Tag Archives: pet

Popular Myths About Dogs: DEBUNKED!

Dogs are fascinating creatures. They are loyal, adventurous, curious, able to work dozens of different jobs and be our most loving companion. But there are many things we don’t know and understand about our four legged friends, and as it often happens, misunderstanding breeds misinformation. The dog world is filled with misconceptions and myths about dogs, from behavior to getting rid of worms.

Here is a list of some common dog misconceptions, a little insight into what’s actually going on:

Myth #1: Dogs only see in Black and White:

Some Russian scientists took this popular myth and turned it on it’s head. Research has proven that dogs actually see in shades of blues and yellows, but can’t see shades of red. Who knew?! Check out this link to read more.

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I love that blue shirt you’re wearing!

Myth #2: If you put garlic on your dog’s food, will it help get rid of his worms?

You’ve clearly never read my post about human foods dogs should avoid. Forget you ever heard this one. Garlic can actually be very harmful to a dog’s health, so just stick to putting garlic in your spaghetti sauces.

Myth #3: You can calculate a dog’s age by multiplying it’s human years by seven:

Research has actually shown this method to be outdated. By the time your dog reaches one year, they’ve already become a talking-back teenager, and the way they age varies from as they get older. Check this chart for exact conversions.

Myth #4: A cracked window is enough on a hot day:

Not even going there. Just read this

Myth #5: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks:

I can attest that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, older dogs may suffer from hearing or vision loss, but that doesn’t mean they lose their ability to learn. This myth seems more like a human insult than a dog one.

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I may be old, but I can still learn!

One of the first lessons I teach parents about puppies is how to reduce biting. Simply give them a treat, and if their teeth touch your fingers too aggressively, pull the treat back and make a loud pitched noise. The dog will know to slow down in order to finally get the treat. I have used this trick on much older (8, 9, even 13 year old) dogs and it works great! They’ve learned a simple, new trick, and I get to keep all my fingers!

Still don’t believe me? Check out this video of MythBusters putting it to the test.

Myth #6: A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth:

Back story: Dog saliva was once believed to be antiseptic, and some people still believe it has healing properties. No one knows how that belief came to be, but it is still a common myth today. Trust me, a dog’s mouth is not “cleaner” than a person’s mouth. Dog saliva is capable of fighting off some bacteria, but carries it’s own army of bacteria and infectious organisms. The types of bacteria carried by humans and dogs is different, mostly because of the differences in diet. There is a reason for the term, “dog breath.”

Myth #7: Sex, litters and fixing your dog:

While compiling this post, I was surprised to see that lots of people wait before getting their dog neutered or spayed because they believe letting their dog have sex is a good thing, or that they need to have one litter  of puppies “for the experience.”

But that’s simply not true. Sex results in puppies without homes or a good support system. Female dogs will not miss “the experience” of having a litter. There remains some controversy as to how early you should have a dog fixed, not fixing your dog leads to further animal population and control issues.

Myth #8: A fenced yard should be entertaining enough:

How would you liked being locked up in one space for long periods of time? The world is full of smells, sounds, animals to socialize with and trees to pee on. It’s important that a dog is exposed to all these things, not only for their socialization, but so they have the mental and physical stimulation to keep them from becoming destructive.

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Sometimes adventure lies outside the backyard!

Myth #9: My dog should tolerate anything my children do:

This is a good way for your child to get a nasty bite wound. Children are terrible with boundaries, and they need to be taught to respect their doggie companions. Allowing a child to sit, tug on or tease a dog is disrespectful. Dogs are living animals that should be cared for, not tormented.

Myth #10: My dog understands me when I talk to him:

Even I fall into the trap of thinking I can “talk” to my dog. While dogs can understand about 500 words and a very talented Border Collie named Chaser can understand thousands, when we talk to our dogs they focus in on a few words, our tone of voice, facial expressions, and our body language.

Myth #11: Dogs wag their tail when they are happy:

A dog trainer I worked with actually debunked this for me. Dogs wag their tail for many reasons, but typically it’s because they are either happy or nervous. The important thing here is that you learn to read a dog’s body language. A stiff, rigid appearance is a good sign that your dog is nervous, even if their tail is wagging. Being able to read a dogs signals will go a long way to building strong relationships with them.

Who knew the dog world was filled with so many myths?

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Congratulations, you’ve finally decided that it is time to get a dog! You’ve committed yourself to putting in the time and effort to raise, care for, properly socialize, and make it the best dog it can be!

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Happy dogs come from lots of hard work!

But one question still remains: What kind of dog do you want to get? The answer to that question can be critical in building a healthy relationship between you and your new pup. Having even a brief knowledge of a dog’s traits and how they match a person’s life would ensure that thousands of dogs are properly homed and not surrendered every year. A busy owner living in a studio apartment probably shouldn’t own a Siberian Husky. Marathon runners looking to bring their dogs on long runs probably shouldn’t own an English Bulldog.

Catch my drift?

Now, there are dozens of Breed Profilers out there that help to distinguish the different characteristics of purebred dogs. But thousands of dogs are adopted from shelters and rescues, and these mix breeds are a bit more challenging to pinpoint. My focus here is about picking a handful of general characteristics that are apparent in any dog, and highlighting how they may or may not fit into your life. Then, if you walk into a shelter and see a dog, you’ll have an idea what to expect, even if you’re not sure about the breed. Sound good? Cool, let’s get started:

SIZE

Maybe more obvious when you adopt an adult dog, but something to watch for with puppies as well. A large breed (75lbs+) would be a hard dog to manage if you live in a studio apartment, don’t have a yard, or if you’re elderly, especially if the dog is young. They typically require more exercise and food, costing you both extra time and money.

Consider that toy and terrier breeds tend to be smaller in stature, but still need to be exercised and kept entertained. Some small breeds can still make great running and trail partners, and can easily be carried if they are hurt or if you’re in a hurry.

Managing a large dog in limited space can be done, but it requires a lot more effort on your part. Matching a dog’s size to your lifestyle can be important on building a healthy bond.

HAIR

Long hair? Short hair? It all comes down to how much work you want to put in. Long hair means lots of brushing (to remove excess hair and tangles) and lots of trips to the groomer. Shorter hair means less brushing, easier clean ups, and dogs that can cool easier in warm weather. Trust me, I used to be a grooming assistant, and musing your way through matted Collie hair is not a good way to spend a Thursday afternoon if you’re not prepared for it!

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Chesapeake Bay Retrievers have special oils in their fur to help repel water and dirt, making them perfect for afternoons at the beach!

NOSE

Bet you didn’t think about your dog’s nose as a crucial trait. If you are an active person looking to have an active dog, then pay attention. Smushed nosed dogs (Pugs, Bulldogs, Boxers, etc) have a more difficult time getting air into their systems through their shorter noses. These dogs are brachycephalic breeds (short nosed), and hot, humid weather can make life difficult when put under stress, and even become a health risk. This means that it only takes a little bit of strenuous activity to wear them out. Now this could be a good thing, I mean bulldogs that I’ve worked with only require one good walk a day and turn into couch potatoes. I wouldn’t recommend doing any marathon training with a French Bulldog, however.

A longer nose allows for working class dogs to have higher endurance, and make it easier for them to breathe in hot and humid conditions. Athletic breeds are typically equipped with a longer muzzle to allow airflow to their systems. But don’t be fooled, even Boxers have a long history of being service dogs.

BREED BACKGROUND

Regardless of whether you end up with a purebred or a mixed breed, dogs will always display certain characteristics that reflect the instincts bred into them. Shelters can typically give you an idea on the breeds when you are adopting a rescue, and it is your responsibility to know what to expect. For example, Hound breeds are trackers, bred to follow the scent of a trail. They will be looking for lots of mental stimulation and will not be happy to be let inside (and they’ll let you hear about it). You’ll need to set up simulated games (like hiding treats for them to find) to keep their minds and bodies active.

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Cattle dog breeds, like this mix, were bred to herd cattle over long distances of rough terrain. Doesn’t sound like a dog that wants to be cooped up inside all day!

If you have any idea of the breed of the dog you are adopting, do your due diligence to research what they are all about.

Breed traits are a great way to sift through the countless adoption options you have. Remember that age and temperament also play factor. I wish this went without saying, but puppies are a ton of work. They require more frequent potty breaks and a lot more time and focused energy. I’ve heard trainers and owners say that “puppies are cute as a survival tactic.” Honestly, if people saw puppies as ugly, they probably wouldn’t take on such a monumental task.

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Vizslas, bred as bird dogs, are typically very active. Luckily they like to kick back and relax sometimes!

