Author Archives: cakocinski

The Dog

I have written about many different dog breeds and the characteristics of that individual breed.  W1192936_f260hat I want to do know, is make sure everyone knows that dogs are “dogs” first and THEN they are their breed and THEN their individual identity ie/”Fluffy”, “Fido” etc.

I admit that when I was younger and even sometimes more recently, I have been “doggist”.  I have had a tendency to dislike certain dog breeds due to their tendency towards aggression, dominance and/or “stupidity”.  I will go farther and admit that I have had a chip on my shoulder against Akitas, Chows, Chihuahua’s and German Shepherds, to name a few.

What I always understood is that the “breed” problems in most dog breeds are the fault of the humans who bred them.   What I now understand more fully is that actually, some dog breeds have remained rather “pure” and true to the breed’s origin–which in a lot of cases was for use in hunting dangerous game or as protection and guardians.  Therefore, we cannot expect a dog whose direct ancestors for thousands of years were guardians, to not ACT like guardians.  Of course, in our modern society, this manifest itself as aggression, dominance or other bad behavior.

article-2179887-143E5F17000005DC-525_634x529 thumbWhat I now know, is that while there is breed tendency, such as the “powerful” breeds like Rottweilers, pit bulls, Akitas, ANY dog can be made safe and friendly.  On the other hand, ANY dog can also be turned into an unbalanced, unsafe nightmare.  So Labs, Goldens and Schnauzers under the right (or wrong) circumstances, can become monsters.

It is VITAL that people choose appropriate dogs for their energy level, lifestyle and dog training ability.  If you are a very demure, quiet, sweet person–don’t get a Rottweiler unless you know you have the inner “power” to take the lead and provide the dog with good leadership and training.   On the other hand, if you are, for instance, a very dominant personality and you tend to be loud and gruff, don’t get a timid dog–of any breed.  Timid dogs need leadership, but gently and quietly.

So, not ALL Rottweilers for instance, will be dominant, aggressive and strong minded.  But if you want one that isn’t, you may have to keep looking for awhile.

Realize that all dogs, regardless of breed, need proper leadership.  This is not a “breed” issue, but a dog issue.  The type of leadership can differ by breed and then by individual.   All dogs need exercise, the type, length and intensity will differ by breed and then by individual.   Understand dogs, understand your breed, and then understand your individual.

Pets and Pain(pills)

bandaged-head2  In modern human society, the use of pain relievers and narcotics (legal and illegal) has grown to become a multi-billion dollar business.  Humans are obsessed with pain relief at any cost–physical or financial.  It’s no wonder then, that we have spread this desire for “pain management” to our pets and the veterinary industry.

What the general pet owner does not understand, is that dogs and cats and animals in general, have a much higher pain threshold than humans.  Pain that would cripple a human could be merely a nuisance to a dog.  Nature designed them this way in order to survive.  We still have not managed to breed out all of nature’s design in our dogs and cats.  But we tend to overprotect our animals like we now overprotect our children.  Pain is a part of life and a learning tool.  Pain for pets or people should not be eliminated entirely from life experience.

Pain is hotly debated in the veterinary/pet world as some professionals preach that minor pain will help keep a pet quiet/non-active while it heals.   The opposition stands anywhere from, “this is cruel” to “pain lengthens healing time”.  Well, in different cases, all three of these assertions may be true.  For instance, if a dog has just had a benign lump removed and has stitches–the minor pain will keep him from running, jumping, twisting etc, and ripping out stitches.  Even if the dog is in a crate–if he feels good, he may dig at the door to get out, tear up toys and blankets in the crate and generally work himself up into hurting himself.  The pain will be gone in a day (although it’s usually even less) and the dog will function normally, but will be careful of the surgical area if it feels some pain there.pain-pill

Now, if a pet has been hit by a car, has a broken leg and is badly bruised or injured, it might indeed be cruel to let the pet lay there in a higher level of pain if it can be eased a bit by medication.  The pet won’t be moving much anyway in this case, so a little pain relief will not cause the animal to get too frisky.

And lastly, if the above pet who was hit by a car is to properly heal, they will eventually need to move around to regain joint mobility and muscle strength.  If they are still in a lot of pain, they may not want to move around and this could indeed lengthen the healing process.  In the case of cats who are having pain issues due to injuries or surgery, pain meds could help healing as well.  When cats are in pain, they typically won’t eat.  If they don’t eat, they will lose strength and energy and this will delay healing.

