Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Happy Birthday Jasper!

Three years ago, I was looking to adopt a pug from Colorado Pug rescue, when I met a silly fawn Great Dane puppy.   He had a horrible birth defect in his eye, and his feet were bigger than large frying pans, but I fell in love.
Today, Jasper Jax is 3 years old- and I couldn't be happier that I didnt get a pug that day.

Happy Birthday Jasper!
We love you!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Power of Mental Stimulation

I am the behavior director for a local rescue, Big Dogs Huge Paws, and held a foster training last Saturday that included instructions on Chew Toy Training.  Here is an email I got yesterday from one of our foster moms:

"Hey Guys~
During the foster training I got to thinking that I might not be mentally stimulating my dogs as much as I should be..... feeding them their meals in their kongs sounded like a great idea!
So.... a little bit of cheese...some kibble, all natural meat... and a little peanut butter later, stuff the kong... and Hera is happy as can be....Zeus on the other hand is head over heals for it, until he realizes that he has to work for his food. He stops... takes a deep sigh... roles his eyes at me..... walks around the house.... then decides it's not so bad and goes back to his meal.... Oden missed out! He's out on an adventure with Jim camping!!!
Don't worry though, he will get his treat when he gets home!
Thanks Guys!!!

If you aren't feeding your dogs out of frozen Kongs yet, you should start ASAP!  


Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Magic Treat Bag

 Sammi, the Labradoodle
This weekend I met 2 of the cutest, most food motivated dogs I have ever worked with.  Sammi, is a 3-year old Labradoodle, and Tabasco is a 3-year old English Bulldog.   Both of their moms called me because their dogs are extremely shy and fearful of people. and have snapped at and tried to bite strangers.   Each dog is also afraid of other dogs and is reactive and defensive.  Both moms said "My dog doesnt like strangers and will growl and snap.  "Hmmmmm" I thought to myself... "Well, they havent met the magic treat bag yet!".

I set up appointments and went to meet both dogs this weekend.  I met Sammi first.  After a few obligatory barks at the door, I entered and ignored her.  I sat down on the couch, with my treat bag on, and tossed Natural Balance lamb meat roll near her.  I would guess that it took about 35 seconds for her to become my best friend...

Then I went to meet Tabasco, the Bulldog.  Can I just say that I LOVE Bulldogs?  The way they walk and snort and talk and drink cracks me up.  Anyway, I actually entered with his mom this time, and I had my meat roll ready.   He didnt even think twice about the fact that I was a stranger, he was all about eating as much meat roll as possible.  For Tabasco, it took about 2.3 seconds for me to become his best friend.

Whenever this occurs (when I go to someone's house to meet their dog who bites people), the owners always say "Oh my god, she NEVER warms up that fast.  She hates people!".  Guess what?  Dogs don't love me because of my sparkling personality... they love the fact that I have a fabulous treat bag that really REALLY good stuff comes out of, and I don't push them to interact with me.  I just give them hot dogs and string cheese and meat roll, and they do it all on their terms.

Why is it that people think they must dominate and threaten shy dogs to get them to 'submit'?  (These clients dont subscribe to this, but a lot of my clients do).  How fast do you think it will take an extremely shy dog who is afraid of people to bite a person who tries to 'dominate' them?  Why on earth do you think a shy dog would 'trust' a person who tackles them, pulls their feet out from under them, and growls in their face to act like an "alpha" dog?  How would you feel if someone did that to you?!

I always say that shy and fearful dogs are like cats.  Cats always want to be by the person who hates cats or is allergic to cats.  Can you guess why?  Because people who hate cats ignore them, and cats LOVE people who ignore them, because then interaction can be on their terms.  Anyone who thinks they are a dog person, "Oh dogs love me" and try and force interaction on a shy dog, does, in fact, know NOTHING about dogs and dogs don't love them- they fear them and think they are threatening.

Of course, there is a lot more to re-programming a shy dog to love people or other dogs, but it all starts with positive motivation- i.e. a REALLY good treat!   Please don't ever force yourself on any dog.  Be patient and carry a really big treat bag. 

Tabasco, the English Bulldog

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Dangers of Artificial Preservatives in your Pet's Food

I had a few people email me this week with questions about artificial preservatives in pet food, so I thought I'd post about them.  The three major artificial preservatives are BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin.  They are found in many grocery store treats (the soft ones), and some veterinarian prescribed dry and wet food formulas.   Here is information on all three:
The U. S. Dept. of Agriculture for toxicology information lists ethoxyquin in their Farm Chemical Hand-Book as a pesticide, used in fruit scald control. It is also used as a rubber preservative. It is FDA approved for use as an antioxidant for carotenes vitamin A and E and the prevention of the development of organic peroxides.
It is approved at 150 ppm in paprika and chili powder, and because it is used as a preservative in livestock feed, the following residue allowances in human consumed animal products as follows: 5 ppm in or on the uncooked fat of meat from animals except poultry; 3 ppm in or on the uncooked liver and fat of poultry, 0.5 ppm in or on the uncooked muscle meat of animals, 0.5 ppm in poultry eggs, and zero in milk.
The above information brings up the question why the FDA allows such a small amount of ethoxyquin residue (5 to .5 ppm) in human consumed foods yet allows such high amounts (150 ppm) to be used in pet food and livestock feeds?
In the case of the dog, pound for pound, a dog is consuming up to 300 times more ethoxyquin than allowed for people. (depending upon the weight) Also many dog food manufacturers are not always listing it as an ingredient on the packaging, but sometimes merely print "E".
Check your dog or cat food label to see what the pet food you are using is being preserved with.
Monsanto's (the manufacturer) own cautionary warnings in using and handling this product: They warn that it may cause allergic skin reactions, irritation to the eyes and skin. They advise that workers must wear eye and respiratory protection. The container of ethoxyquin has a very prominent skull and crossbones with POISON written in capital letters.
Ethoxyquin is listed and identified as a hazardous chemical under the criteria of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910, 1220).
The Chemical Toxicology of Commercial Products says that ethoxyquin has a toxic rating of 3 (on a scale of 1 to 6, with 6 being super toxic requiring less than 7 drops to produce death). At that level it can slowly develop depression, con-vulsions, coma and death; skin irritation and liver damage.
In a recent study by The Department Of Pathology, Nagoya City University Medical School Japan, it was found: ethoxyquin promoted kidney carcinogenesis. Also, it significantly increased incidence of stomach tumors and enhanced bladder carcinogesis.
The FDA maintains it is safe, yet have asked pet food manufacturers to "voluntarily" lower the levels to 75 PPM.
Specifically, BHA, short for Butylated Hydroxyanisole, and BHT, Butylated Hydroxytoluene, are both artificial preservatives added to oils to slow down deterioration. BHA and BHT (as well as ethoxyquin) are used in numerous pet food brands, including both "premium-grade" brands like Science Diet (even their prescription diet product line) and lower-grade brands like Alpo and Pedigree, to replace vitamin E, which is removed during oil processing. Studies have shown that BHA and BHT promote liver disease and other medical problems.
Enhanced stomach and urinary bladder carcinogenesis.
Causes squamous-cell carcinomas in stomachs.
(Cancers of this type are among the most lethal and fastest acting, the swiftest effects being seen among animals with light colored fur.)

Promoted urinary bladder carcinogenesis.
Could be a promoter of thyroid carcinogenesis.
Studies have noted that BHA and other antioxidants, particularly Propyl Gallate and ethoxyquin, showed additional effects in inducing stomach hyperplasia and cytotoxicity.

Please read your pet food labels!  I suggest subscribing to The Whole Dog Journal www.whole-dog-journal.com  for some great research and facst about pet food.   If you have questions, feel free to email me, too and I can point in the right direction of some great resources!  kari@wagandtrain.com

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dr. Nicholas Dodman

In the early 90s, a book came out that changed my life.  I think it was even before I finished graduate school (soooo long ago!).   Originally, I wanted to be a film director and went to film school.  Then I changed my mind and decided I wanted to train dogs for film, so I started on that path.  The book that changed that path was "The Dog who Loved too Much" by Dr. Nicholas Dodman.  He is a veterinary behaviorist at Tufts University.  Back then there wasn't a whole lot of research in psychopharmocology of dogs, but Dr. Dodman was pioneering the effort.  He was also delving in to the un-chartered waters of diet/nutrition and how it effects behavior.

In March of this year, I had the giddy pleasure of meeting Dr. Dodman at a seminar in San Diego.  Dr. Dodman's behavior cohort, Dr. Ian Dunbar, and he gave a 3 day lecture series on dog behavior, among many other things.   I was smart enough to remember to bring 2 books with me, both written by Dr. Dodman- one was my dog-eared, highlighted, water stained, and faded "The Dog who Loved too Much" and the other was his new book, "The Well-Adjusted Dog".   During a break in all the action, I asked him to sign my books, and he did!  I swear it was like I was a teenager and meeting Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran in 1985 ( I didnt, but back then he was my favorite)- I could barely even open my mouth to thank him I was so gobsmacked.  I came home with a perma-grin on my face, and memories to last my entire life.  Of course, some of those memories were because of Laura Brody, my good friend, business associate, and frequent travel partner, but I digress.

