How to help your dog’s allergies

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By Mary Beth Miller

Humans aren’t the only ones who suffer from itchy, scratchy allergies.

Just like us, our dogs develop allergy symptoms when their immune system begins red flagging every particle of pollen, dust. or mold. Although harmless in the environment, a small allergen can become a big problem if it is ingested, inhaled, or comes into contact with the skin.

If your dog is a seasonal or chronic allergy sufferer, it is of the utmost importance that you learn everything you can on how to help your dog’s allergies.

Keep an eye out for allergy symptoms

Dogs with allergies are pretty hard to ignore. The constant itching, scratching, and chewing are enough to make everyone in the house crazy. However, there are other allergy symptoms a dog can develop that you may not immediately pick up on.

In an attempt to rid the body of these “dangerous” substances, dogs can develop a variety of respiratory, digestive, and skin-related symptoms.

  •       Constant licking
  •       Swollen paws
  •       Hot spots
  •       Snoring (the result of an swollen throat)
  •       Diarrhea
  •       Vomiting
  •       Sneezing
  •       Itchy ears
  •       Ear infections
  •       Itchy back
  •       Itchy tail
  •       Watery eyes
  •       Scabbed, moist, red, and itchy skin
Identify the allergens

Canine allergies mirror that of human allergies, but you might not think of these common allergens as affecting your dog:

  •       Food substances (soy, wheat, corn, pork, chicken, beef)
  •       Plastic or rubber materials
  •       Flea and mite shampoos
  •       Fabric
  •       Cleaning products
  •       Perfumes
  •       Topical flea/tick preventatives
  •       Prescription drugs
  •       Cigarette smoke
  •       Feathers
  •       Dander
  •       Mold
  •       Weed, grass, or tree pollen
  •       Fleas
  •       Dust mites
Keep allergens out of your home & off your dog

Wherever a dog roams, environmental allergens are present. The pollen from the grass and flowers are carried in on your pet’s fur and paws. Not only does your dog bring these eye watering substances in your home, but you could be carrying them inside the home, too.  And don’t forget about fleas! Adult fleas and their eggs can easily be carried in on the bottom of your shoes or hitch a ride with your dog.

Here is a list of easy and effective tips to reduce environmental and pest allergies:

1. To prevent tracking in allergens, wipe your dog’s paws with a damp washcloth before entering the house; leave your own shoes outside or in a mudroom or garage.  

2. Give your dog a weekly bath and brush him daily to remove pollen from the fur.

3. Vacuum, dust. and sweep the home regularly to pick up any stragglers that you might have missed.

4. Wash your dog’s bedding and plush toys regularly with a gentle, hypoallergenic detergent.   

Pinpoint your dog’s allergies

If your dog is suffering from an allergy you just can’t put your finger on, you may want to consider an intradermal skin test. Performed by a veterinary dermatologist, an intradermal skin test or allergy test will help pinpoint the cause(s) of all that itchiness. 

The process of a skin test involves shaving a small patch of hair on the dog’s body to visibly see the skin’s reaction to various allergens after they are injected under the skin.

If your dog is indeed allergic to a substance, the injection site will swell, redden, and become itchy. The test is highly effective (if pricey) and allows the vet to isolate an allergen, planning a course of action.

If having a skin allergy test performed on your dog is a bit out of your price range, there are other at home tests you can do.

Monitoring your dog’s symptoms inside and outside the home is also an effective way to pinpoint an allergy, it will just take more time. If your dog tends to have more allergies inside the home than out, you may want to focus on dust mites, mold, or fleas as the culprits.

Don’t forget about food allergies! Food products such as soy, wheat, corn, pork, dairy, chicken, or beef are all common ingredients in dog food and treats. If you notice your dog has itchy skin combined with hair loss, vomiting, and diarrhea, you may want to take a look at that bowl of kibble. Talk to your veterinarian about a safe way to conduct a food allergy experiment with your dog.

