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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Flea Prevention for Dogs

Flea Prevention!
As the weather starts warming up, and if you haven’t already, you might want to start thinking about flea & tick prevention for your dog. Fleas need warm temperatures to survive, and although they are common all year round, they will thrive in the warmer months.

Although few dog owners are fortunate enough to avoid a run-in with fleas, controlling them has become much simpler, safer, and more effective in the last few years. New products that break the flea’s reproductive cycle make it possible to keep the little critters away without exposing your dog to toxic chemicals. There are also plenty of at-home prevention methods available, which I will discuss below.

Symptoms
If your dog is continuously itching and scratching, this will most likely be your first clue that he/or she has fleas. If you do notice this, the first thing you should do is take a closer look. Although you may actually see the little dark brown bugs, your more likely to see what look like little black and white specks. The black specks are flea feces (or better known as “flea dirt”) and the white specks are their eggs.

If you think you’ve spotted some but aren’t quite sure, run a flea comb over your dog’s back, groin area, haunches, and tail. These are the places fleas like to hide out in most.

Animal fur textureIt’s important to stay on top of your dogs flea symptoms and behaviour. As while most dogs experience nothing more than itching, there is the possibility that others can develop flea allergy dermatitis. Heavy infestations can be serious enough to cause anemia, and some fleas carry diseases, such as typhus and tapeworm infections, that can be transmitted to your dog.

Flea basics
To completely get rid of fleas, you have to disrupt their life cycle. Fleas thrive in moist, humid environments — that’s why they’re a much bigger problem in the summer than in winter.

An adult flea can actually live for four months on the body of a dog, but it’ll die in a couple of days without a host. The biggest problem you’ll find is their eggs. A female flea can produce as many as 2,000 eggs during her short lifespan. The eggs fall off and hatch all over the house — mainly found in the carpet, on the couch and under the covers. Eventually those newly hatched fleas will need to find a host of their own, and the whole cycle starts all over again. So it’s not enough to kill the adult fleas; you have to get rid of all the eggs too.

Flea medication
New products are less toxic than older remedies and have made it easier to protect your dog from fleas. Some of these options can be pricey, but the upside is that they work. Some of our favourites are;

  • Revolution; Just one application a month provides protection against heartworms, fleas and other parasites. Can be used to treat puppies as young as 6 weeks, and is available in sizes to treat dogs up to 130 lbs with one simple monthly dose.
  • Advantage; Applied topically once every 4 weeks. Should only be used as a short term solution. Advantage; Applied topically once every 4 weeks. Should only be used as a short term solution.
  • Ovicollar; contains Precor, a non-toxic product that kills flea eggs. When the collar is worn continuously a single Ovicollar will work for up to 12 months on cats, 10 months on dogs.

How to prevent fleas – At home
Although we do recommend beginning a medicated flea treatment for your dog, there are a few other things you can do at home to prevent the infestation of fleas.

Dog in a bath

Regular grooming & bathing of your dog is a good first step, which can also allow you to check your dogs skin and fur for any signs of fleas or irritation. This is best done with a natural shampoo formulated for dogs. An Oatmeal Shampoo is perfect for dogs with dry, itchy skin and allergies.

Ensure that you are washing your dog’s bedding in hot, soapy water once a week. If your dog spends time on a blanket on the sofa, or any type of bedding, wash that too.

And finally, be on the lookout when you vacuum your home. Get into the corners too, and pay special attention to the areas around where your dog spends the most of his/or her time. Be sure to empty the canister and dispose of its contents after each clean.

Kennels, Sitting, Boarding? – Oh my!

If you’re planning on heading away from Vancouver, and haven’t used a pet boarding facility before, we understand that the process might be a little over-whelming and even worrying for some dog owners. While some facilities still favor the long rows of kennels — where your pet may also have access to a small outdoor run — there are many other options. Here at Dharma Dog, although not bias, we are on team In-Home Boarding!

Below, I will discuss the different options of Pet Boarding, and what may or may not be suitable for your furry family member.

