challenges while still safely with the parents or group, or for better social integration, hunting ability and for fun!

The reason play is fun is because hormones such as dopamine, noradrenaline, oxytocin, and the endorphins are responsible for the positive feelings and enhanced learning during play. Scientists have discovered that individuals who play frequently have reduced cortisol levels meaning they are more relaxed than others. Animals that are raised in social isolation and without play opportunities have a permanent reduction in their dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin levels.

Puppies learn how to avoid conflicts between themselves through play. Avoid intervening too early (unless one puppy is overwhelmed) so that the puppies learn to work it out.  This will help the puppies grow up to be skilled in responding to conflict as adult dogs.

There are specific signals dogs use in play and one of which is the familiar “play-bow” (where the dog assumes the position with rear end up and front end down). Play bows are used to solicit play or to resume play and they also occur before actions like a bite (which may be misinterpreted by the play partner).  Other ways dogs initiate play are “play gamboling” where the dog uses a bouncy gait, lets their shoulders swing and uses a pace which is somewhat faster than a walk. Sometimes playful dogs will approach and withdraw from a distance, other times they may paw their own face or rear up on the hindlegs a couple of times.

Stalking is another type of play solicitation. Eyes flashing, sneezing and panting also can be invitations to play and are followed by if the other dog accepts the invitation. These signals also occur during play to avoid any misunderstandings and playing dogs will take frequent breaks where they also look away from one another. Some dogs also use barking as part of play initiation or to maintain play and is initially often the result of the excited state of the dog but later can become a communicative tool between two dogs playing.

Sometimes play can turn into aggression and watching for warning signs is important for owners. If a larger dog is chasing a smaller dog, predation may be triggered in the larger dog if the smaller dog runs in a straight line away from the larger dog and by the smaller dog wriggling and ducking much like prey does and by the smaller dog vocalizing. This is referred to as “predatory drift”.

Play between dogs also includes dogs changing roles (chase and be chased for example) and it has been observed that dogs avoid playing with other dogs who are unwilling to change roles in play. Play “attacks” have been observed between puppies.

Owners should watch play and intervene if a puppy seems overwhelmed or if there is no role reversal between dogs playing or if they see signs of a larger dog going into “predatory drift”.

Most dogs are cooperative social animals so play generally is fun for the participants.

References

Beaver, B. (1999). Canine Behavior: A Guide for Veterinarians . Philadelphia: Saunders.

Bradshaw, J. (2011). Dog Sense. New York: Basic Books .

Hare , B., & Woods, V. (2013). The Genius of Dogs . New York: Plume.

Kaufer, M. (2013). Canine Play Behavior. Wenatchee: Dogwise.

Miklosi, A. (2015). dog behavior, evolution and cognition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

O’Heare, J. (2007). Aggressive Behavior In Dogs. Ottawa: DogPsych Publishing .

Easy home-made dog treats!

When I want to make some quick training treats, I use 2 eggs , a cup of flour  (or enough to make the dough fairly firm) and canned fish ( one 14 oz can of salmon or tuna or 2 tins of sardines).

I also use parchment paper to line the baking pan and to make clean up easy. 15 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees and you have treats your dog will love!!  Cut them while still warm into the size you want!

Playing tug toy

Playing tug with dogs is a great way to reward a dog, to teach bite inhibition, to teach a dog to take and release an item on cue, to tire a dog out and to teach control of arousal levels.

To teach tug-toy, decide what the cue will be for tug-toy. Have ready a toy the dog enjoys playing with-this can be a tug toy, a rope or a Kong™ on a rope.

Pick a time when the dog appears to want to play. He or she may have invited their person or another dog to

play.  Take the dog to a low distraction area and ask the dog to sit.  Pick a cue work for playing tug-toy. Then bring out the toy, shaking it close to the ground or dragging the toy away from the dog to encourage the dog’s interest. The dog will generally pounce on and grab the toy. After a few minutes of play (and while the dog still wants to play) the person stops the play by letting the toy go limp and withdrawing it. Initially, I reward the dog for letting go with a treat.

When the person

 

has practiced stopping and starting tug-toy with the dog and the dog appears to enjoy the game, the person can add the cue for tug-toy.