For this blog post, I'd like to share a few excerpts from "The Well-Adjusted Dog" (hopefully I won't get sued), because it too has added to my knowledge, education, and experience tremendously.  These excerpts really get to the point of what I try to do every day- change dog/owner relationships and behavior.

Excerpt #1:
"A dog's lifestyle, daily routine, and interactions will, to a large extent, determine how he feels and how he behaves.  When behavior is out of kilter, it is important to address the bigger picture rather than try to suppress the symptoms of an underlying problem."

Excerpt #2:
"Real leaders in the human world, as in the dog world, do not have to resort to physical measures to get their point across.  Real leaders do not dominate; they listen, think and often defer.  Real leaders do not intimidate; they instill confidence.  People follow real leaders not because they have to but because they want to.   The human-companion animal bond is not forged through the metal of a choke chain or prong collar, but rather through mutual respect and trust."

Excerpt #3
"...some 4 million dogs are surrendered to shelters annually, predominantly for behavioral reasons, and over HALF of them are subsequently euthanized.  Most of the behaviors that lead to dogs' relinquishment arise through no fault of the dog's and are, in fact, normal canine behaviors that owners cannot properly control or redirect.  It is breeders' and owners' failure to understand what it takes to raise, care for, and communicate with dogs that underlies many potentially avoidable canine behavior problems."

How do you like them kibbles?  :)

Thank you, Dr, Dodman, for effecting and changing my life in so many positive ways.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Importance of Chew Toys

I've always been a fan of appropriate chew toys for puppies, but did you know that adults need chew toys too?  They need them more than puppies!  I call it "Give your Dog a Job".  Please click on this link for information on Errorless Chew Toy Training.  Your dog will thank you! 


My favorite Chew Toys are Kong, Everlasting Treat Ball and/or Fireplug, any Premier Busy Buddy toy, Tricky Treat Ball, Buster Cube, and the Planet Dog toys.  If you have other suggestions, please let me know!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Special Needs? Hardly!

Meet Phoenix.  She is a gorgeous 2-year old brindle Boxer.   Her parents, Kim and James, hired me to help with her increased leash reactivity, defensiveness, and anxiety when Kim thought she couldn't handle her on walks anymore.  I expected to meet a wild child, but in actuality, she is very sweet and calm- not your typical Boxer!
Phoenix is completely deaf, and most people would think she would have special needs.  I assure you, she has no idea she is deaf, and pays better attention and is more intune than most hearing dogs- including my own.   While she doesnt have any special needs, she is very special.  She is clearly well-loved and I think the prognosis is very good!
Her mom sent me a photo of her enjoying the Everlasting Treat Ball I recommended.  You go girl!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Super Puppies!

One of my greatest joys in life is watching puppies play.  And for obvious reasons (I think) my favorite class to teach is Super Puppy class.  Actually, though- I think the puppies teach me.  You see, it's very simple.  Puppies are fair and forgiving.  They play, they wrestle, they snark, they run, they hump, they bite, etc.... all the things that puppies do.  And for the most part, puppies will let other puppies do whatever they want- Unless one of them bites too hard.  Then they scream and yip and howl like someone is trying to take their Christmas presents away.  But, once they howl, and the play stops for one or two seconds, they go right back at it.  Puppies forgive other puppies' trangressions within a fraction of a second and move on.  I wish more people did that!
This past Saturday we had 6 puppies in class and it was wrestle-mania: WWF at Quality Paws.  I was so happy to see all the puppies playing appropriately, snarking and biting and playing, just like they should.  Playing with other puppies is SO important for bite inhibition (see Bite Inhibition Article) .  If you wait too long, or only let your puppy play with adult dogs, it may be too late.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Bionic Dog

Meet Winston.  The world's strongest, loudest dog.  Winston is a 10 month old pug and he is stronger than my 170 pound Great Dane... and I am not exaggerating.  Winston's mom, Anne, and I have been friends for a while, and I live vicariously through her because my dream dog has been a Pug.  Jasper (my dane) was supposed to be a pug, but fate or something cosmic intervened.  I met Anne about 3 years ago when I worked with her other dog, Lilly.  Who, by all accounts is normal.  Winston, however, is not.  Don't get me wrong.  I ADORE Winston, and have been madly in love with him since I met him when he was 8 weeks old.  I am posting a photo of his puppy class, plus a recent one that was taken on the same day as this story took place.