Dog Kennels/Catteries

Happy Dog in a Kennel

If your pet is crate trained, then staying in a crate or kennel will probably make your dog feel ­more secure while away from home. But for pets that aren’t crate trained, staying in a crate or kennel can be more stressful then anything, and may entice your dog to feel like they are trapped. Some boarding facilities keep the pets all together in large rooms, where the animals can interact with each other and socialize, similar to a daycare facility. It is important to ensure that your dogs temperament is suitable for this environment. If your dog is already attending a daycare or Social Club environment during the day, ensure to ask the Office Assistant how they react when left alone, and how they react at the end of their day – Remembering that your dog will not be picked up at the end of each day and may be kept in that environment for a few days, to a few weeks depending on your vacation.

Pet Sitting

There are multiple ways you can use a Pet Sitter in Vancouver. Deciding whether you want a sitter to feed, walk and be available for playtime only is a solid option. Another popular option is to have the Pet Sitter stay in your house, mixing House-Sitting & Pet-Sitting in one. It is easy to think that your dog will be comfortable in his/or her own environment at home, which is extremely true for some dogs, but you also have to consider your dogs need to protect. Having a stranger visit, or live, in your dogs environment can cause your dog to become very territorial, and may make the Pet Sitters stay difficult, and possibly even dangerous. Before you leave on Vacation ensure that you introduce your Pet Sitter to your dogs, maybe even on multiple occasions. Another good option is to schedule a few Dog Walking sessions with your Pet Sitter and dog. This Dog Happy in his bedwill allow your dog to get to know the person looking after him or/her whilst you’re away, and be comfortable around their presence.

In-Home Pet Boarding

While enlisting a pet sitter is a good option, so is in-home pet boarding. In-home boarding involves your dog staying at a pet sitter’s own home while you’re on vacation and can be a great option for dogs who require a lot of attention and love from their Pet Sitters. Unlike Kennels, and hiring a Pet Sitter for visits only, most in-home pet boarding services act like a fun & playful getaway for your dog. Many boarding services will also allow many different placement options for your dog. For example, if you live in an apartment with a low-energy dog, then it’s likely that your pooch will be set up in a similar environment. If your dog is used to having a large backyard with lots of exercise & a furry friend, same goes. Although, in-home pet boarding is our favourite option here at Dharma Dog, we can’t be biased. The main worry with in-home pet boarding can be separation anxiety.
Although anxiety may occur no matter which option you choose, you need to take the right precautionary steps before choosing this option. Just like Pet Sitting, maybe consider introducing your dog to your in-home boarding sitters before you leave. It might also be a good idea to leave your dog with a friend, and let them report back to see how they reacted for the night.

Once you’ve donDog on a vacation, sitting by the poole your homework on potential options, often the best way to select a facility is by asking questions. Find out about the facilities processes, find referrals, reviews and recommendations. And at the end of the day, if you trust your instincts, I’m sure you and your furry friend will have a wonderful & relaxing vacation.

Leash Training with Dogs

Dog on Leash

Dogs are not born knowing that they shouldn’t pull ahead or lag behind on a leash. Here at Dharma Dog we understand that some people find teaching leash manners to be challenging because dogs move faster than us and are excited about exploring their surroundings, in and around Vancouver. Leashes also constrain their natural behaviours and movements, to want to run around or even to stop and sniff. The most critical thing to remember is to never allow your dog to pull. If you’re inconsistent, your dog will continue to try pulling because sometimes, it pays off.

Until your dog learns to walk without pulling, consider all walks training sessions. If you’re doing this at home, keep training sessions short for maximum concentration. And since these loose-leash training sessions will be too short and slow to provide adequate exercise, find other ways to exercise your dog until he’s mastered walking.
Teaching a dog to walk without pulling requires plenty of rewards. Use desirable treats that your dog doesn’t get at other times. Soft treats are also great to use so your dog can eat them quickly and continue training.

