Mental Stimulation: Getting the best out of your dog

Did you know, boredom and excess energy are two common reasons for behaviour problems in dogs. This makes sense because they’ve been naturally bred to lead very active lives. Wild dogs spend about 80% of their waking hours hunting and scavenging for food. Domestic dogs have been helping and working alongside us for thousands of years, for tasks such as hunting, farming or protection. For example, retrievers and pointers were bred to locate and fetch game and water birds. Scent hounds, like coonhounds and beagles, were bred to find rabbits, foxes and other small prey. Dogs like German shepherds, collies, cattle dogs and sheepdogs were bred to herd livestock.

Whether dogs were working for us or scavenging on their own, their survival once depended on lots of exercise and problem solving. But what about now?Dog Resting on Floor

Today that’s changed. While we’re away at work all day, they generally have not much else to do but sleep. The result is dogs who are bored, often overweight and have too much energy. It’s a perfect recipe for behaviour problems.

How do we fix this problem?

It’s not necessary to quit your job, take up duck hunting or get yourself a bunch of sheep to keep your dog out of trouble. However, we encourage you to find ways to exercise not only their body, but their brain. And because we all lead busy lives, and can’t always hire a Dog Walker or Daycare Service, if you give your dog “jobs” to do when they’re by herself, they’ll be less likely to come up with her own ways to occupy her time, like chewing your couch, raiding the trash or eating your favourite pair of shoes.

Nik Training Dogs

We, at Dharma Dog Services, have been putting this idea to practise with our Social Club crew, with a new program called “Today We’re Working On…”. We know that all of our Social Club dogs already get an abundance of physical exercise they need, and socialisation, at our Daycare, but what about mental exercise? This where we have stepped in. The results? Some very happy, tired, well behaved dogs! And of course, happy owners!

Below you will see some of the exercises that we have been doing with our dogs. Some behavioural exercises, some fun games and tricks – both just as satisfying for you and your dog.

If you want any tips on games you can play with your dog, or leave for your dog to do whilst you are at work, let us know! Or if you have any of your own, I’d love to hear them. We’re always looking for creative ideas, and requests, that we can put into practise with our crew. Learn more about our Social Club here – or like us on Facebook for more videos & updates.

Today We’re Working On… Patience!

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…Listening!

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…Show Us Your Tricks!

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Choosing the Right Dog Food

Your dog is one of the family, and when it comes to their nutrition, it can get confusing. There are so many different websites and different opinions in favor, and against, raw diets. We hear that a raw diet can relieve your dog of many allergy agents found in kibble, whereas on the other hand, we here that a raw diet has harmful side effects, such a salmonella poisoning and bacterial infections.

dog foodWhen your dog adds so much to your own life, you want to keep him/or her healthy & happy – so where do you start?

Well, it’s important to remember that dogs are individuals, just like people. This means that there is no one food that is best for every dog. It is common to find that if we were to feed a group of dogs a brand of very well formulated food, most of them may do great on it, some not as well, and it may actually cause gastrointestinal upset in a few dogs. Again, there is no single food or product that will guarantee your dog has the very best health.
But not to worry, there are many well formulated dog foods to choose from today, and it is fine to try several to determine which one works best for your dog. Below are some tips to consider when buying dog food.

1. Consider your dog’s stage of life
Make sure that the food your choice is suited to your dog’s stage of life. A puppy eating an adult food will not get the higher amounts of calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals he/or she requires for proper growth. An adult dog eating puppy food is likely to become overweight. An older dog may need a senior food that is more easily digested. When it comes to nutrition, one size does not fit all.

Puppies eating nutritious food

2. Nutritional needs, and reading ingredients
People often wonder if they should feed dry food, semi-moist or canned. Although dry food is widely recommended, this is dependable on the individual dog, and you will need to consider prioritizing nutritional needs. We also have to remember that just like human food, the best-tasting food is often not the most nutritious. Usually foods with “tasty bits” are sold to satisfy the human’s emotional needs more than the dogs nutritional needs and are often the cause of obesity (a common killer of dogs).

Look at the ingredients.