But in general, I believe pain management has become a cash cow for the veterinary world, the same as it is for human medicine.  Young, healthy animals getting routine surgeries should not be prescribed pain pills whether or not they need them. Most vets these days routinely send all spay and neuters home with pain meds.  Pet owners are made to feel cruel if they don’t take the pain meds.  My husband had major thyroid surgery–a 3 hour operation on his throat.  The surgeon told him he’d probably only need pain meds for a day or two–but when we got to the pharmacy we found she had prescribed 40 pills!! Enough for 2 weeks or more.  My husband used 3 of the pills over the course of three days.  But some pharmaceutical company is getting big kickbacks when every surgical patient is sent home with this many pain pills. The same is true when every spay and neuter gets sent home with pain meds.

Animals have a much shorter lifespan than humans, and pain pills carry some potentially dangerous side effects like liver damage and intestinal upset and damage.  Why would we want to shorten their already short lives–if it’s not absolutely necessary for their well-being?

Finally, I want to be sure that people don’t get too angry at their vets and staff when these people push the pain pills.  Just like in human medicine, pain management and prescription pain killers for pets is being taught now in the vet schools.  The drug companies come in and “teach” how great this stuff is and why.  And the whole industry gets brainwashed.  How can we expect a 22 year old Vet student to have the wisdom and experience to challenge what their professors and other professionals in the pet industry (drug companies hire veterinarians to peddle this stuff) are telling them?  It’s up to each one of us to independently research and learn what we can so we can help educate others and do what is best for our pets (and ourselves).

pain pills

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Thcavalierkingcharlesspanielsf5is adorable spaniel breed has true blue royal blood going back to the 1600′s.  They are descended from the spaniels King Charles II kept.  Not to be confused with King Charles Spaniels–also called English Toy Spaniels.  That breed involved taking the original King’s spaniels and crossing them with Pugs, a couple of hundred years ago, to create a separate breed.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a direct descendent of the original spaniels and the “Cavalier” prefix was added in the 1920′s when American breeders began developing the dog as an AKC breed.

All that said, these are delightful little dogs.  Bred for centuries to be royal lap dogs, they have stayed true to their heritage.  This dog will lounge about on cushions all day and then settle into your lap at night.  These spaniels have low-medium energy so a great amount of exercise is not necessary to keep them happy.   But they are a “big enough” little dog to enjoy long walks and lotsof play if you want to offer it.

As with any dog, they can be naughty but most of this can be brought under control with some simple obedience and training.  Because the Cavalier is such a loyal and willing companion, they take to training very easily and happily and require only gentle corrections and discipline.

Some people say the Cavalier is a naturally well-behaved dog and to some extent I think that is true.   However,  being “well-behaved” has a lot to do with lower energy than some more boisterous breeds and less of a prey drive or desire to roam.   Due to their lovable, laid back nature Cavaliers are an excellent choice for first time dog owners or owners who don’t have a lot of time to invest to train and exercise and just want an “easy” dog.

Cavaliers in general have no temperament issues, and are good with people, children and other pets.  Unfortunately, like with a lot of purebred dogs–especially smaller ones, the Cavalier has a host of medical issues it is predisposed to. Among these are eye and heart problems so it’s a good idea to do annual checkups with your vet to catch anything early.

If you have a family, or live alone and want a loyal companion and you want a laid back, easy going dog, then the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel could be for you.

Hazel awake

Canine Boredom and Dog Toys

We all utypes-dog-toysnderstand boredom, we have all experienced it.  As humans though, we have options when bored.  We can watch TV, play games, go somewhere, work on puzzles, etc.  When our dogs are bored they also look for “new” activities to engage in and search out fun, new items to play with.   Unfortunately for humans, this usually involves our shoes, our decorations and even our furniture.

High energy dogs tend to get “bored” more often and need lots of activity.  Intelligent dogs get bored even quicker and if your dog is both, like mine, you HAVE to provide safe activities and toys for your dog.

Toys for dogs are not just “treats” for them, or silly human indulgences.  Toys are a necessary part of development for any dog and necessary to protect your house.   Dogs have a natural instinct to chew–especially puppies and younger dogs.  If you don’t provide them with acceptable things to chew on you could incur some heavy losses in your home.  Chew toys for dogs can get pricey, but they still don’t cost as much as a new sofa or new dining room chairs.127_Orka_Jack_in_use._V401504478_

And you can find inexpensive ways to keep your dog happy.   Empty plastic water bottles are great for dogs–they make noise while the dogs crunch them and they are pretty tough so it takes a while for the dog to rip it up.  Place some treats inside and put the lid on for added interest.  For teething puppies try adding water and freezing first.

Stuffed animals from the local Goodwill are super cheap and super fun for your dog.  As long as your dog just destroys them and doesn’t actually eat them, this is a great option.  They do cause a lot of mess and you’ll be picking up stuffing and stuffed animal “hair” off the carpet daily, but it’s well worth it!