If your dog gets wildly excited before you’ve even left for your walk, you need to focus on that before anything else. Walk to the door and pick up the leash. If your dog races around, barks, whines, spins or jumps up, just stand completely still. Do and say absolutely nothing until your dog calms down a bit. As soon as he/or she is calm, slowly reach toward her to clip on the leash. If she starts to bounce around or jump up on you, quickly bring your hands (and the leash) back toward your body, holding constant pressure. Wait until your dog has all four paws on the floor again. Then slowly reach toward her again to attach her leash. Repeat this sequence until your dog can stand in front of you, without jumping up or running around, while you clip on her leash. This may seem like a tedious exercise at first, but if you’re consistent, your hard work will pay off. Eventually, your dog will learn to stand still while you attach her leash.

Choosing the Right Walking Equipment

While you’re teaching your dog not to pull, you should be using a six-foot cotton leash. Retractable leashes, or leashes longer than six feet in length are great for trained dogs, but they don’t work if you’re trying to teach your dog not to pull on leash.

Cotton Leash

Having a retractable leash before your dog is leash trained can cause all sorts of panic. For example, in the above scenario, if your dog is being approached by an aggressive dog, it is nearly impossible to get control of the situation if the need arises. It’s much easier to regain control of – or protect — a dog at the end of a six-foot standard flat leash than it is if he’s 20 or so feet away at the end of what amounts to a thin string. The thin string of the these leashes can also easily break, or cause burns, cuts, or injuries to the dog if jerked too suddenly.

Dogs Who Resist Walking on Leash

Some dogs may actually be reluctant to walk on leash. Instead of pulling, they freeze or turn around and pull back toward home. Often these dogs are fearful, and they need help feeling comfortable when walking on leash.

When your dog freezes, you can try stopping a few feet in front of your dog and waiting. If he shows any signs of moving toward you, say “Yes!” and reach toward him to deliver a treat, showing good behaviour. Praise and reward him only for forward movement. It will also help to walk your dog in quieter areas at first. Instead of walking on a busy road, opt for a quiet residential street or a path through the park. Even sitting on a quiet beach might do the trick to allow your dog to get used to being on leash.

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.

Happy HOWLoween Tricks and Treats 3

We’ve reached the spookiest time of the year, HOWLoween is upon us!

Halloween can be a festive and fun time for children and families. But for pets? It may be a different story. Here we have listed a top 10 of doggy tips, so you and your pets can have a stress free Halloween.

Dia de los Muertos 135

1. No tricks, no treats: That bowl of candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for your pets. Chocolate, in all forms, can be very dangerous, and even deadly, for dogs. Candies containing the artificial sweetener xylitol can also cause problems. small amounts of xylitol can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar and subsequent loss of coordination and seizures.

2. Halloween plants are for display, not for your dog:  Decorative plants such as pumpkins and decorative corn can produce stomach upset in pets who nibble on them.

3. Keep Halloween decorations out of reach: Wires and cords from electric lights and other decorations should be kept out of reach of your pets. If chewed, your pet might suffer cuts or burns, or receive a possibly life-threatening electrical shock.

4. A carved pumpkin certainly is festive, but do exercise caution if you choose to add a candle: Dogs can easily knock a lit pumpkin over and cause a fire. Curious pups especially run the risk of getting burned or singed by candle flames.

5. Dress-up can be a big mess-up for some pets: Please don’t put your dog in a costume UNLESS you know he or she loves it. For pets who prefer their “birthday suits,” however, wearing a costume may cause some unnecessary stress for your dog.

6. Your dog loves his/or her costume? No problem! Make sure the costume isn’t annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict the animal’s movement, hearing, ability to breathe or bark. Also, be sure to try on costumes before the big night. If your pet seems distressed, allergic or shows abnormal behavior, consider letting him go au naturale or donning a festive bandana.

7. Take a closer look at your pet’s costume: Ensure it does not have small, dangling or easily chewed-off pieces that he/or she could choke on.

8. Keep your dog away from the front door: Unless your dog is highly social & well trained, he/or she should be kept away from the front door during peak trick-or-treating hours. Too many strangers can be scary and stressful for pet, and vice versa.

9. If your dog is the trick-or-treater: If your taking your dog out after dark with you, minimize the chance of an accident by adding reflective tape to your pets costume.