Give the cue (for example: “tug”) and then bring out the toy and engage in play with the dog, give the cue for break, immediately stop playing by letting the toy go limp and rewarding the dog for releasing the toy, then, give the cue to play again and engage in play with the dog and so on…

I have rules for the tug-toy game which are, (1) if the dog’s teeth contact the person’s skin, the game stops immediately (let toy go limp, remove)-at no time should the play game involve the dog using his or her teeth on the person so it is important to be consistent and calm about this (2) anytime the toy is near the person’s face, the game stops – as long as the person is consistent, this teaches the dog to stop playing when the toy is near the face. If the dog tries to grab the toy out of my hand, I put the toy away for a few minutes (3) if the dogs starts to become overly excited, I end the game to let the dog calm down.

 

Pet Dog Manners

Level one: 

This is for beginner dogs of any age. Owners are taught how to teach their dogs to walk nicely on leash (loose leash walking); to sit, down and stand on cue; to come when called and to leave items alone when asked (leave it). Owners will learn when to reward and how to recognize different signals dogs use to communicate with us and with one another. Participants will need a six foot fixed length leash, a comfortable harness or flat collar for the dog and high value treats.

Courses are 6 weeks long, 45 minute weekly classes , limited to 6 dogs and handlers per class. $154.35 including GST.

Next PDM level 1 outdoor course is being held in Roberts Creek and starts Tuesday February 6 at 9 am   Register

Helping the Stressed Dog

Understanding what triggers stress in dogs and recognizing stress related behavior in dogs is important so we can help a stressed dog and avoid misunderstandings between our two species.

Stress can be defined as “any factor that threatens the health of an organism or has an adverse effect on its functioning. Such factors or stressors may occur in the external environment or arise within the body” (Concise Veterinary Dictionary, 1988).

While the words stress and distress are often used interchangeably, there is a difference.

Stress is a normal feature of life for all animals and serves important adaptive functions, such as flight-or-fight, predation, or “social-climbing”. “Distress “occurs when an animal is unable to adapt completely to a stressor.” (Rollins and Kessel. , 2017).

The transition to distress occurs when the body cannot cope against the assault of one or more stressors. “Stressors” are events that precipitate stress (Committee on Recognition and Alleviation of Distress in Laboratory Animals, 2008)

When a dog is stressed, he or she experiences physiological changes over which he or she has no control. These include increased blood pressure, heightened senses, increased ability of the blood to clot, and increased heart rate.  These changes all help the dog to respond to potential danger.

Physiological indicators of stress can be identified through the measuring of the of heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, body temperature and through evaluations of immune status and disease incidence. Measuring hormone secretion is also used in assessing stress (Bodnariu 2008).

The urinary, gastrointestinal, reproductive, and immune systems have been shown to be susceptible to developing disease because of stress (Mills, Karagiannis and Zulch 2014).

Some dogs are stressed by spending long hours alone. Studies have shown that at 5 weeks of age, dogs experience an elevation in cortisol after separation (Nagasawa, et al. 2014). Dogs who have separation-related problems may show it through destruction of property, excessive vocalization and house-soiling.

A study on treatment for separation-related behavior revealed that dogs treated with systematic desensitization had significant reductions in the frequency and intensity of the separation-related behaviors and that, three months after the treatment ended, most of the dogs showed almost complete elimination of the problem behaviour (Butler, Sargisson and Elliffe 2011).

Stressors can include threatening or aggressive behavior (perceived or real) from other dogs or from people, punishment, wearing punishing equipment, too much or too little activity day after day, being hugged or stared at and being bothered while he or she is sleeping.

Certain training methods can also elicit stress signals in dogs. The results of a study comparing the behavior observed in dogs participating in training classes at two training schools that used two different types of training methods results suggested that training methods based on positive reinforcement are less stressful for dogs. One school used positive reinforcement (where a food reward was given) in training while the other school used negative reinforcement (where an aversive disappeared when the dog complied).  The dogs who attended the classes at the school using negative reinforcement displayed lowered body postures and displayed other signals of stress while the dogs who were trained with the positive reinforcement showed increased attentiveness toward their owners (Deldalle and Gaunet 2014).

Stress can also be caused by pain or illness, hunger or thirst, or nutritional deficiencies.