I bought my dog a hard plastic child’s piggy bank from Goodwill–it has a fabric covering over it and she loves it! She carries it around, throws it around, rips at it, etc.  It cost me 50 cents and she’s been playing with it for 2 months already.

Just get creative with your choice of dog toys.  The important thing is to keep getting new ones.  Just like with human children, your dog will get bored with some toys after awhile.  What I do is put them away for a month or so, and bring them o  ut again and my dog is overjoyed with the “new ” additions to her toy box.   Everything old is new again!

For your high energy dog, you should also take them on walks, take them swimming, put them on treadmills, do training drills with them,  do agility games with them, anything that will engage their mind and body.

If you do not offer enough different toys and activities for your canine partner he or she may start : barking incessantly, digging holes in your yard, destroying your house, getting into the garbage, eating electric cords, and even escaping from the yard and chasing cars, animals and bicycles.Dog-Chewing-CouchdiggingGoldenRetrieverDogDiggingH22554335

Some dogs are naturally better behaved or more calm than others but most dogs can be excellent pets if given the proper tools and guidance.

Australian Shepherd

Aussie Red MerleAt first glance, or meeting, the Australian Shepherd might look like a dog for everyone and anyone.  They are enthusiastic, friendly and uber- intelligent.  But with that intelligence comes a strong will, high energy and a dog who becomes bored easily.

An Australian Shepherd really wants to work, and to be with their humans.  These highly domestic, loyal companions NEED training and preferably a job, like search and rescue or service dog work, but also obedience competitions, agility competitions or herding work.  If you want–or have–an Australian Shepherd and you don’t have a job for it, you will need to find other distractions for your pet, such as frequent hiking, long walks in the city, obedience classes or other classes like dog freestyle (dog dancing) or anything else that will keep your Aussie engaged and content.  A bored Australian Shepherd will destroy your house and possibly do harm to itself.  They will chew everything in sight–even as adults and they will have trouble sitting still.Aussie blue merle 2

Aussies are often confused with Border Collies, but they are two very distinct breeds.  Aussies typically are born without tails (although not always) and they are significantly larger than a Border Collie and come in many different colors, like Blue Merle, Red and White, Tri-Color and variations on those color schemes.  Both are super intelligent, but I believe the Aussie has a more willful mind of it’s own) nature that requires a stronger human handler than a Border Collie would.

Now that I’ve given the Aussie cautionary tales, I can say that I truly love this breed. They make fantastic pets for the right owners and you will fall so deeply in love with your Aussie you will not be able to imagine life without them.  This is a breed that becomes a part of your soul.  If given all the proper elements of exercise, training and mental stimulation, and of course LOVE, an Aussie makes a fantastically loyal and fun pet.   They learn tricks in a snap–sometimes after only one training session!  It’s like they can read your mind.

Because of how strongly an Aussie can bond to its owner, I would only recommend this breed to someone who would definitely never re-home or surrender their pet.  Affable Aussies will do well on kennel stays or with pet sitters when need be–but they always prefer to be with their human partners and they actually make great traveling companions if you are able to bring them along.

If you have the right personality, understanding and knowledge to handle one, an Aussie may be the dog for you!Aussie Tri

 

Exotic “Pets”

One of Michael Jackson's "pet" tigers, abandoned at a small, struggling start up refuge in TX.  Even celebrities can't make exotic pets work.

One of Michael Jackson’s “pet” tigers, abandoned at a small, struggling start up refuge in TX. Even celebrities can’t make exotic pets work.

Many of us are familiar with exotic pets in the form of reptiles, chinchillas, sugar gliders and even tropical fish.   For the most part, these animals have all been kept as pets for decades and they are relatively safe and easy to keep.  But there is another class of exotic “pet”–the wild animal raised in captivity.   It seems unbelievable to me that a bearded dragon(lizard) and a Siberian tiger share the same title of  “exotic”.

Yes, people (try to)  keep tigers and other big cats as pets, as well as a host of other wild animals, large and small.   The only semi-successful exotic pets in my opinion are birds.  Parrots are not domesticated animals like cats or dogs and if humans do a good job of raising, caring for and training their parrots, the birds can be delightful and happy pets.  (I will write more about keeping parrots in a separate blog).

But when people try to keep raccoons,  bobcats, monkeys and large animals like bears or lions as pets there usually is no happy ending–but there is always an end.  These animals were never meant to live in houses as companions to humans.  All exotic mammals (and birds) have the capability to destroy your home and yard, injure, maim or kill children or adults and cause a lot of heartache.  Almost all of these animals reach maturity relatively quickly and when that happens, these animals most often find themselves being wrenched from the only home they have ever known and being put into either a worse situation, put in a cage in a zoo, or even being euthanized because they had the audacity to grow up!