Adult dogs are typically easier to gauge, and they have a history to help support if they are a good fit for your home. Rescuing an adult dog can be a risk, as they could be from an abusive home and need some serious training and attention to get back on track. Work with a shelter worker, or with a trainer to test the temperament of a dog at any age. Look for confident, curious and welcoming dogs, unless you are willing to work with dogs that are not as open to attention. Do justice by the dog, you don’t want them to be surrendered again.

Of course, dogs don’t always fit a perfect mold, but if you keep these things in mind, you should have a very happy relationship with your new dog!

If you are looking for a new pet, please consider adopting through a local shelter or rescue!

Bordetella: What it is, and what do I do?

Last week, my girlfriend brought our puppy to her regular puppy play class. She anxiously nosed at the gate, anticipating the fun she was about to have with all of her puppy pals. But then, seemingly out of no where, our puppy Pickle let out a hoarse cough. Immediately, the instructor picked her up and told us we needed to leave. There was no way that a puppy with a cough was going to be allowed to interact with the other pups.

Later that night, as my girlfriend recounted the story to me, I immediately thought the worst. Kennel cough is a common (and potentially serious) illness that effects puppies. However, it is also highly contagious and though the initial illness is not fatal, the symptoms that arise from the puppy being ill could pose health issues.

My background as a boarding kennel assistant had me nervous that we were facing a real serious problem. Not helping matters was the fact that only 48 hours before I had learned that Pickle was treated for kennel cough when she first arrived from Georgia. That night we were on the phone and setting up vet appointments, and the next afternoon, Pickle was getting her physical exam and I was nervously answering health questions (typical first time doctor visit as a parent).

Fast forward 45 minutes, and the vet gave me some reassurance that he didn’t think Pickle had kennel cough. She had some mucus build up in her lungs, but she hadn’t coughed in nearly 12 hours at this point, and that was a good sign. As a precaution he prescribed antibiotics and advised us to isolate Pickle from other dogs (considering we would’ve done that anyway, it was no big shock).

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A week later, Pickle has had no sign of a cough and has responded well to the antibiotics (which even cleared up some pesky eye boogers). But the whole experience made me realize how little I (and potentially you as a reader) actually know about kennel cough. So, here’s the skinny:

What is Kennel Cough?*

Kennel cough is the more general term to describe Bordetella, or canine tracheobronchitis. Kennel cough is a highly contagious respiratory illness that leads to inflammation of the trachea and bronchi. Kennel cough usually affects a high percentage of dogs at least one in their lifetime.

Symptoms usually show as heavy, hoarse coughing, dry hacking, and retching. Serious cases could result in a loss of appetite and loss of energy. Puppies, elderly and pregnant dogs are usually at a higher risk due to their compromised immune systems. In severe cases, symptoms progress and can include pneumonia, fever, and even death.

Kennel cough was a term coined to describe the illness due to the frequency of transmission is boarding and shelter facilities. Close proximity of dogs and dirty conditions of unkept shelters or kennels can lead to the fast spread of the illness. But Bordetella can live in water and can be transmitted through shared water dishes, or even simply through physical contact between an infected dog and another dog. Due to its high level of contagiousness, infected dogs are isolated until they can recover.

Kennel cough is diagnosed by a vet, and is conducted based on the symptoms of your dog. Blood tests and urinalysis are run and conclusions are made by the vet.

What do I do if my dog gets Bordetella?

Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. If your dog is not showing signs of lethargy, fever or loss of appetite, the illness may be allowed to run its course, much like a human cold. However, if the symptoms prove to be severe, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories will be prescribed. Stay in contact with your vet and be aware of symptoms in case they don’t subside.

Prevention is also possible. The easiest thing is to avoid places where there are high concentrations of dogs. Honestly, though, that’s like teaching abstinence to high schoolers pumped up on hormones. It’s not realistic.

Even if you have never boarded your dog in a kennel, dogs can get kennel cough from shared water sources (think water bowls outside your favorite Starbucks). Interactions with strange dogs on the sidewalk also poses a threat, so avoidance is not realistic.

The best course of action is to seek out a vaccination from your vet. Although not 100% guaranteed, vaccinations would protect your dog from all the real world issues they will inevitably face.

In the end, kennel cough is a potentially serious, yet easily treatable illness in dogs. Though very common and highly contagious, only dogs experiencing severe symptoms (lethargy, fever, etc) face any real threat. Luckily for Pickle the illness has subsided, and luckily for us, kennel cough isn’t contagious to humans. So, despite being sick, there was no interruption in our snuggle time!

* Pet MD, Kennel Cough in Dogs,  http://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/respiratory/c_dg_canine_tracheobronchitis