High-quality ingredients are essential for a healthy food. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has established guidelines for regulators to govern claims a pet food company can make on its label. If the food is said to contain a single ingredient, it must contain at least 95% of that ingredient, not including water. If a combination of ingredients is advertised, that combination has to make up at least 95% of the food. For instance, if the food claims to be made solely of beef, beef makes up 95% of the food.
Reading and trying to understand the ingredients in your dog’s food will serve as a very important stage to finding the right dog food for your pet. Reason being, is you will find that some brands of dog food are made from inexpensive ingredients that are not easily digested, and will not provide the best nutrition. While they may technically meet the legal specifications for percentages of protein, fat, carbohydrates, etc., these foods have lower energy values and lower-grade proteins. Because of this, many health-building nutrients may pass right through your dog’s system without being absorbed.

3. Take your time in switching foods
If you find that your dog is not reacting well with a certain brand or type of dog food, it is important to switch a dog to a new food over the course of 7-10 days. Make sure you allow ample time for your dog to make the transition from his current food to the new one. Normal bacteria in the intestine help your dog digest food. A sudden change in food can lead to changes in the number and type of these bacteria, making it harder for food to be digested, and resulting in intestinal upset. You can help prevent this by mixing 25% new and 75% old food, and feed that for at least 3 days. If all goes well, go to 50% of each type of food for 3 days, then 75% new and 25% old for 3 days. By now, your pet should be ready to eat only the new food. If problems occur, consult your veterinarian for advice.

Once you have found a food that is nutritionally sound and works well for your dog, take a look at your dog after he/or she has been on the new food for at least one month. Bright eyes, a shiny coat, good body condition (not too thin or overweight), and good energy will let you know you are doing a good job with your pet’s nutrition.

Bringing up the Perfect Puppy

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Did you or your family happen to get a new puppy for Christmas? Puppies can bring the greatest of joys! The affection, and sheer innocence can brighten everyone’s day and add a sense of anticipation to return home from a long hard … Continue reading

Kids and Dogs

When dealing with kids and dogs there are a few simple strategies to help your kids feel like they’re helping raise and train your pooch.

Here are a few rules to help you understand the relationship between your child and your dog.

Dogs observe everything. They may not look like it, but they are watching what every member of the household is doing. This helps them find a secure place within the family. I don’t believe in “Pack status” but I do believe in dogs finding their role. They are ultimately looking for a few key behaviours in your family, one of which is CONSISTENCY

baby petting dog while parent supervise

Izzy enjoying a nice scratch from little Miles while under our close super vision

. Kids are often lacking consistency, and dogs will notice this.

How to help your child or children demonstrate consistent behaviour by setting a few key routines.

1. Supervise all interactions between your child and your dog closely. No matter how much you love and trust your dog it is still an animal. Dogs can be unpredictable at times and so can children! Be there to stop any unwanted behaviour from either of them! Never EVER leave a young child unsupervised with a dog, it can be a recipe for disaster.

2. Always have your child enter rooms or doorways first. Because children are small and often will weigh less than the family dog, it’s important to teach the dog not to follow its excitement and bowl the child over while racing  up stairs, or through a threshold.

3. Your kids room is just that! His or her room! Teach the dog that they are not allowed in the child’s room unless you choose to invite them. That goes double for being on the bed. I would recommend against allowing the dog to sleep in the same room as well. Visits and cuddling  are great, but let’s teach the dog that your child is entitled to have their own space in your household.

4. Teach your child to walk your dog on leash, however, it is so important that you have a second leash attached that an adult it holding on to. Imagine if your dog saw a squirrel dart across his path. Is your child strong enough to handle that kind of force? I don’t know about you but my dog loves squirrels, and if your dog isn’t already trained to heal or walk on loose leash this scenario can end up with a crying child who has scraped up everything and a dog that may be on the loose.

5. Once you have mastered some basic commands with your dog, try having your children reinforce them. Teach your children to have your dog “sit” or “down” and have your child reward them with a treat, fetch, or a gentle pat on the head. Remember to supervise this even closely as well.