Now, for people who just have that burning desire to be close to exotic and wild animals there are many other options for fulfilling that desire.   Across the country, many sanctuaries, zoos and other exotic animal facilities offer internships for people to learn about and sometimes even interact with these animals.  This will be done safely, with proper training and knowledge of the animals and with professional staff on-hand for guidance.

I should mention that good exotic pet owners DO exist, even in the case of big cats.  Typically these are people with plenty of money who have spent time researching the needs of the animal they have and learning how to handle them properly and keep them safely.  Unfortunately, these people are few and far between.  The vast majority of people who bring an exotic animal into their home, especially a dangerous one, either get rid of the animal before it’s a year old, or have terrifying incidents involving their own children or neighbors.

For more information about exotic pets, animal encounters and internships:

http://www.tigercreek.org/

http://www.elephantsanctuary.org/experience/

http://www.bigcat.org/education/pages/intern_program

There are many places that offer animal encounters, some reputable, some not, but all are a better option than keeping one of these animals as a pet.  Many zoos have volunteer education programs where, after training, you will be able to handle and take different species of animals out for educational programs.  In these programs I have seen volunteers handle birds of prey, small mammals like hedgehogs or even raccoons, large reptiles, parrots, penguins, wallaby, etc.

Please think twice or three times, before deciding to bring hom an exotic pet.  Do your research, talk to professionals, talk to your state licensing organizations and talk to the local police about the law.

 

Raising a puppy to be a service dog

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently found that I have a few followers and I have to apologize for not posting anything recently.  Two months ago I adopted a 7 month old, female black Lab and she has been taking ALL of my attention.  If you’ve read my post about Labrador Retrievers you will know this is an energetic breed and mine lived the first 6 months of her life in an outdoor kennel with no training and not much socialization, other than her siblings.  The fact that she stayed with her 2 siblings for all that time actually helped a lot as she is excellent with other dogs.

Even for someone with my background, Velvet has been a challenge.  But challenge is good! Raising Velvet gives me a chance to flex my training muscles–and my actual muscles too!  I’m down here in the trenches with my clients now–trying to raise a happy, healthy, well-behaved dog without losing my mind!

Raising a service dog puppy requires little more than raising a regular puppy.  The big difference is you can’t slack off much on training and you can’t get sloppy and just say “oh, she’s doing that good enough”.  Due diligence requires you to make sure this dog is super well-behaved and under control at all times.  She must always walk nicely at my side, she must always obey commands the first time I say them, she must never chase small animals, she must never jump on people, she must never grab inappropriate items from store shelves! This can be a problem in pet or toy stores.

Velvet teaches me something almost every day.  I always strive to stay flexible with my dog training methods.  If one way isn’t working, I try another.  I read lots of training articles by other professionals and animal behaviorists.  I am always honing my craft and Velvet is helping me sharpen my skills to a fine point!velvet3-1

The last three months have been stressful, exhausting, demanding and wonderful! I can think of no greater reward than seeing my “wild child” transform into a mannerly companion.   The moment when she finally figures something out, I can almost see the light bulb going off in her head! It makes all the agonizing repetition and hours of training worth it!

Look for more puppy training blogs in the future!

 

The Dachshund

Ah, the brave little dachshund.   This miniature member of the hound group comes in two sizes, three coat types and a rainbow of colors!  There is a Standard Dachshund and a Miniature Dachshund and various other “designer” sizes that are cropping up in the breeding world.   Both size groups each have three coat types: smooth coat, long-haired, wire-haired.  For the most part, all the different varieties of dachshunds have similar temperaments.

dachshund types

From left: Wire-haired, smooth coat, long-haired

The dachshund is a busy little dog.  These tiny hunting dogs compete with cats as mice hunters in the house.  The dachshund has an alert mind, always watching and listening for anything that might move–inside the house or outside.  And they like to tell people about it–loudly and often! As with other hound breeds, this dog barks–a lot.   Although, my mantra is “all dogs are individuals”, so some people may be lucky enough to have a quiet dachshund–I’m sure it must exist somewhere!  Anyone who wants to adopt a dachshund though, needs to be ready to accept a certain level of barking. Training will minimize it, but not stop it.