Maintain flea treatments

It only takes one flea to turn your dog into an itchy mess. Flea allergy dermatitis, an overreaction to flea saliva, is very common in dogs, especially sighthounds. Hair loss on the back and tail base are sure signs your dog is allergic to fleas.

The best way to prevent flea allergies is to keep the tiny pests off Fido. Talk with your veterinarian to select the best flea preventative that works for you and your dog.

Allergies are everywhere and we aren’t the only ones who suffer from itchy, watery eyes, and dry, scratchy skin. A large number of our dogs seem to be cursed with overactive immune systems, too. Your dog’s allergies cannot be cured, but you can make allergy season more bearable for everyone!

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mary-beth-miller-pawedinMary Beth Miller is a registered veterinary technician from southeast Iowa. She works in a large/small animal veterinary clinic and also volunteers at the local Humane Society, Emergency Animal Care Center, as well as the Iowa Parrot Rescue. Her passion lies in helping save the lives of animals. MaryBeth has three dogs, a Siberian husky named Rocky and two rescue dogs named Sambita and Nina.

Traveling with your dog? Bring these essentials on your next trip!

dog car luggage

By Elena Sipe

You’ve packed, you’ve planned, the big moment is finally approaching: the day you leave for your trip. You’ve gotten your things together, but what about your dog?

If it’s your first time traveling with your dog, I have some good news! You don’t need to bring a ton of special travel things.

All you need are the things you and your dog use on a regular basis at home—a leash is a good starting point (plus an extra in case of breakage), plus a couple travel-specific items whose presence will make your lives a whole lot easier.

Carrier – This is the Swiss Army knife of dog traveling. Whether you’re flying or traveling by car, you’ll want a carrier that your dog is comfortable being in for long periods of time.

If you’re flying with your dog in-cabin, it goes under your seat. If you’re in the car, put the seat belt or pet-specific restraint around it for an instant boost in car safety. When you get to your destination, it’s your dog’s familiar bed.

Plus, if your carrier has pockets, this is a great place to store smaller dog accessories. Think of it as your dog’s suitcase and their bed!

Collapsible bowls – These often come with a carabiner clip and collapse flat for easy storage. This means you can attach them to a leash, put them in a small pocket, and hang them off a bag to dry. Use a permanent marker to mark the amount of food you normally feed your dog on the bowl before you travel, which eliminates the need to bring a measuring cup.

Poop bags and holder – When you’re rushing around trying to pack, you’re bound to forget things. I prefer to dummy-proof this process by having a poop bag and holder attached to the leash. You can’t forget something that’s attached!

It’s a good idea to bring an extra roll or two of bags (shove them in the nooks and crannies of your luggage) so you don’t run out.

Toys – Bring a chew or activity toy to keep your dog busy while you’re in transit. They take little to no room in your luggage, and even if your dog can destroy the toughest Kong on the market, they’re also readily available at pet stores, so you can replenish along the way! 

Depending on your dog’s affinity for stuffies or fetch toys, you may be able to get away with just one or two. Bring only their favorites. If your dog likes stuffed toys but not fetch, just bring a stuffed toy. If they like both, bring both. A toy is nice because it is something that’s familiar to your dog and it gives them something to cuddle or burn off some energy.

Mess kit – Poop happens. So do other messes. Make sure you  pack wipes, towels, pee pads, and cleaners to clean them up so you can easily move on to the fun parts of your trip!

Vaccination papers, health certificates, and ID tags –  It’s always a good idea to have a copy of your dog’s vaccinations, your vet’s contact info, and an emergency vet at your destination (it may even be a legal requirement to travel through some states). Depending on where you’re going, you may need a vet-issued health certificate. It’s a good idea to keep a digital copy of all this, along with a copy on you and in your dog’s carrier if applicable.

Make sure your dog’s ID tags are current; it’s a good idea to get one for your dog’s carrier as well. If traveling internationally, include an email address and Skype or Google Voice number where you can be reached.