10. IDs, please! Always make sure your dog has proper licensed identification. If for any reason your dog escapes and becomes lost, a collar and tags and/or a microchip can be a lifesaver, increaing the chances that he/or she will be returned to you.

By using this tips, Dharma Dog hopes that you have a stress free and exciting HOWLoween!

Herbs That Are Safe for Dogs

I wanted to share an article I found super helpful that I read in Modern Dog Magazine fall 2014 issue:

There are a few common kitchen herbs that are good for dogs. Canine cancer-fighting, breath-freshening, stomach-soothing herbs that are safe for dogs include rosemary, basil, peppermint, oregano and parsley. Let’s take a closer look at each one individually.

basil

Rosemary (rosemarinus officinalis)
This good-for-dogs herb is high in iron, calcium, and Vitamin B6. Rosemary has also been shown to act as an antioxidant. (Though rosemary is very high in iron, it is not to take the place of an iron supplement if one is needed as there is little data about how bioavailable the iron in rosemary is.)

Basil (ocimum basilicum)
This dog-approved leafy herb, well-known for its delicious role in pesto, has antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties. The next time you’re cooking with fresh basil, sprinkle a little pinch of the chopped herb atop your dog’s dinner.

Peppermint (mentha balsamea)
This aromatic herb has historically been used to help soothe upset stomachs, reduce gas, reduce nausea, and help with travel sickness. In addition, research is being done with shows that it may have radio-protective effects and can be used to reduce radiation-induced sickness and mortality in animals undergoing chemotherapy. There is no reported toxicity for dogs although very high doses may result in liver or kidney problems.

Oregano (origanum vulgare)
Best recognized as added flavour for  pizza, oregano is high in antioxidants and flavonoids and is reported as an antimicrobial. This non-toxic herb has been used to help with digestive problems, diarrhea, and gas. Research using oil of oregano has also shown anti-fungal properties. Oil of oregano is more concentrated than oregano, so keep the dosage small (oil of oregano does contain some components like thymol that can be toxic in large amounts or if used for a prolonged period of time). Use may impact the gut micro-flora so you may need to add a probiotic to the diet to build back up the good microbes that you killed off. For oregano drops made especially for pets, check out Orega Pet (oregapet.com).

Parsley (petroselinum crispum)
Another leafy herb commonly seen as a garnish on our plates is a source of flavonoids, antioxidants, and vitamins. It also contains lycopene and carotenes. Often added to dog treats as a breath freshener or used to sooth the stomach, parsley has a long history of use with dogs. Note: “Spring parsley,” a member of the carrot family that resembles parsley is toxic to dogs and cats due to high levels of furanocoumerin which can cause photosensitisation and ocular toxicity.

How to use the herbs*:

Used fresh or dried, adding a small sprinkle (a pinch for small dogs, a teaspoon for large dogs) of these herbs to your dog’s food is a safe way to give them a little boost in nutrition. You can also use them to make your favourite dog treat recipe a bit healthier and more flavourful. The flavonoids and antioxidants found in many of the herbs in this article can help the body’s immune system combat some of the diseases reduced immune function. As noted, however, there are potential downsides and they should be used with care.
Tincture and oils for many herbs are available at your local health or natural foods store. These are usually a more concentrated source, so if you wish to use tinctures, oils or higher levels of fresh or dried herbs, it is best to work in conjunction with your dog’s health care professional. Sometimes the monitoring of a dog’s blood work is necessary to ensure continued safe use. For maximum efficacy, make sure the herbs and spices you use are not old. If the spices have been languishing in your cupboard for years, toss them out and replace them; their health-affirming properties will be diminished if they’ve been kicking around for a while.

* There’s a common saying that “the dose makes poison.” What this means is that anything can be dangerous if it’s fed or used in the wrong amount. If your dog ate only meat, eventually he would get sick since meat alone does not provide all of the vitamins and minerals that dogs need for optimum health. When using herbs the line between safe and not safe can be very fine. It is always advisable to check with your vet.

-this article taken from Modern Dog Magazine