“Dedicated to providing gentle, compassionate care for companion animals”

 
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We're happy to announce that Amy Sandmann is joining our team to offer dog training classes at the Animal Wellness Center.  Amy has trained with Victoria Stilwell, star of Animal Planet’s television series “Its Me or the Dog.”

All parents know their child needs a good education, and the same is true for their dogs.  We need to teach our dogs to be good citizens and how to cooperate with us in a human world.  Our training philosophy is simple, give owners and their dogs the tools to live together in better harmony, this is achieved through Positive Reinforcement methods.  Reward based training is a powerful tool and will allow your dog to learn new behaviors quicker than you ever thought possible.  Our classes are highly instructional and really fun.  We have classes for dogs of every age. You and your dog will be happier because you will have a better understanding of each other.  Best of all, your bond will be deeper and stronger than ever before. Training classes may be the greatest gift you ever give your best friend.

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It’s that time of year again . . . the days are getting shorter, the leaves are about to turn color, and the kids are back to school! Since your children will soon be walking, biking, and skating their way to the classroom, now is the perfect time to talk with them about dog bite prevention. Here are some guidelines that every child should be taught in case they meet an unfamiliar dog:

1)      Never approach an unfamiliar dog, and do not play with dogs unless supervised by an adult. Do not bother a dog that is sleeping, eating, or nursing her puppies.

2)      If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, “Stand Still Like a Tree.” Do not look him straight in the eyes. Do not run away or scream. Standing still will create less interest and less perceived threat by the dog, so he may just sniff you and walk away.

3)      If a dog knocks you over, roll into a ball with your arms covering your head and “Lay Still Like a Log.” Again if the dog senses that you are not a threat or do not want to play he is more likely to walk away.

4)      If you see stray dogs or are bitten by a dog, tell an adult immediately.

5)      When meeting a dog for the first time, make sure the dog has the opportunity to see and sniff you before you touch it.

For more information, I recommend visiting the Center for Disease Control website (http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/dog-bites/biteprevention.html) or the ASPCA website (http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/dog-care-dog-bite-prevention.aspx).

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A client recently suggested a blog post on off-leash dog park etiquette.  She uses our local parks frequently and sometimes gets frustrated with other owners feeding her dog treats.  I know my basic rules for dog parks, but I went in search of good information to add to my recommendations.  What I found was perfect!  The following two links are from the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.  (This group is a professional organization of individual trainers who are committed to education, promote dog-friendly methods, and have an interest in furthering knowledge of positive training.  I highly recommend to clients that trainers they use be members of APDT.)

First, a link of general dog park etiquette.  http://www.apdt.com/petowners/park/etiquette.aspx

Also, a wonderful list of dog park body language.

http://www.apdt.com/petowners/park/bodylanguage.aspx

You can also find other great resources on the APDT website, including more information on dog parks (such as the pros and cons), and also guides for choosing a dog and choosing a dog trainer.  Check it out!

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It may be surprising, but the leash you use with your dog can make an impact on the quality of your veterinary visit.  One of the most common leash types used by our clients is an extendable leash, or “Flexi-leash.”  We understand why owners love these leashes, but they are difficult when at the vet clinic.  Here are some of our concerns:

1.   The lobby. Most clients don’t set these leashes to a short distance. This means that a dog coming in the lobby can quickly get far away from its owner, and possibly into the face of another dog.  While most of our patients are well-behaved, we do have some aggressive interactions in the lobby. These are much easier to prevent if dogs are close to their owner and not allowed to interact with other dogs without permission.

2.  Checking in and checking out.  We have hooks at each reception station so that our clients can hook their dog safely to the wall.  This allows our clients to have both hands free.  Unfortunately, Flexi-leashes can’t be attached, and so our clients are stuck getting pulled around while checking out.