First aid kit – This doesn’t have to be extensive, but should include basic wound treatments, antibacterial cream, tweezers or a tick key, flea preventatives, generic tablets of benadryl for bee stings, and any medications (and prescriptions, if you anticipate needing refills) that your dog needs. If your dog needs a special shampoo or other skin treatment, this is a good place to put it.

Waterproof bag for dog food and treats – Bring along as much of your dog’s food as makes sense. At a minimum, this should be a day’s worth, as it allows you some time to locate dog food at your destination. Putting it in a waterproof, reusable bag helps keep it fresh.

That’s about it!

As you can see, you really don’t need to bring much more for traveling with your dog than what you normally use at home. If you can, take a couple of short trips with your dog before going on longer adventures; you’ll get hands-on experience to learn what you really need to bring with you, and what is just taking up room in your bag. Refine as you go, and remember that you can always replenish at a pet store if needed!

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elena-sipe-switzerland-300x276Elena is an adventure-seeker, world traveler, foodie, and all-around nerd person that is rarely seen without her rescue dog, Alfie, by her side. When not hiking or spending time near water, Elena can be found eating, cuddling with Alfie, enjoying nerdy books, and learning, which her and Alfie both love though only one of them gets treats for it.

How much water should your dog be drinking?

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By Emily Bruer

It’s important for us to know what is and what isn’t normal for our pets. Things like water intake, appetite and energy levels can be indicative of your pet’s health and well-being. If your dog’s habits suddenly change it could be due to a medical condition or a change in his environment.

The answer to “how much water your dog should drink?” is far from a straightforward one. Each dog is unique in size and metabolism and each dog’s water intake will be different. The best way to know how much your dog should drink is simply by observing him.

It’s normal for dogs to drink after exercise, eating, and sleeping. They also will drink sporadically throughout the day, so get to know your dog’s habits when he is healthy.

Another great way to know if your dog is drinking enough water is by checking his urine. Stand near your dog when he is urinating; if there is a strong odor to the urine, or it seems to be a dark yellow or orange color, it could mean that your dog is dehydrated. Similarly, if the urine is pink or red it is an indication of blood in the urine and you should get your dog to the vet right away, as they could have an infection or stones in their bladder.

Another great way to test your dog’s hydration levels is by gently lifting the scruff (the skin on the back of your dog’s neck) until it is taut, and then letting it go. If it immediately falls back into place your dog is hydrated, but if it takes longer than a few seconds your dog could be dehydrated.

If you believe your dog is dehydrated, but he isn’t interested in drinking water, a trip to the vet is in order. When an animal is dehydrated for too long it can cause damage to the kidneys as well as other internal organs. Better safe than sorry when it comes to hydration and your dog’s health!

Water temperature – When offering your dog water one thing to keep in mind is the water’s temperature. While it is tempting to give your dog ice cold water, it’s actually much healthier to let your dog have water that is room temperature.

When a warm dog ingests ice cold water their body must then use valuable energy to warm up the water. If it doesn’t, it can cause your dog to have a tummy ache or even throw up.

Not too much –  Another common cause of vomiting in dogs is drinking too much water. If you have just brought your dog in from a hot day or from a bout of vigorous play, his first instinct will be to drink a lot of water.

Unfortunately, if they have access to an unlimited supply they will often drink too much and then proceed to puke it back up. It can also cause a condition called bloat. You can find the symptoms here.

To prevent too much water intake, offer your dog several small bowls of water every 10-15 minutes until they are cooled off and relaxed. Once they have calmed down, you can put their normal water bowl back down and let them have access to the unlimited supply.

Every dog is different when it comes to water intake and bathroom habits. Get to know your dog’s routine while he is young and healthy, so you can recognize potential problems as he ages. If you notice an abnormal change in your dog’s routine don’t put off calling your vet, as what could be a simple infection could quickly get worse without treatment.

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emily-bruer-pawedinEmily Bruer has been penning the adventures of her imagination since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Working at animal shelters for the last five years she learned an incredible amount about animal care and behavior. She is currently employed at a vet clinic where she continues her animal education. Emily’s love of animals is evident when you step into her home, which she shares with six dogs and six cats, all of whom were rescues.

Three unexpected things you need to know to keep your dog healthy

maltese in arms

By Betsy Lane, MA, Education and FetchFind Academy Instructor

We all know the basics of dog care – good food, exercise, regular vet checkups, and sound safety & training practices. But did you know about these three things that can have a big impact your dog’s health?

Getting to the bottom of anal glands

Let’s just get this one out of the way: Anal glands are two little sacs that sit just inside a dog’s anus. They’re filled with super stinky stuff that contains pheromones, and when your dog passes a (firm) stool, some of this material gets squeezed out with the poo. A generation or two ago, dog owners were encouraged to empty these sacs (express the glands by squeezing them) on a routine basis; this was often done by a groomer, vet, or vet tech—or even by brave owners themselves! Like most vets today, Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, advises against fixing what isn’t broken: “If your pets don’t have anal gland problems right now, tell your vets and groomers to please leave them alone. Do not automatically express your pet’s anal glands.”  How do you know when something’s wrong? The most common signs are the dog biting at his or her bottom and/or scooting along the floor on his or her behind. If you see either of these behaviors, it’s time to call your vet.

Poisons! So much more than just chocolate.

Most dog owners know to keep their pups away from chocolate, but in fact coffee and caffeine are also toxic to dogs, because all three contain methylxanthines, which can cause everything from panting and excessive thirst to abnormal heart rhythm and even death. The poison experts at the ASPCA have compiled a list of more than 15 common food items that are toxic to dogs,  including xylitol (a sweetener hidden in everything from breath mints to peanut butter), avocado, citrus, macadamia nuts, and cheese (yes, cheese!). And while we’re on the subject, please put this number in your phone: ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435.

Mats: Much more than an eyesore.

We’ve probably all seen the “before and after” videos of miserable-looking dogs covered in matted fur–and the amazing transformation that comes after the dog receives some grooming TLC! Even in mild cases, we know matted fur doesn’t look good–but it doesn’t feel good, either, and can pose very real health risks to dogs. Dr. Julie Horton, DVM, says, “matted hair can lead to severe medical problems for pets,” including skin irritations, lesions, and even maggots! As if that’s not bad enough, mats collect debris, feces, and urine, trapping it next to a dog’s sensitive skin. Mats are a painful, unhealthy, expensive road nobody wants to travel—and they can be avoided with proper coat care. Get started by asking groomer about the best tools for your dog’s at-home maintenance, then augment that routine with regular appointments with an experienced professional groomer (every 4 to 6 weeks is a good rule of thumb). PetSmart® Grooming Salons take reservations online, have 1000s of locations, often have coupons, and always have a Look Great Guarantee!

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https://jobs.petsmart.com/salon
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How to prevent your dog from overheating

dog panting

By Emily Bruer

It’s officially HOT outside, and it’s important that you have a plan to keep your dog comfortable and prevent overheating during these sweltering summer months. While it is true that some breeds are more susceptible to the heat than others, it’s a good idea to have a plan for your dog no matter his breed.

The most important thing to remember this summer is that your dog has no way of expressing to you that he is overheating. In fact, he may not even know. A dog that is having fun playing in the sun is similar to a small child, and as long as he is enjoying himself he’ll keep playing long after it’s safe.

Here are some important tips to keep in mind as you and your pup enjoy the summer.

Be sure to keep a bowl and water with you at all times. Keeping yourself and your furry friend hydrated is the first step to beating the heat this summer. It’s good to keep in mind that ice cold water, though it feels refreshing to us, can be a little hard on a dog’s stomach. It’s best to give them water that is below or at room temperature.

Make sure your pooch has access to shade. It is often up to 10 degrees cooler in the shade. So, if you notice your pooch is panting excessively it may be time for him to take a break until his breathing is back to normal.

Never leave your dog unattended in the car. If the temperature is over 70 degrees outside, the car will quickly become too hot for your dog. Even if you are just running inside for a few minutes you never know what could keep you in the store, and while you are cool inside it’s easy to forget your companion is outside overheating.

