Friday, June 3, 2011

Cropping & Docking

The Dilemma

One of the most controversial issues between owners of large breed dogs is the issue of whether or not to dock tails and crop ears.  Some people say it is unethical and harmful to a dog’s wellbeing.  While others, including the American Kennel Club, actually specifies that certain dog breeds must have their tails docked to compete in shows.   Breeds such as Pitbulls, Dobermans, Great Danes, Cane Corsos, and Boxers are given a completely different look without their ears cropped.  A couple I know recently got a Cane Corso because they wanted a large, “mean” looking dog.  At first they demanded that the pup’s tail docked and then eventually ears cropped because this was the only way they could achieve the look they wanted; however, a week after they got their new puppy, they were convinced out of cropping the puppy’s ears by the many animal activists in their apartment building.  Without the ears cropped, many people mistake their $1,500 Cane Corso, which is an exotic, Italian mastiff, for a common Black Laborador. 

Cane Corso with cropped ears
Cane Corso with natural ears

The Pros

There have been proven benefits to cropping ears and docking tails.  Other than cosmetic reasons, it can actually help your puppy in the long run if you chose to do so.  The main thing to remember is that tail docking is something you must talk to about with the breeder.  Tail docking is possible when the puppy matures, however it is usually done before the puppy is a week old because it can be a painful procedure later in life.  Ear cropping is completely up to the owner, however many breeders will do this before you receive your puppy.  It is best for the puppy if it is done between the ages of 7-12 weeks. 

Tail docking has been shown to be better for working dogs because as they get older, they are more prone to injuring their tail.  With many of these dogs, veterinarians will have to dock the tail as the dog gets older and it’s tail gets frailer, which is more of a traumatic experience.  This can be avoided by simply have the tail docked at birth, when the puppy will not have any recollection of the surgery.  Ear cropping is also something that can benefit your dog’s wellbeing.  Many dogs with large ears, such as Great Danes and Cane Corsos, are prone to ear infection because their natural ears reduce the amount of light and air and increase the amount of moisture and bacteria.  This makes the dog more prone to ear infections which can lead to deafness.  Cropping on hunting dogs and guard dogs also helps the dog hear better, and in turn work better. 

Ffor all you new puppy owners who are considering cropping your dogs ears or getting it’s tail docked, just remember that the choice is completely up to you and that if you have a good vet, you will have good results as well.   

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Does Your Dog Match You?

Make Sure Your Pup Fits Your Lifestyle

When the decision has finally been made to bring a new dog into your home a lot of people choose what kind of dog they want based on the wrong factors. Most of us will choose a dog or puppy based on how cute they are, breeds that are familiar, breeds that we had as children etc and most of us will also not choose the right dog for our unique lifestyle. Selecting the right dog breed can mean the difference between having a new canine best friend that you will never regret, and being the next person begging Cesar Millan for help on the newest episode of The Dog Whisperer. So how do you pick a dog that you know will match your lifestyle perfectly? Well, the best way is to research all of the different breeds of dogs and use that as a base for determining which pup to choose.

Dont Pick The Wrong Dog For The Job

First off, the potential owner needs to really make an objective assessment of themselves, their lifestyle, and their wants/needs from their dog. For example if all you want is a lazy couch potato to look cute and not be too energetic you would buy a different dog than a person who is a marathon runner and wants a running companion to always have plenty of energy and keep up with them. In general the bigger and heavier a dog is the less energy they have, so small toy dogs normally equal a big frenzy of energy and larger heavier dogs equal a lump of fur that doesn’t move from the couch very often. Other than size another factor that contributes to how active a dog will be is the shape of their muzzle, which varies depending on breed. The reason that this matters is that depending on whether a dog’s muzzle is upturned and short or long and straight they will be able to either breath better or breath worse, and as we all know air is the source of energy so therefore a dog who has a harder time getting more air, such as a English Bulldog, will mean a dog who is not as active and energetic as a dog with a straight long muzzle, such as a Collie, who can breath much easier and take in more air. Obviously there are more factors that can be taken into account when selecting the right dog for your home such as breeds that are known for aggression or friendliness, however I believe that by selecting a dog whose energy levels match that of your own you will have a better chance of finding an equal canine counterpart who will not drive you crazy and who you will not regret bring into your home. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

There Is No Security, Like Dog Security

All Dogs provide Security

In all of my previous entries I discuss how you can take care/provide for your dog, however for this entry I will be talking about how your pup can take care of you. I believe that even with all of our technical advances there really isn’t any 100% guarantee for protection in the home or on the street. Police, security systems, even guns aren’t really all that great at prevent an attacker from attacking or neutralizing them when aggression is shown, however a dog, especially certain breeds, can be all the protection you need. For security inside of the home it doesn’t matter wether you have a Chihuahua or a Mastiff any dog will serve as a great alarm system by barking at any potential criminals trying to enter and this will both wake you up and most likely deter the criminal from wanting to continue breaking into your house. Now on the street it is a little different because generally speaking smaller and less ferocious looking dogs will not intimidate potential attacks enough to keep them away, however certain breeds (and any very large dog) will make potential attacks choose another victim.

Breeds That Excel at Security 

There are tons of different lists online of “best security dogs, most intimidating dogs, etc” however I am going to just give a quick overview of the breeds that I think work best for security purposes. Right off the bat I have to say bully breeds are probably the best for intimidating potential attackers and keeping their owners safe, this means pitbulls, bulldogs, and mastiffs. Though there are certainly more dogs that have stronger bites and even better protection instincts than bully breed dogs, the intimidation that bull breeds demand is truly amazing and in my opinion are best for protection because their intimidating demeanor keeps attacks from ever happening in the first place. When considering a dog for protection there has been one breed that stands out above the rest and his been described by many as the Cadillac of security dogs, I am of course talking about the German Shepherd. German Shepherds are universally recognized as police dogs, and have the bark, bite, and instincts to provide some of the best protection any owner could hope for. In addition to bully breeds and German Shepherds nearly any large dog will fulfill the role of a protector against potential attackers. Obviously (hopefully) most of us aren’t buying our dogs with security in mind, however when questioning your own security, be it in the home or on the street, don’t ever underestimate your furry companion because the truth is he/she can provide you more instant security than an alarm system, police, pepper spray, tasers, or even a gun. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Collar Vs Harness

Don't Make Your Pup Scream Help!!!

For the longest time I was not very fond of using a harness for dogs, for the simple fact that I believed the handler had more control if he/she is using a collar. However, I do not claim to know everything there is to know about dog owning/handing/training and therefore I too am learning knew things everyday. I recently switched my American Bulldog, Jane, from a collar to a harness and she is actually responding quite well to it. So in this entry I am going to give a quick run down of collars and harnesses, as well as an acknowledgment of a few specialized collars/harnesses that I think are innovative and helpful.

Make Them Say Thank You

I believe that the number 1 downside of using a collar of any type is that you are leading your dog around by their neck, and depending on how much your pup pulls you could end up choking them on a regular basis. This choking can be even more exacerbated by the use of slip collars and choke chains, which I really don’t suggest unless you have trained your dog to be at a point where he or she will walk without pulling what so ever. However getting your dog to walk perfectly without pulling takes some time and unless your Cesar Millan (who we all know can train any dog in 30 minutes) the best option for all us normal people is the harness. Harnesses come in all different styles, colors, and specialty makes however at their base they are all pretty much the same, two straps go over your dogs shoulders like suspenders and one goes around their waist like a belt and then everything connects at the top of their back and that is where you hook the leash on. With dogs that pull they are a Godsend and can really help to not only walk your dog, but also walk him or her without the guilt of constantly choking your pet. