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Five tips for walking a fearful or anxious dog

by james on 30 Sep 2022
Leash reactivity can ruin walks, but there are steps you can take to overcome Fido’s fears. Here’s how to help a leash-anxious pet. Five tips for walking a fearful or anxious dog Dogs evolved alongside humans, but not all of our requested behaviors come naturally to our pets. Walking on a leash can make some pets feel vulnerable by taking away their ability to fight or flee in an emergency, leading to problem behavior known as leash reactivity. Fortunately, you can relieve your pet’s stress with a few simple changes: 1. Use tasty treats. One of the best ways to ease your dog’s leash anxiety is to use positive reinforcement. Feed Fido his favorite treat when another dog or person approaches, for example, to distract him from the anxiety trigger and help him form a positive relationship with the experience. Practice and patience are key in this type of training, so remember to be consistent and don’t give up hope if you don’t see immediate results. 2. Practice choice training. You can make walks a more positive experience by reinforcing good behavior. The goal of this type of “choice training” is to praise your dog for remaining calm in a stressful situation, such as when a strange dog approaches. As soon as you see an animal nearby, begin lavishing your pet with praise for staying cool and collected. As soon as he becomes reactive, however, withdraw your praise. This will let your dog know what type of behavior earns your coveted attention. Because dogs will often not eat when they are in a state of fear, this can be a good alternative to using treats for positive reinforcement. 3. Be consistent. Another way to relieve your dog’s anxiety is to keep habits as regular and predictable as possible. Follow the same walking route, which is ideally quiet, and try to walk at the same time each day, if possible. Keep your pet’s attention on you and away from his anxiety by incorporating a tiny unpredictable element into this routine, however. You can bring a toy along as a distraction or change your pace throughout the walk. This will help your dog tune in to you, rather than focus on his fear.  4. Teach your dog a target word: Another way to get Fido to focus on you during walks is to train him to use a target word or cue. When you see another dog or person approaching, use this signal to get your dog’s attention on you and away from the trigger. Reward him for listening with a treat and praise. 5. Choose your battles: We all like to overcome our fears, but sometimes the best way to prevent stress is to avoid the trigger itself. If you are not sure you can manage your dog in a high-stress situation, such as walking in a well-traveled area, it is best to avoid that situation altogether, until you feel comfortable. Safety comes first, so be sure you are confident in you and your dog’s ability to handle a stressful situation before you approach it. Working your way up to progressively more challenging walking environments can be a great way to boost your dog’s confidence, as long as you are patient with his progress.

Are ear cropping and tail docking inhumane?

by james on 05 Sep 2022
Ear cropping and tail docking are rooted in tradition, but opponents argue these elective surgeries cause dogs unnecessary pain and risk.  Are ear cropping and tail docking inhumane? Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, but sometimes humans override their pets’ natural physique. Elective surgeries such as ear cropping and tail docking are steeped in tradition, but have become controversial topics in recent years as opponents argue they cause pets unnecessary pain and risk of complications. Here is a brief background on the hotly debated practice of elective canine surgeries: For some working dogs, ear cropping and tail docking are part of tradition, either because these physical alterations allow animals to more adeptly perform tasks such as herding and hunting or because they give pets a distinctive appearance associated with their breed. Sporting dogs, for example, often travel through thick undergrowth when tracking game, so cropping their tails was a practical measure to prevent snags for long-haired breeds such as spaniels. Today, the American Kennel Club argues practices such as these preserve the characteristics associated with the breeds, but opponents argue they are unnecessary and cause pets pain.   Tail docking is performed shortly after a puppy is born, before his nervous system fully develops. Advocates argue this helps reduce pain from docking, in which a portion of a dog’s tail is removed using surgical scissors. Ear cropping typically takes place later in a dog’s life, between 6 and 12 weeks old, on animals that have been anesthetized. This process removes the floppy, outer part of the ear and requires several weeks of recovery time. Tail docking is banned in many parts of the world, including Australia and the U.K., but both practices are still allowed in the United States. Arguments against docking dogs' tails include the risk of developing a nerve tumor at the site of the surgery, which can cause pain when your dog’s tail is touched. Dogs also use their tails to communicate with other animals, so removing a portion of his tail can inhibit Fido’s ability to express emotions such as happiness or fear by wagging his tail. As with any surgery, docking and cropping come with inherent risks, including complications from general anesthesia and during post-surgery recovery. According to statistics, both procedures are becoming less common, as evidenced fewer competitors with these elective alterations competing in top dog shows than in the past. While the decision surrounding tail docking and ear cropping ultimately lies with the breeder or owner, both are elective procedures that should be carefully considered before subjecting your pet to the risks associated with any medical procedure.

There’s a good chance you’re feeding your dog too much

by james on 18 Aug 2022
Nearly half of domestic dogs are overweight, increasing risk of health problems. Here are a few questions to help you asses Fido’s portions. There’s a good chance you’re feeding your dog too much We all love to spoil our pets and when it comes to our canine companions, few things show affection like a tasty treat. While offering Fido plenty of nutritious food is key to maintaining his health, nearly half of domestic dogs are overweight, which can limited mobility and increase health risks. Here are a few questions to help you understand how much your dog really needs to eat based on his size, age, and other factors: 1. How old is your dog? When determining how often you need to feed your pet, there are some general rules of thumb. Puppies ages 8 to 12 week should be fed four times a day to meet their metabolic and growth needs. Up to 6 months old, puppies should eat three meals a day, and older pets should eat twice daily. Keep an eye on treats between meals, as these calories can add up, too.   2.  What breed and size is your pet? Different breeds of dogs have different energy levels and nutritional needs, so be sure to consider your companion’s genetics and build when choosing a food and portions for your pet. While basic nutritional needs do not vary vastly across breeds, certain nutrients are more important for some breeds than others. For example, small breeds have faster metabolisms, and so generally require diets higher in fats than their large-breed peers. Big breeds tend to experience increased musculoskeletal problems, so look for diets or supplements that support joint health.    3. How active is he? Just like humans, our pets’ level of physical activity varies across individuals and throughout each dog’s life. Pets with rigorous exercise and play routines will need many more calories than their less-active peers, so adjust your dog’s food accordingly. Do this throughout the course of his life, too, to ensure he is receiving the right number of calories for his lifestyle. After carefully considering your pet’s individual needs, you can work towards adjusting his diet for optimal health. As a rule of thumb, dogs that are a healthy weight will have an “hourglass” figure when viewed from above, with a stomach is slightly narrower than the chest and hips. When viewed from the side, your pet’s chest should be slightly closer to the ground than his belly. Your pet’s ribs should not be visible, but they should be easy to feel with light pressure when running your hands across his side. Overweight pets do not need to go on a strict starvation diet, but you can help your companion achieve his optimal health by slowly adjusting his portions, which can reduce risk of problems such as arthritis and heart failure. Consider helping a low-activity pet engage in more playtime and physical exercise, too, which benefits him physically while nurturing the bond you share with your pet.