Don’t give your dog large meals when it’s hot outside. Like us, a large meal on a hot day can cause a dog to get an upset stomach and possibly even cause him to vomit or have diarrhea. Both conditions can cause dehydration, so it’s best to feed smaller meals throughout the day.

Kiddie pools. Kiddie pools are a great way for your dog to stay cool while outside in the summer. You can usually get them for about $10-20, and your dog will thank you for it. Be sure to change the water every 2-3 days, or sooner if you see it’s dirty.

Be mindful about exercise. Try to only exercise your dog in the early morning or evening when temperatures are cooler. Also, never let dogs walk on hot pavement as they could burn their paw pads. If it is over 90 degrees outside your dog should be inside where it is cool, or calmly relaxing in the shade.

If you are following all these tips but notice your dog is panting excessively and can’t seem to cool off, it’s important you get him inside as soon as possible. Sometimes heat exhaustion can sneak up on us and it can be very dangerous for our dogs.

Offer your dog water and soak two towels with cool water. Have your dog lie on one towel and drape the other over his back. If you’re outside with no access to towels, immerse your dog gradually in cool water (such as a fountain or stream). 

If you have a thermometer, take his temperature. The normal temperature for a dog is about 100-101.5F;  if your dog’s temp is over 104F, get him to the vet immediately.

Overheating can cause seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and a plethora of other uncomfortable symptoms. Getting him to your vet will allow them to cool him down safely while also providing fluids to prevent dehydration.

Brachycephalic dogs like Pugs, French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, and other smooshed faced breeds are extremely susceptible to overheating, as they have a harder time breathing than the average dog. Double-coated dogs like Malamutes and Saint Bernards can also have a hard time in the summer heat, so take extra care to make sure they stay cool.

The best tip for preventing heat stress this summer – leave your dog at home during the day, in a cool, climate-controlled environment. Take him out in the early morning and late evening for exercise, and keep potty breaks short during the worst of the heat.

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emily-bruer-pawedinEmily has been penning the adventures of her imagination since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Working at animal shelters for the last five years she learned an incredible amount about animal care and behavior. She is currently employed at a vet clinic where she continues her animal education. Emily’s love of animals is evident when you step into her home, which she shares with six dogs and six cats, all of whom were rescues.

How to prevent urinary tract infections in cats

Cat in Kitchen Sitting on Counter

By Mary Beth Miller

Did you know bladder infections are the number one reason cats visit the veterinarian?

In fact, feline urinary tract infections (FUTIs) affect over 3% of the feline population just in the U.S. alone, not including all the cases that are left untreated. Whether your cat has experienced bladder infections in the past or not, your cat is at a constant risk.

What is a feline urinary bladder infection? 

A urinary tract infection occurs when environmental bacteria enters the urinary system. Bacteria live and grow in warm, damp places, which explains why these bacteria thrive inside the hollow organ that is the bladder. Although commonly referred to as a bladder infection, the infection can take place inside any of the three parts that make up the urinary tract—the bladder, ureters, and urethra. Symptoms of a FUTI include:

  • polyuria (excessive urination)
  • pain during urination
  • fever
  • straining or inability to urinate
  • vocalization during urination
  • abdominal pain
  • bloody urine
  • increased water intake
Causes of cat bladder infections

A cat can develop an infection of the bladder for many reasons, including:

Improper hygiene – Cats often develop a urinary tract infection due to feces entering the reproductive organ. Close proximity between vagina and anus in female cats can cause fecal matter to enter the urinary system while defecating.

Decreased water intake – The process of urination allows the body to eliminate waste and toxic materials, but this process can only occur with the presence of water. The less water a feline drinks, the greater the chance of developing an infection.

Reproduction activities – Intact females often develop urinary tract infections because the breeding process moves bacteria into the body.

Medical ailments – Medical problems such as cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) often result in secondary bladder infections.