3.  Control of dog in treatment room/hospital.  At most visits, our dog patients make a trip to the treatment room for blood sampling, a nail trim, or something similar.  We dislike using Flexi-leashes to take dogs in back for control reasons.  We like to have the dogs close to us to prevent unwanted dog-dog interactions and to help us get where we want to go. Flexi-leashes are made so that you can’t hold the leash in the first 1-2 feet.  And that is exactly where to hold when maneuvering dogs away from each other or around the corner.   (For this reason we also dislike metal-chain leashes, but we see those much less frequently.)

Here are our recommendations for the leashes we do love:

1.  4-6 feet.  This is a pretty standard leash length, and gives the dog a little slack, but lets the owner and our staff handle them easily.

2.  Fabric or leather.  This makes it easy for everyone to grab the leash close to the dog if needed, and have a good grip.

3.  Nice loop at the owner end.  This makes it very easy to use the hooks in the lobby.  (Some leashes have lovely padded handles which are great, but do make using the hooks harder.)

4.  If you use a Gentle Leader, harness, or prong collar for walks, please use it for a visit to the vet.  Having that extra control is helpful when the dogs are excited!

Let us know if you have any questions about leashes at the veterinary hospital!

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“My cat is sweet and affectionate with the family, but whenever someone comes to the house she disappears. No one has ever been mean to her so why does she hide?”

That is a great question and a common concern for cat owners. To explain this behavior I will refer to a fundamental concept in understanding what motivates cats : Cats are a prey species.

That is, cats are hunted by larger predatory species. Their survival depends on their ability to watch for intruders in their environment. As is true for most prey species, their first line of defense in the face of danger is to flee the situation and become invisible by hiding. Most cats would rather not engage in a fight.

Fear is the first response to any perceived threat. It  is controlled in the brain by an area called the limbic system. This part of the brain activates the autonomic nervous system which then initiates the fight or flight response. The autonomic nervous system causes the instantaneous release of neuro-chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisone from the adrenal glands. You have all felt this rush of chemicals. Remember how you felt the last time you had to slam on the car brakes to avoid an accident. Almost every part of the body is affected. The pupils dilate to allow more light to maximize visual acuity, blood is pumped into the skeletal muscles so they are ready to take fast action, breathing quickens to oxygenate the blood and the heart rate dramatically increases. The experience of fear and the nervous system’s response to it is very useful for survival. Fear helps us avoid danger and injury. It motivates us to take action in order to be safe in potentially harmful situations.

Back to our hiding kitty. Whether the kitty will eventually come out from under the bed and greet the visitors depends on many factors. First, she needs time to make the determination that there is no real threat. It takes time for all those neuro-chemicals to wear off so she can assess her real  level of danger. Personality also plays an important role. Some cats are just naturally more confident and social than others. They conclude more quickly that the situation is low risk and are motivated to come out to receive attention. Previous experience is another important factor. Cats that have had  the opportunity to experience visitors often and repeatedly have a positive experience can learn that the presence of guests is non-threatening. We know that experiences early in life are the most important factor in shaping the behavior of the adult animal.  Socializing kittens and juvenile cats is crucial if you want to help your cat be more confident and outgoing.

What should you do when you cat runs and hides? Leave her alone! Allow her the time and space to feel safe. Her avoidance behavior is normal. It is completely counterproductive and inhumane to drag her out and force her into a situation she finds terrifying. Instead, try linking the arrival of guests to something she absolutely loves. Find a favorite toy or irresistible treat to offer her during visits. This technique will be the most effective if she only has access to these rewards when you have guests. We want her to understand that when people come into her environment, really good, and really special things happen for cats.

Always keep in mind that when we are asking our cat to come out and join the party, we are asking them to behave in a way that is in conflict with their very “catness”. Truly honoring and loving cats requires that we accept them for who they are.  Feline social interaction is complex, “low impact”, generally brief, and usually only involves people or other animals that are part of their known affiliates . Cats simply don’t share our human drive for social interaction.

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