Winston has issues with grooming- specifically getting his nails cut.  Anne asked me if she could come over and get some help with teaching her how to cut Winston's nails. "Of course", I said, as I looked forward to seeing him.  They arrived and we got to work.  Let's suffice it to say that Winston despises, no abhores, no strongly dislikes.... no HATES having his paws touched, much less his nails clipped.  I was shocked at the noises coming out of his body as we lightly touched his paws, and even more shocked at how strong this dog was.  It took every ounce of my being to hold him still while Anne inevitably got the job done.  I am not exaggerating at all when I say he is stronger than any Great Dane or Mastiff or Newfoundland I have ever restrained.

What is wrong with my little Winston???  This is not right, so I came up with a desensitization plan for him, but in the end, I simply cannot believe the strength of one little dog.  My back will never be the same.  I love him, but I think I'll get someone else to restrain him next time.  :)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Marking Behavior: Anxiety or Spite?

This weekend, I received three different emails from people regarding their dogs peeing and pooping in the house.  All three people said "He does it when he's mad at me and wants to spite me".  I always cringe when I read and/or hear this, because it is the furthest thing from the truth.  Please believe me when I say, DOGS DO NOT ELIMINATE TO SPITE THEIR HUMANS!!!

Dogs are very sensitive creatures.   Second-hand dogs (as I often call rescue dogs) are especially sensitive, and some have suffered stress, abuse, and even trauma in their 'past life'.   When they are adopted in to your home, or when you move, or when the baby is born, or when you are stressed or sad, your dogs have a lot of the similar emotions that we have.  They get anxious and stressed just like we do.  So, when they feel anxious and stressed, they can pee and poop in the house to help themselves feel better.  We do the same thing with food, wine, exercise, and cigarettes.  When your rescued cattle dog lifts his leg on your new couch, he is not marking his territory- he is trying to alleviate his stress and anxiety by helping to make the area smell more 'like home'.   The same can be true for cats, although it can be much more complicated for felines (but just as curable!)

If you yell at your dog, or rub their nose in their urine, they will only become more stressed, and therefore mark in the house more.  If you give them free run of the whole house and they run upstairs and pee on your bed, it is not their fault, it is yours.  If you take them for a 30 minute walk and they don't pee, then they come in and urinate on your expensive persian rug, you aren't predicting when they have to go well enough and setting them up to fail.

Marking behavior and inappropriate elimination are actually very fixable.  Once you decrease the underlying anxiety, re-train the correct potty behavior, manage the dog's environment, change your behavior, and decrease the amount of stress, the marking can and often will go away.  There are no guarantees...  but there is hope.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My Lovely Assistant

While most people in an office have a secretary, delivery runner, accountant, or housekeeper, I assure you, I do not.  I am the chief 'cook', dishwasher, phone answerer, scheduler, driver, treat cutter, and pooper scooper.  As the owner/operator of my own business, things can get pretty hectic somedays, and often I don't have time to use the restroom or eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner on any given day.
I do, however, have an assistant.  She is the most lovely girl.  She has pointy ears and a toothy grin.  She loves getting her 'paychecks' and does anything I ask.   She goes with me on appointments and, with the utmost love, affection, and devotion, I use her as 'bait' (very safely of course).   She sits excitedly in the backseat of my car anticipating her next doggie- introduction.  I could not do my job without her.   She never calls in sick, and always has a big smile on her face.

Her name is Bobbie and I adore her. 

It's Mine!