Owners can identify stress signals in their own dogs.  By looking at the whole dog and all the indicators one can interpret the dog’s behavior. When stressed, often the eyes will look rounder than usual and are opened widely, the whites may show. Generally, the dog will be looking away from the trigger or stressor, ears will be flat against the head, he may be panting or his lips are pulled up to reveal the front teeth or pulled well back to reveal front and back teeth. The tail may be tucked between his legs. His hair may stand on end and he may

shed more than usual. Often stressed and fearful dogs will lean away, crouch, roll over, freeze and may urinate or defecate (ASPCApro

 

blog.org, 2015).

They may vocalize also. Howling, whimpering, high-pitched repetitive barks and growling can all indicate stress and distress.

Some dogs urine mark when feeling stressed.

Research has revealed three categories of abnormal behaviours in dogs that can be caused by stress:

(1) displacement activities such as licking, grooming and pica (“pica” refers to the eating of substances that have no nutritional value)

(2) stereotypical activities like excessive licking, flank sucking, circling or whirling, tail chasing, fence-line running, excessive barking, polydipsia (an abnormal increase in thirst) and polyphagia (an abnormal increase in appetite)

(3) behaviours like staring and ‘fly chasing’ referred to as “hallucinatory” behaviors (Casey, et al. 2002).

A stressed dog may have changes in appearance. A recent study indicated that premature greying in dogs under four years of age may be an indicator of anxiety, fear or impulsivity (“impulsivity” was defined as the loss of focus, an inability to calm his or herself, jumping on people, and hyperactivity after exercise). Analysis showed that muzzle greyness was significantly predicted by fears of loud noises, of unfamiliar animals, and of unfamiliar people. (King, et al. 2016).

For dogs who are experiencing chronic stress from kennelling, research has shown that even one night away from the kennel situation results in a reduction in cortisol in dogs. Cortisol is a diurnal hormone that is a measure of stress.  In a study done at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah, researchers measured cortisol levels in the dogs who lived there and who were participating in the “sleepover program” where visitors can take a dog for the night to their hotel. They found the cortisol levels in the dog dropped significantly when the dog participated in the sleepover program (Seckel 2017).

In another study, half of the dogs adopted from shelters displayed symptoms of various illnesses such as diarrhoea, vomiting, coughing, sneezing and skin problems.  It was suggested that these conditions may be due to the immunosuppression caused by the previous stress of kennelling (Bodnariu 2008).

Recognizing the indicators of stress in dogs helps us make changes to reduce stress and avoid distress in dogs.

 

The release cue!

Training Tip!

The “break” or “release” cue is a word we teach the dog to indicate that the exercise we have asked them to do is now over. It means that we (dog and handler) are finished working for right now and that the dog is on his or her own time.
Examples of good “break” words are: all-done, break, release,. The break cue  indicates to the dog that he has finished an exercise like a sit or a search).
The release word is not a cue for playtime. The release word just means that the exercise we have asked the dog to do is over but it isn’t necessarily playtime. 

The tug-toy game

Playing tug with dogs is a great way to reward a dog, to teach bite inhibition, to teach a dog to release an item on cue, to tire a dog out and to teach control of arousal levels.

To teach tug-toy, decide what the cue will be for tug-toy. Have ready a toy the dog enjoys playing with-this can be a tug toy, a rope or a Kong™ on a rope.

Pick a time when the dog appears to want to play. He or she may have invited their person or another dog to play.  Take the dog to a low distraction area and ask the dog to sit.  Then bring out the toy, shaking it close to the ground or dragging the toy away from the dog to encourage the dog’s interest. The dog will generally pounce on and grab the toy. After a few minutes of play (and while the dog still wants to play) the person stops the play by letting the toy go limp and withdrawing it. Initially, I reward the dog for letting go with a treat.

When the person has practiced stopping and starting tug-toy with the dog and the dog appears to enjoy the game, the person can add the cue for tug-toy.

Give the cue (for example: “tug”) and then bring out the toy and engage in play with the dog, give the cue for break, immediately stop playing by letting the toy go limp and rewarding the dog for releasing the toy, then, give the cue to play again and engage in play with the dog and so on…

I have rules for the tug-toy game which are, (1) if the dog’s teeth contact the person’s skin, the game stops immediately (let toy go limp, remove)-at no time should the play game involve the dog using his or her teeth on the person so it is important to be consistent and calm about this (2) anytime the toy is near the person’s face, the game stops – as long as the person is consistent, this teaches the dog to stop playing when the toy is near the face. If the dog tries to grab the toy out of my hand, I put the toy away for a few minutes.