Dog Blog

Mini Dog First Aid Kit

pet first aid mini kit.jpg

Items shown: hand sanitizer, gauze pads, mini roll of gauze, mini roll of vet wrap, human bandaids (not for use on dogs), 5 ml syringe (no needle; used for inducing vomiting — see paragraph below), 30 ml (1 oz) squeezable bottles, nozzle lid for bottle. MISSING: a pair of pointy tweezers to remove barbs/thorns/slivers/broken glass, ticks, etc.

Please educate yourself on how to administer first aid to your dog. There are many resources online and you can take classes for hands-on instruction. This is general information only and is not intended as veterinary advice.

This mini kit is for carrying with you for the usual dog walks and mini excursions. This mini kit could help you address some pet first aid until you could get to a larger pet first aid kit in your vehicle/home, or until you could get to the vet if the situation was serious. This kit small enough to carry with you easily.

LABEL THE CONTAINERS WELL. You do not want to make the mistake of using the wrong liquid. 

The 30 ml bottle could be used to carry 3% hydrogen peroxide for wound cleaning or to induce vomiting. (Research the proper amount to give your dog based on weight and how to use the syringe to administer the liquid into a dog’s mouth.)

The other 30 ml bottle could be used to carry sterile saline solution for rinsing debris from eyes or wounds (using the nozzle lid to help direct the saline solution).

I REPEAT: LABEL THE CONTAINERS WELL. You do NOT want to make the mistake of using hydrogen peroxide when you meant to use saline solution. 

Human bandaids are not for use on dogs. They are included in the kit because they are small and and they can be used for yourself or as tape if you need to secure the roll of gauze to itself.

A pair of small tweezers (not pictured) are handy as well. They can be used to remove barbs, thorns, slivers, broken glass, ticks, etc.

 

Enrichment Tip: Bringing Nature Inside

Why not bring a little bit of Mother Nature home to your dog?

When you are outside, pick up a few “souvenirs” that your dog might find interesting to smell later. You can put items in containers with holes in the lid if you don’t want your dog to touch the item or mouth it.  If you want to preserve the scent for a week to a few months, place each souvenir in its own clean container or plastic bag and place in the freezer until you need it. When the winter is long or when the weather is very poor, setting out the souvenirs for your dog to investigate can be a nice indoor activity for your dog. Be sure that the items you collect are safe for your dog to sniff and that you are not violating any laws by removing the items from the area.

This activity takes very little effort if you collect items while on a regularly scheduled dog walk.

Ideas for souvenirs:

  • small rocks
  • sticks
  • leaves
  • a clean paper towel or napkin rubbed on a tree trunk or light post
  • a glove you wore while petting a friend’s healthy pet
  • pine cones
  • a sprig of a plant that is dog safe (herb, weed, garden vegetable, flower)

3 Myths about Pet Food

Although many of the resources consulted for this article are written by or endorsed by veterinarians, the information presented is not intended to replace veterinary care or advice.  Please do your research and consult a veterinarian you trust regarding your dog’s diet, health, and well-being, especially before making changes to the diet of pets that suffer from diabetes or other conditions.

When it comes to feeding our dogs, many of us have trouble separating fact from fable, and much of our confusion can be blamed on misleading advertising.  Pet food companies, in their efforts to push their products, have inundated us with exaggerations and marketing claims that many of us have accepted as fact, to the detriment of our pets. Many people recognize that advertising claims should be “taken with a grain of salt”, but what about so-called “experts” who have television shows or books?  Surely they would be resources for current, unbiased information. Or would they?

The information here is only a start; there is so much more to learn, and as with all subject areas and experts, there are conflicting opinions. I encourage people to do their own research from a variety of reputable, unbiased, well-supported resources.

Myth #1:  Dogs should never eat human food. 

The belief that human food is unhealthy for dogs, although widely held, is highly inaccurate.  As most of us are aware, there are some human foods that are harmful to dogs (i.e. chocolate, grapes, xylitol, onions, etc.) and there are some foods that are unhealthy to humans as well as dogs (processed food, junk food, candy, overly salty or fatty foods, etc.).  This is the main argument for the standard answer by the pet food industry when it recommends that people should not feed dogs table scraps. What isn’t said is that a lot of healthy human food is also healthy for dogs.  In fact, dog-safe human food is better for dogs than most dog food because of the low standards in the pet food industry.  Human grade meats, especially organic, non-medicated, free-range and grass-fed, are far superior to the questionable sources of protein in most commercial dog food.  This was aptly illustrated in the CBC documentary Pet Food: A Dog’s Breakfast  wherein an old pair of boots, in theory, could meet the minimum standards for protein in pet food.