I don’t find dachshunds to be particularly good with young children.  These dogs tend to be full of themselves and quite opinionated (think of them as primadonnas) and this can come across as “grumpiness” with little children.  Most dachshunds will not tolerate being poked and prodded or roughly petted by children.  This is not to say they don’t make good pets.  Dachshunds are extremely loyal to their owners and can be very sweet and loving.  They do require training though.  These strong-willed little critters love to rule the roost and be in charge and they will take control if you let them.

Dachshunds have notoriously bad teeth, fast growing, long toenails and obesity problems.  One of the most important things you can do with a new dachshund puppy is play with its feet and practice toenail trimming regularly.  If you don’t, the regular toenail trimmings they require will either become nightmare sessions where your pretty little pet turns into a snarling beast, or you’ll have to pay to have the vet or groomer do it several times per year.  If the toenails don’t get cut,  the curly nails of the dachshund can grow long and curl around to grow back into the foot!  This is painful and requires surgery to correct.

Dachshunds also have their own ideas about potty training–a nice warm floor always seem preferable to the outdoors! Be firm and consistent with potty training from the very beginning.  They are also very clean little dogs so crate training usually works very well for them.

The good news is, they are easy to exercise, don’t need a yard and they cost little to feed.

So, if you have a home free of small children, a desire for a loyal, lap dog who is bold as brass, and have the time and patience to devote, a dachshund could be for you!

 

Controlling Canine Hyperactivity

hyper-little-dogAll dogs, but especially puppies up to one or two years old, need good, focused exercise on a daily basis.  Walking at heel with controlled “sits” at intersections and whenever owner needs to stop are excellent.  Playing fetch is good if it has a controlled element–”bring it here and drop it”.  Always engage the mind as well as the body for complete workout.

Doing 10 minutes of obedience training once or twice a day will also work your dog’s mind and physically engage him/her to a certain extent.  Work in an open space, inside or outside and practice “sit”, “down” and “stay” and for added benefit, do short drills of “heel” with lots of turns and stops in your small space.

Besides burning off excess mental and physical energy, dogs need LOVE!  They crave our attention and affection.  Sometimes the quickest way to get your dog to settle down is to make them sit or lie down, then pet them, give them a tummy rub, hug them, etc. for a few minutes.  This will usually content them.  Make sure to pet them in a calming way, not all rough and silly–as this will have the opposite affect.

So, give your dog equal parts of discipline, exercise and affection and you’ll have a happy, well adjusted and calm dog on your hands.

 

The Siberian Husky

The Siberian husky has consistently ranked as one of America’s top 20 breeds.  As with other popular dog breeds, this has led to some overbreeding, and therefore—problems in the breed.

The “show quality” husky, which is the breed standard and hopefully, more true to the original character of the breed, is a compact dog with a free spirit and generally good temperament.  They do not make good watch dogs or guard dogs as they often don’t bark very much and are quite accepting of strangers.  Classic huskies are a light-footed and graceful breed.  They almost look too delicate to pull a sled and live outdoors in the snow—but are definitely not too delicate for either activity.  Huskies love to pull—it is their defining characteristic and their crowing glory.

Classic huskies can seem a little aloof due to their independent streak and slightly “wild spirit”. Most huskies, even the best trained, do not do well off-leash.  They tend to run—far and wide and come back only when they are good and ready.  They love to explore, especially in the woods or other natural areas.  This is not to say that huskies do not love their owners, they are just slightly different than a typical dog.   And, the usual disclaimer goes “all dogs are individuals and there are exceptions to every rule”.

Problems with overbreeding huskies include poor temperaments-especially in males, various health problems and a weakened character.  By this I mean, huskies (in general) are sissy’s when it comes to pain.  They will whine, scream and howl when pricked with a needle that most dogs will barely notice.    But I believe the low pain threshold may also be due to their “closer to the wild” nature.  Wild animals react much more strongly to minor stimuli than domestic animals and this could be a good survival tactic in the wild.

So, if you think you want a husky, consider the following issues for owning one.  A husky LOVES to pull and they do not leash train/heel easily.  They need tons of exercise to curb their boundless energy and strength and they do best when given plenty of exercise in natural areas where they can safely explore attacked to a long leash, in order to satisfy their burning curiosity and need to roam.  Huskies do not do well in high heat so in the summer, you will need to provide a cool place for your dog—air conditioning is a must.  If you live in a climate that is warm all the time, a husky may not be for you—if you want a truly happy dog.  Finally, in order for a husky to be a good pet and companion, they require some level of training and discipline. The thing I recommend for most husky owners is sled dog training or some sort of pulling class—wagons or whatever—and once they are trained—working them daily which will burn off their restless energy of the body and mind and allow them to focus more on their owners wishes.

If you can meet all the criteria and have a strong desire for this beautiful, ancient breed, then a husky could be for you!