Stress – Stress triggers hormone levels in the body to rise and causes the bladder pH level to become imbalanced, which allows bacteria and yeast to form within the bladder.

How to prevent a feline urinary tract infection

There are several ways to help prevent FUTIs.

Clean your cat’s litter box daily – The less fecal and urinary matter your cat is exposed to, the lesser chance they have of contaminating themselves with bacteria.

Provide an appropriate number of litter boxes in the household – The general rule for litter boxes is having a box for each cat, plus one extra. Cats tend to assign themselves a litter box that they use regularly. A litter box for each cat can also make it easier for you, the owner, to identify health problems. For example, if one litter box is fuller than the other, you can assume that cat is using it more often and should be monitored.

Provide clean, fresh water every day and wash the water bowl – The probability of a cat developing problems within the bladder is increased when he or she is not drinking enough water.  A cat is more likely to drink water when it is clean and fresh.

Decrease stress in the home – Stress triggers hormone levels in the body to rise and can cause imbalances in your cat’s bladder pH levels, which in turn can cause recurring infections.

Closely monitor for higher risk factors – Cats over the age of 10 and those allowed to reproduce are at higher risk for developing bladder infections.

To help prevent future infections, your vet may prescribe D-Mannose, a non-metabolizing sugar to which bacteria attaches for subsequent excretion in the urine. D-Mannose is not a drug, but is highly effective in cats with recurrent bladder infections.

If your cat has had a bladder infection in the past, or is showing any of the above symptoms, always consult your veterinarian. Only an animal medical professional can diagnose your cat’s condition and make an appropriate treatment plan.

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mary-beth-miller-pawedinMary Beth Miller is a registered veterinary technician from southeast Iowa. She works in a large/small animal veterinary clinic and also volunteers at the local Humane Society, Emergency Animal Care Center, as well as the Iowa Parrot Rescue. Her passion lies in helping save the lives of animals.

 

7 ways to help your dog get through the 4th of July

dog

The 4th of July (otherwise known as Happy Scare the Crap Out of Your Dog Day) is looming, and it’s time for some basic management techniques to help your pets make it through the festivities.

  • Make sure your pet’s tags and microchips are up-to-date. If the ID tags have been worn smooth or haven’t been updated with current information, get out the sharpie and write your contact information on the inside of the collar.
  • Even if you normally take off your pet’s collar in the home, consider leaving it on during peak noise and activity times. The sharpie trick won’t help if the collar is hanging on a coat hook when your dog bolts out the door
  • Keep the dog inside the house, in a crate or closed off area, away from high-activity zones. If you just plan to put the dog in the back bedroom, make sure the window is secure; pets have been known to bust right through window screens – and even windows – if they panic. Tape a big piece of cardboard over the window if necessary.
  • If you have a very noise-sensitive or -phobic dog, talk to your vet about possible medications to help keep him calm during the worst of the fireworks.

For other management techniques for noise-sensitive dogs, see our post about helping your dog get through construction season.

  • Take your pup out for a long walk well before the festivities start, so that he’s tired and more inclined to sleep than panic. Make sure he has a safe place to retreat, a Thundershirt or a TTouch wrap to provide calming pressure, a stuffed Kong to keep him distracted, and a human to provide comfort and reassurance.
  • If you’re going to a fireworks show, leave the dog at home. Even well-behaved, well-socialized dogs can get easily overwhelmed in big, noisy crowds with bright lights bursting thunderously overhead.
  • After the fireworks are over, and before you let your dog out into the yard, scan the ground – firework detritus can be sharp as well as poisonous, and no one wants to spend the rest of the holiday weekend at the emergency vet.

If you have any techniques that you find particularly helpful during fireworks and thunderstorm season, tell us about them in the comments. Have a happy and safe holiday!

 

 

 

Give your rescue dog a sound beginning

old yellow lab

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

A lot of people wait until summer officially kicks off to bring home a new dog, because the kids are out of school, vacation time is coming, and it’s so much nicer to potty train a new pup when the weather is warm. 