6. Give your kids responsibility. How does “poop patrol” sound? Not much fun! But it is a reality of owning a dog.  You can also give them basic responsibilities like ensuring that the dog always has a fresh water supply. When your child is older, you can also ask them to be in charge of feeding your dog. Have them ask your dog to “sit” and “wait” and as they prepare the food and place it on the ground teach the dog to be patient and avoid rushing the food. This is vital!

7. Teach your children how to pet their dog. Many younger children like to grab and don’t know to be gentle and kind while handling their pet. At the same time it is also beneficial to teach the dog to be patient with your child. We worked on this from a very young age with our son Miles. He is now 14 months and will gently stroke Vegas. Vegas will also communicate when he’s had enough by walking away. When Vegas walks away we are sure to teach Miles to leave him be.

8. Teach your child to leave the dog alone when eating. Many people like the idea of taking away a food dish while a dog is near it. When I am sitting down to a dinner I would be pretty annoyed if you pulled my plate away from me unannounced!

9. Try to have your child attend all veterinary, training, or grooming appointments if possible. Teach them just how much money, time and dedication a dog really takes. You will help mould your child into a compassionate and caring dog owner.

10. Have fun!!! Show them all of the perks and loyalty a dog brings to the family. Go on awesome walks as a family. Hit some trails, beaches, and general adventures! After a tough day at school there is nothing like having that guaranteed friend who will not leave your side.

 

PS Please be extremely cautious if your child enjoys hugging your dog. I have worked with too many families with children AND adults who have received stitches to face after giving their family dog a hug. This is a matter of miscommunication. Humans hug to show affection while dogs mount by putting their paws around another dog to demonstrate dominance. It can also increase anxiety because the dog is feeling trapped. A flight or fight response. Just be careful to read your dogs signals. If you’re not sure how to, please give me a call for some training 🙂

 

Hopefully you enjoyed this post, please share with friends and family who have children!

Nik

How to Keep Your dog Cool During a Vancouver Heat Wave

It’s not often that we hit 20 or 30 degree weather in Vancouver but when we do, most of us set out to the beach, the dog parks, the playground, the trails, the slurpee stores, you name it! If that means more time spent outdoors for your dog, more car rides, or more outings in general, then it’s wise to know the smarts on sunshine. All tips begin and end with water, water, water!

TIP #1 Never ever leave your dog in the hot car, the risk is harm or death. If you see a dog in a car on a hot day who you believe may be in trouble, call your local SPCA. Dogs don’t sweat! The car provides no way for a dog to release heat. It takes under 10 minutes for a car (even in the shade with cracked windows) to reach dangerous temperatures for dogs. Leave pets at home where they will be more comfortable, rather than in your car.

TIP #2 Learn how to spot an overheated dog. Keep an eye on his or her behaviour and watch for the following symptoms of heat stroke: excessive panting, salivation, anxious expression, lack of coordination, red lips and red tongue (may turn bluish), vomiting, collapse, even coma or death.

TIP #3 Prevent or treat heatstroke! Keep your pup hydrated (no ice, just cool water or ice cream), then bring him or her into the shade, pour cold water on your dog (start from the bottom up, feet, pads, stomach), and fan your dog to keep the coat from evaporating.

TIP #4 Avoid exercising your dog during the day, rather, exercise him or her in the morning or at night. It’s ok to decrease the intensity of exercise in higher temperatures. Carry a bottle of water on walks or strap it to your dog’s vest or bag so he or she feels a sense of purpose. An even better form of exercise in the heat is swimming! Let your dog paddle around in the ocean, the lake, the river or the pool.

TIP #5 Groom your dog to remove excess hair and undercoat. Be careful! Direct sun exposure can lead to burns if hair is too short or skin is exposed. Consult your grooming professional for expert advise.

TIP #6 Create a cool environment in the house or backyard even without A/C. Lay down a cool towel for your dog to lay on, offer a safe place for digging, or set up a kiddie pool. Try filling up an old milk jug with water and freeze overnight. Then leave it in the yard or house where your dog can cozy up to it for relief.

Again, the most important thing is to keep your dog hydrated, so make sure he or she can access the water bowl, which should be kept topped up with fresh cool water often. Enjoy the sunshine safely when you know your dog is happy and healthy!

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