The book Not Fit for a Dog! : the truth about manufactured dog and cat food (2009) also exposes the poor quality ingredients in manufactured pet food and suggests a strong association with it and many common health and behavioural problems in dogs and cats.  In the section entitled “Better Nutrition, Fewer Health and Behaviour Problems” the authors state that they know this is true because these problems “are ameliorated and often eliminated after the afflicted animals are fed … organically certified, biologically appropriate … whole food diets … that are neither highly processed nor full of synthetic additives/supplements” (p.144).  In other words, the problems lessen or go away when the pets are fed better food.  The authors, all veterinarians, are so certain of this they’ve included some recipes for homemade dog and cat food.

Compounding the problem of poor quality ingredients are the processing methods of most commercial dog foods, especially extruded kibble.  During processing, the ingredients are subjected to high temperatures that degrade most of the original nutrients.  There is also evidence that the high temperatures can create dangerous cancer-causing compounds, and tests have shown that most dry dog foods contain these (See Spot Live Longer, p.92).

The quality of the ingredients and the processing methods are not the only problems with most manufactured pet food.  Another problem is the high starch content, especially in lower-priced pet foods.  Grains and other starches can be cheap sources of protein and are necessary in the production of kibble, which requires a lot of starch. While it seems that dogs can digest some grains, cats have no known need for carbohydrates and they don’t digest them well.  This is one reason why many sources recommended that cats be fed canned food rather than kibble; the canned food tends to have more protein, less-grain based protein, and more moisture. Some veterinarians believe that the high amounts of grain in pet foods lead to obesity, diabetes, arthritis and food allergies.

In their book See Spot Live Longer: How to help your dog live a longer and healthier life! (2005) authors Steve Brown and Beth Taylor detail how grains might be the worst offender when it comes to the major ingredients in manufactured dry dog foods.  The low-quality grains used are often infested with storage mites and dangerous molds, and how we store the dry food in our homes often encourages the growth of the mites and molds. Storage mites are being linked to skin allergies in dogs, and molds produce mycotoxins that can affect the immune system resulting in long-term health problems or in extreme cases, immediate death.  Brown and Taylor caution pet owners who purchase kibble to upgrade to the best quality they can find and afford, purchase only enough that can be used in a week, keep it in its original package, put the bag in an airtight container (if the bag isn’t sealable), and store it in the freezer, if possible.  More information on the problems with storage mites and molds and how to store and handle kibble to help reduce these problems can be found in their book.

Myth #2: Feeding a dog human food encourages unwanted behaviours.

Dogs are opportunists.  Counter-surfing, garbage diving, begging, stealing from plates, food guarding, nipping: these are all behaviours that will continue if allowed.  It’s not a matter of human food; it’s a matter of training.  If you don’t want your dog begging at the table, don’t feed him at the table; put the table scraps in his bowl.  And since most dogs find human food far superior to their regular dog food or dog treats, you can use human food to train desirable behaviours to counteract undesirable ones.

Contrary to this myth, it can be argued that the feeding of commercial dog food encourages unwanted behaviours.  A dog that is voracious will have little self-control around food, and a lot of manufactured dog food lacks the nutrients and/or quality protein to keep a dog sated.  The authors of Not Fit For a Dog! believe feeding manufactured pet food can lead to a variety of unwanted behaviours such as  “constant food soliciting/hunger; increased aggression/irritability/hyperactivity” (p.145). As well, there is strong evidence that commercial dog foods are largely responsible for many of the medical conditions that can require dogs to be put on medications that cause an increase in appetite (i.e. Prednisone).

Myth #3: Dry food helps keep a dog’s teeth clean.

This is based on the idea that hard, dry kibble will help scrape the teeth clean.  This sounds logical, but it turns out to be lacking in evidence. Some debunk this myth by referring to the impossibility of a pet’s pointed teeth crunching the kibble enough for the scraping action to have any effect beyond the tips of the teeth. This is supported by the observation that when pets regurgitate their kibble, many of the pieces are still whole, having made it into the stomach without being crunched up.  Crunching kibble and dog biscuits does not dislodge plaque from dogs’ teeth and small bits of food can remain stuck to the teeth and contribute to plaque buildup.

There are certainly other pet food myths circulating, but these are three of the most common ones.  How do these ideas become so widely believed, especially since there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to back them up?  It looks like these myths were born largely because of the efforts of pet food companies to increase their profits.

One of the “problems” the pet food industry faced was people supplementing their pets’ food with table scraps.  Back in 1964, dog food companies began issuing press releases about dog care that promoted feeding dogs only commercial dog food and warned about the dangers of feeding table scraps.  This information appeared in newspapers and magazines and on radio stations.  Years later, dog food companies stressed the “science” of canine nutrition which was too complicated for the average person in the kitchen. These marketing strategies worked and the mantra “never feed your dog human food” was widely embraced. The pet food companies also wanted to increase kibble sales since it is cheaper to manufacture kibble than canned food. Hence the claim kibble “helps” keep a dog’s teeth clean was born, despite a lack of data to back it up.  Vague words are popular tools in advertising. (For more information about the history of pet food marketing, visit read the article “Pet Nutrition History”; it contains excerpts from The Long History of the Canine Race by Mary Elizabeth Thurston, 1996.  As well, read the first chapter in Raw & Natural Nutrition for Dogs: the definitive guide to homemade meals by Lew Olson, 2010.)

One doesn’t need a white lab coat and a science degree to feed a dog a well-balanced, species-appropriate diet, but it isn’t as simplistic as cooking them some hamburger and steaming some veggies.  There is a lot to learn, and despite the “bad apples”, there are pet food companies that do provide quality products. Educate yourself about pet nutrition and learn how to read pet food labels. Try starting with small changes and see the results.  Find an option that works for you and your pet.

Recommendations for small changes:

  • Try feeding some cooked or raw homemade “complete and balanced” dog food recipes 
  • Change from kibble to canned, especially for cats.
  • Supplement kibble with some fresh, human-grade meats and steamed or finely chopped raw vegetables (focusing on leafy greens) (NOTE: always cook green beans, squash, and pumpkin).
  • Add a small amount of sardines (packed in water) or canned WILD salmon (packed in water) to your dog’s kibble. Be sure to use the right amounts.
  • Upgrade your kibble (see resources at the end of this article) and educate yourself about marketing claims. The better brands are made from human-grade ingredients with little to no starches, and they often have packaging that will keep out moisture and air.
  • Feed a variety of foods from different animal proteins and rotate them on a daily basis.  Don’t mix them together; rotate them.
  • Avoid senior, “lite”, and diet pet foods because these are higher in carbohydrates and fibre and have reduced protein and fat; according to several resources, older and overweight dogs need fewer carbohydrates and better quality fats and proteins. NOTE: Senior dogs with kidney problems are often put on reduced protein diets. The authors of See Spot Live Longer claim that certain studies about aging dogs and protein consumption were misinterpreted which led to the belief that decreasing a dog’s consumption of protein could prevent further kidney damage.  The authors claim that these studies suggested that dogs with kidney damage should be fed better quality protein, not less protein (p. 159).

 

Books:

Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats (2013) by Beth Taylor and Karen Shaw Becker DVM (a revised version will be published 2018)

Not Fit for a Dog! : the truth about manufactured dog and cat food by  Michael W. Fox, Elizabeth Hodgkins, and Marion E. Smart (2009)

See Spot Live Longer: how to help your dog live a longer and healthier life! by Steve Brown and Beth Taylor (2005)

Web resources:

What Does Your Dog’s Vet Know About Nutrition?

Dr. Karen Becker’s Pet Foods Ranking (2015)

Pet’s, Protein, Dry Food, and Disease (by Dr. Karen Becker)

Whole Dog Journal’s Approved Dry Dog Food List

Still Buying Kibble? Please Heed This Safety warning (by Dr. Karen Becker)

Informal Survey for Regina Dog Owners

If you live in Regina, Saskatchewan and own a dog, I’m curious to know your opinions and experiences regarding the City’s designated off-leash areas.

I’ve created a very short survey of 8 questions. It should take you no more than a minute or two to complete. The survey is anonymous and the results are for my own interest and perhaps they will be of interest to some volunteers helping to improve the off-leash areas in Regina.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Dog Training Tip: Curve Approaches

Observant people familiar with dog body language know that a dog is more relaxed and less stressed if the dog is able to choose an “indirect” path — a curve if you will — when approaching people, other dogs, or objects/locations that are unfamiliar or have a history of causing the dog anxiety. Watching well-socialized dogs meet each other while off-leash illustrates this beautifully.

Have a look at the videos from this study where dogs’ heart rates were measured during direct approaches (head-on) and indirect approaches (curves).  You will witness the correlation between the heart rate and the dog’s body language and tightness of the leash. In my Wellness & Enrichment dog class, I instruct students to monitor the amount of leash pressure the dog is causing on the walk and use that as a guide to assess the dog’s level of arousal in order to keep the dogs under threshold.

When walking a dog on a leash, remember to avoid head-on direct approaches when passing people, other dogs, skateboards, the yard with the dog barking at the fence, etc. Your dog might be trying to pull away to make that curve, but an uninformed dog handler may give a “correction” or lure/coax the dog to continue the direct approach, causing increased stress levels. This is how dogs become sensitized to these situations, and how many dogs begin to show over-reactive behaviours when encountering these things on a leash.

 

Dog Training Tip: Fence Aggression

This is for general information only. Please consult a variety of reputable resources, including a reputable dog behaviour professional. 

Walking past a yard containing a dog aggressively charging the fence is stressful for everyone. Every repetition of the event will increase the likelihood that the aggressive behaviours from the dog in the yard will occur again in the future, and likely more intensely. It’s a situation where the dog does not get used to it but instead becomes sensitized to it.

There are numerous devices and methods that are designed to suppress aggressive behaviours at the fence by delivering a consequence that causes the dog physical discomfort or anxiety. Dog training that tries to suppress the behaviour are more likely to increase the stress of the dog and make the aggressive behaviours worse, cause new unwanted behaviours, and lead to a dog that aggresses without the warning signals that have been punished.

But what’s the owner of such a dog to do?

Firstly, be sure that your fence is secure to keep everyone safe.  You may want to consider installing a second fence along the edges (or just the problem edge) to create a section of empty space several feet wide. This added distance could be helpful for the dog’s stress levels, as well as the ones for those on the other side of property line fence.

Secondly, set up other management and safety strategies to help to promote safety and help to reduce the intensity and frequency of the behaviours. This may mean keeping your dog inside during times of the day when the fence line is “busy” so to speak. It may mean taking your dog outside while on a harness and leash until the dog’s training has improved. Changing the type of fence may be helpful, as well (some dogs do better with fences that prevent the dog from seeing what is going past on the other side).

Thirdly, get help from a reputable professional  sooner rather than later because it’s much easier to change the behaviour when it’s mild than when it’s severe.  Be sure the person you hire understands how to address the underlying emotions that are causing the aggressive behaviours. TIP: “Dominance” is no longer scientifically acceptable and the theory of dominance to explain dog behaviour was disproved several decades ago.  

Here is a video of one way to use positive reinforcement training to reduce fence aggression. Of course, finding a way to reduce the dog’s arousal levels will help make the training much more effective.

 

 

Over-reactive Dog Behaviours

The information provided here only touches the surface of the subject.  If your dog has severe reactivity problems, please consult the services of a professional who uses positive-reinforcement methods rather than compulsion training (verbal “psst’s” or physical corrections and/or aversive equipment such as pinch collars, choke collars, shock collars, slip collars).  Compulsion-based methods attempt to suppress the emotions that drive the over-reactive behaviours, and they often result in an escalation of unwanted behaviours and new unwanted behaviours.

What is over-reactivity?

Over-reactivity can be defined as an over-the-top emotional response to common stimuli in the dog’s environment at a normal intensity (“normal” referring to the distance, exposure time, and behaviour of the stimuli).   These stimuli are commonly referred to as “triggers” because they trigger a response in the dog.  Some dogs are over-reactive to a small number of triggers (other dogs, kids on skateboards, the mail carrier) but some dogs seem to overreact to nearly everything (sounds, movement, new objects, things that are out of place).  In most cases the behaviours are due to frustration or fear, even if the dog is lunging and barking aggressively.  In the case of fear-based over-reactivity, these aggressive displays are often used as a way for the dog to provoke a response in the “new thing” to determine if it’s a threat or not or to make the “scary thing” go away.

What can cause over-reactivity?

Genetics play a significant role in determining a dog’s temperament, and it’s important to note that a dog can only progress as far as his inherited “nature” will allow.  What happens to a dog after he’s born will also have a huge influence on his temperament, especially socialization, training, and diet.  (Illness can also be a factor, so be sure to consult your vet if you suspect this may be the case.)

Poor socialization (deficits and “bad” experiences) during the first few months of a puppy’s life can lead to over-reactivity.  Puppyhood is when the dog learns what to expect in his environment, and if a puppy isn’t exposed in a positive way to the sights, sounds, and smells he is expected to encounter in his daily life, chances are he will have problems with over-reactivity.  The puppy then enters adolescence, a stage of development where his instinct is to be very cautious about new things. (During this time it’s common for dogs to experience “fear periods” where they seem particularly sensitive, often showing increased sensitivity to sounds and movement.) Extremely negative experiences, especially if they happen during a fear period, can also create a fear of something that lasts the dog’s lifetime. Even if a dog is well socialized during puppyhood, there is the risk of de-socialization if the dog is no longer exposed to new things, becoming overreactive to the environment outside of their yards.