Taking some time off to help get your dog acclimated is a great idea, but many newly adopted dogs need more, and that’s where A Sound Beginning comes in. The goal of this truly excellent program is to reduce the stress that is normally part of the transition period from shelter/rescue to living in a home. It not only helps dogs to become adoptable, but also helps to keep them from being returned.   

This isn’t basic obedience training, but rather a comprehensive program that focuses on creating a trusting relationship between a dog and his new human(s). The classes teach essential life skills to both ends of the leash – the humans learn how to prevent, manage, and train, and the dogs learn good behavior, polite manners, and how to cope with unfamiliar situations.

A side note to anyone who plans on bringing home a rescue pet this weekend – have your summer barbecues at someone else’s house for a couple of months.  All the noise and strangers and tempting foods can be difficult even for long-time resident dogs to handle with equanimity, let alone one that has recently experienced major life changes.

One of the many great things about this program is that the support continues outside of class, via books, videos, phone consultations, handouts, sound therapy, and optional in-home training. In-person classes are open admission, and are available throughout the Chicago area. If you’re out of state or can’t travel, you can order the book + CD for step-by-step instructions or sign up for a webinar package.

So if you’re planning on bringing home a new canine companion this summer, sign up for A Sound Beginning. It’s the best way to set the right tone for your newly adopted friend.

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Many thanks to the wonderful Terri Klimek for her work with A Sound Beginning and her help writing this post. In addition to owning Training Tails with Terri, she is an instructor for FetchFind Academy and has worked with As Good As Gold Golden Retriever Rescue of Illinois. 

Add some TTouch to your training toolbox!

Betsy Lane

By Betsy Lane, Founder of PetKiDoCertified Tellington TTouch Practitioner, and FetchFind Academy Instructor.

Tellington Touch (or simply “TTouch”) is a training method that goes far beyond the Sits, Stays, and Downs of basic canine manners classes. In fact, my own dog had lovely manners and a reliable set of basic skills when it became clear to me that something “deeper” was missing. Yep, even the dog who lived with the dog trainer and attended group training classes, agility classes, and weekly private AKC tracking lessons had missed perhaps the most fundamental “trick” of all: feeling calm, confident, and comfortable in her own skin. When a trainer-friend of mine mentioned something called “TTouch,” I was intrigued — and began the two-year journey to become a Certified TTouch Practitioner.

Here are five of the top reasons you might want to add some TTouch skills to your dog-training toolbox:

TTouch helps our dogs stay calm and focused — even in distracting, highly stimulating, unpredictable situations. I’ve seen TTouch help countless dogs make great strides in their ability to cope with everything from competitions (such as dog shows) to life in a shelter (where calm behavior can literally be the difference between adoption and, well, not adoption).

TTouch helps puppies retain their natural curiosity and their sense of the world as a great, fun, happy place to explore. While those of you who currently live with a puppy might wish your furry little buddy were somewhat less curious about the garbage, dirty laundry, and what’s under your prized peony, believe me when I tell you this is infinitely preferable to living with a puppy—or a grown dog—who’s too afraid to leave the house (or ride in the car, be nice to your mother, cooperate with the vet, or come out from under the bed).

TTouch helps dogs replace habits that don’t serve them well with habits that work a whole lot better. For example, we can help dogs learn to stop pulling on the leash or favoring a long-ago-injured limb and walk on a loose leash, in balance. We can also help a dog figure out that the neighbor’s dog isn’t actually worth getting so upset about, after all.

TTouch helps us keep our beloved older dogs engaged and interested in life for as long as possible. It also provides us with new ways of responding to our dogs’ changing needs over their entire lifetime.

TTouch helps us celebrate and connect with our dog as a unique individual. Even dogs from the same litter are individuals, just as we are not our siblings. TTouch helps us discover what makes our dog “one of a kind” in ways we love as well as ways that might frustrate us. Then, it gives us tools to address the challenges in an effective and respectful way that strengthens our sense of connection and partnership with our dogs — no matter what other positive training activities we pursue.