My last appointment of the day yesterday was with a 16-month old handsome yellow lab named Murphy.  When I arrived he proceeded to greet with me with a happy woof! and tail wags, and then spent the next 30 minutes molesting me with his nose because he knew there MUST be hot dogs on my body somewhere.  While his parents didn't appreciate his antics, I didn't mind as he was gentle with his nose nudges and kisses- and he did it all with a smile only a lab can give.  After having lost our chocolate lab last month, it was wonderful to have the lab 'heat' on me again.
Tara and Ben, Murphy's adoring owners, hired me to help with his escalating food aggression, also called 'Resource Guarding'.  They described 14 months of food and bone possession that would make other people shiver in their Mutt-lucks.  Since the age of 12 weeks, when around food, Murphy has growled, snarled, snarked, lunged, and bitten to the point of puncturing Ben's thumb- which was the final impetus for them getting some real help.  They described months and months of training they had tried to do.  Nothing helped and he was getting worse.  Murphy has also become the dreaded teenager, and although he can't take the car without permission or go out back and smoke a cigarette, I'm sure he would if he could- he is THAT much of an adolescent.  They didn't know what to do!  Tara and Ben are not alone.  So many people call me in desperation because their dog turns in to Cujo with food/bones/toys/owners/space/siblings/beds/air/a fly on the wall/a blade of grass etc and they have no idea what to do.  I assure you, there is always some sort of hope.  If your dog is growling, snarling, or biting you, please call on a professional.  Don't try anything you see on TV, or what your brother or the lady at Petsmart tells you to do.

I outlined the plan for Murphy and his parents, and set up an appointment to go back in a month to continue training.  I always leave a few weeks in between appointments so all the parties involved can get in a new routine and start training without pressure- this is extremely important to the success of the program.  Murphy's environment is also going to be managed very closely so he doesn't have the opportunity to guard anything anymore.  This is also essential for training, as you cannot let a dog keep practicing the behavior you are trying to eliminate.

Murphy is a very lucky boy to have such wonderful, patient, and persistent owners.  It is clear he is very well-loved, and I think the prognosis is excellent!

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Beginning of the Dog Blog

Today is the beginning of a new era at Wag & Train. I have finally made it to the year 2009- I am on Facebook, I just started Twittering, and am adventuring into the land of blogging.
Although I don't have a lot of time to blog, I hope to share my experiences as an animal behaviorist along with tips, advice, and lots of fun stuff. My hope is to help save dogs and cats, and help them find and stay in their forever homes.

For my first post on the Dog Blog, I'd like to tell you about Kenai. He is my inspiration in all aspects of my life, including the reason I began Wag & Train. He and I moved to Denver, from Minneapolis, in 2001. I was working for an engineering company and wanted to take a break from all things 'dog'. I had been working full time at my real job, and teaching classes and doing private sessions in my spare time for the previous 7 years. I was burned out!
In addition to training in Minnesota, I was constantly working with Kenai. He found me in 1997 as he was about to be euthanized by Animal Control- he was about 6 months old. I already had 2 dogs at home and certainly didn't think I needed another one. He had other ideas. I took him home and realized he had a myriad of issues that we had to work through: Separation Anxiety, Fear Aggression, Potty Training, Leash Reactivity, and MAJOR Chewing. His nickname was Puppy Scissorhands. He was emaciated, and severely neglected, as well as abused and scared. I had bitten off way more than I thought could chew, so to speak. No one in their right mind signs up to have a dog like this! Someone else created these issues and I had to solve them- how fair is that? I spent endless hours working on desensitization, counterconditioning, leadership and relaxation training, and crate training. I sweated, I toiled, I cried, I sobbed, I laughed, and eventually we bonded.

Ok, so I digress. Once we arrived in Denver, I immediately saw a need for a positive-only trainer, which is my background and passion. Thankfully, back then there wasn't the influx of 'internet-certified' so-called trainers out there. After much agonizing thought and soul-searching, I decided to start my own company here and Wag & Train was born. My best friend's now-husband, Jeff, thought of the name so I must give him credit for it, as I am not that creative. Once the name was picked, I had to figure out a logo. After a week of thinking about it, I had an idea- I would use Kenai as my logo... why not? He was exactly like all the dogs I would work with in the future, or at least had a lot of the same issues. He was fantastically handsome (I'm not biased at all)- and had a quirky look to him: One blue eye and one brown eye, One ear up and one ear down. (I think he hit the gene pool jackpot). Thus, the Wag & Train logo was born. Thanks to my friend, Shawn (www.989design.com), for designing it and making it happen!
Kenai turned out to be a great dog, the BEST dog. He still had his issues, but they were manageable, and most importantly, we understood each other and I never set him up to fail. He was my soul mate dog. I lost Kenai this past March at age 12, but he lives on in everything I do at Wag & Train. I still hear him bark in the background soundtrack of my life. He is the reason I get up every morning to help the countless 'previously unwanted' dogs and cats out there who have found their forever homes.

If Kenai and I have one message for all of you out there, it's "Don't Give Up". Your dog may have issues now, but if you are patient, consistent, kind, and are willing to work through them, your dog will pay you back with a lifetime of love and devotion, just like my beloved Kenai. I love you Kiki!