One factor often overlooked is diet.  Low quality or highly processed ingredients, heavy starch-based diets (i.e. kibble), additives, and gaps in nutrients can lead to behavioural problems in some dogs.  A healthy nervous system needs proper nutrition, and a weakened digestive system cannot properly digest food to get the nutrients the dog needs.  A damaged digestive system leads to food sensitivities, allergies, hormonal imbalances, etc., which can stress the entire body including the nervous system. As well, there is some evidence suggesting that the gut biome influences behaviour, and onea gut biome that is out of balance can adversely affect the brain and the rest of the nervous system. Current science is showing clear links between the nervous system and the digestive system (“the second brain” as some scientists are putting it).

Things you can do:

Reduce stress, provide mental stimulation and appropriate exercise and play, increase sleep and quiet time, improve diet, and work with a positive reinforcement trainer to help improve your dog’s ability to cope with things in the environment.  Do what you can to avoid isolating your dog because this can lead to an increase in reactivity.  But this doesn’t mean forcing your dog into situations he’s not ready for because this can reinforce and increase reactive behaviours.  Work slowly and systematically.

When discussing the behaviour modification for over-reactive dogs, it’s important to understand how essential it is to keep a dog under his threshold.  When a dog is over his threshold, it’s extremely difficult for him to learn new behaviours because his brain is in “reactive mode” rather than “thinking mode”, and each time he over-reacts to a trigger that behaviour is reinforced. To ensure you are able to keep your dog below his threshold, you need to be able to read his subtle signs of stress so you can intervene before he goes over his threshold. By the time he’s straining at the leash or vocalizing, it’s too late; he’s over his threshold.

It’s best to consult a professional trainer experienced in working with over-reactivity, especially severe cases, as this can be an involved and complex process.  Avoid any trainers who suggest forcing a dog to remain over his threshold to “let him work it out on his own”; these flooding techniques can overwhelm a dog – especially one with a sensitive nervous system already — and cause undesirable side effects.  Sometimes a dog will quiet down after a forced exposure and the humans think the dog is cured of his reactivity. This is not necessarily the case.  The dog may have exhausted his nervous system and temporarily “shut down”; he has not changed his mind about the trigger, but he may have changed his mind about you and how much he can trust you.  This dog may be more likely to bite without warning in the future, and this approach is likely to result in a more extreme reaction to the trigger in the future and/or a new, undesirable behaviour (i.e. regression in housetraining, aggression around food or toys, etc.).

Activities/Classes for over-reactive dogs:

Any class for over-reactive dogs should provide safe, controlled opportunities for reactive dogs to choose appropriate behaviours in the presence of the trigger.  It’s essential that the space be large enough for the dogs to have the distance they need to avoid sensitizing the dog further.  Some dogs need to be 100 feet away from another dog. If you are beginning to learn to read your dog and are working on giving your dog enough distance from “the trigger”, here is a good rule to follow: When you think your dog has enough distance — double it. There is a lot going inside your dog well before most humans ever notice the subtle signs of stress. By the time most humans see them (even trainers, and especially the trainers that are misinterpreting the signals), the dog is already anxious.

Dogs with over-reactive behaviours should be gently and systematically desensitized to their triggers while they remain below threshold, and if counter conditioning is a component of the training, the dog trainer needs an accurate understanding and skill level to implement it properly and train dog owners to do it, as well. And they need to understand when counter conditioning attempts may be interfering with the dog’s progress.

Anyone interested in taking a class for over-reactive dogs can contact Jennifer Berg CPDT-KA

 Testimonials

When Frasier and I moved off of our farm, his world got smaller. Gone were the days of running free through the cranberry bogs for our morning walks. In the city, he was confined to leash walks and he became increasingly frustrated and reactive to other dogs. If he saw a squirrel, he pulled so hard that I could barely stay on my feet. Walking him became a chore instead of the best part of my day. Then, we found Jennifer Berg. The training that she introduced us to has worked wonders. I can honestly say I enjoy walking my dog again!

~ Frasier’s “mom”

I’m thrilled with how quickly Lucy’s reactivity to other dogs has diminished!  And I remain impressed with Jennifer’s quick eye to point out the tiniest of stress reactions from Lucy. Many thanks for helping me become a more sensitive dog owner!

~ Nadine Baker