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Photo credit: Karin O’Brien Photography

This post was originally published on the AnimalSense Canine Training & Behavior blog.  AnimalSense offers group and private classes throughout the Chicagoland area (and many of their trainers are graduates of FetchFind Academy!)

7 ways to help your dog get through construction season

dog

By Jamie Migdal, CEO of FetchFind

If you live in the city, you can tell when it’s 8:00 am in most neighborhoods because that’s when the construction noises begin. Loud, dusty, and nerve-wracking, construction and road work projects are a near-constant feature of urban life in the warmer months. (And we had a pretty mild winter here in Chicago, so the construction started weeks earlier than usual! Good times.)

If you find the noises aggravating and stressful, just imagine how your dog feels about them. Even the sound of jackhammers several blocks away is going to be impossible to ignore; for dogs with a hypersensitivity to noise (such as certain herding breeds), it can be downright torture.

So what can you do to help your dog get through construction season? First, you’ll want to observe your dog’s behavior and see if anything is deviating from the norm – has she stopped going to bathroom at her usual time/place? Is she ignoring food? Are her ears always back while she rushes through her once-leisurely walks? These are all signs that your dog is suffering from stress, and, in the absence of other obvious stressors (such as illness or a new housemate), there is a good chance that elevated noise levels are to blame.

Keep the windows closed. Sure, you’d like to get keep the air circulating in the house, but the benefit of less noise for your dog outweighs the benefit of fresh air for you. Besides, if you’re close enough to the construction to be bothered by it yourself, those gentle breezes come with a hefty payload of dust and other nasty particulate matter. Keep the ceiling fan on. Turn on the air conditioner (which will also help to mask the sound of construction). If your dog responds favorably to music or the television playing in the background, turn it on before you leave for work.

Create a cozy den. If your dog is crate trained, put a bedspread or a quilt over half of the crate so he has a place to tuck himself away when the noise starts to get to him. The fabric will also help to muffle some of the sounds. If your dog isn’t a chewer, throw a couple of favorite stuffed toys onto the bed so he can bury his head under them and be comforted by their presence. If your dog is free range during the day, try making a tent of sorts by draping a quilt or a couple of beach towels over the usual resting place.

Change the venue. If the rooms on one side of your house are less noisy, move your dog (and his crate/bed/toys/water dish) there during the day. Putting half of a house and a closed door between your dog and the noise can make a big difference. Make sure that you dog-proof the day room before moving Fido in, especially if he won’t be crated.

Put that ThunderShirt on. I’ve seen ThunderShirts work miracles on anxious dogs; you can also try a TTouch wrap (however, if your dog is a dedicated sock-eater putting a long bandage on her while you’re away from home isn’t a great idea). Keep in mind that the ThunderShirt or wrap can make your dog very warm, so if it’s hot outside you’ll need to put the air conditioner on.

Consider doggy daycare. If you have a dog that is okay being around other dogs, daycare can be a great solution. Many daycares are in large buildings in less densely-populated (and therefore less noisy) parts of town, and the presence of other dogs is a great distraction no matter what is going on outside.

Help your dog shake it off.  Let’s be honest – it can be very hard to motivate yourself to take the dog out for more than a potty break when you get home after work. But your dog has effectively been under siege all day long, and you can help him shake it off by doing something fun or relaxing. Take a long walk in a different place with plenty of sniff breaks, treat your pup to a nice canine massage or TTouch session, or play a rousing game of “I’m gonna get you” in the hallway on the way back into the apartment. (Note: a dog that has been stressed all day can get overexcited or go over threshold more quickly than usual, so don’t let things get out of hand.)

Visit your veterinarian. If all of your efforts still haven’t helped mitigate your dog’s stress, go to your vet and discuss medical treatment options. Anti-anxiety medication doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment, and it can help break the stress cycle so that your dog isn’t forced to develop other self-soothing strategies like chewing, excessive licking, or barking.

What do I recommend for humans trying to deal with the construction noise? A good set of noise-canceling headphones. 🙂

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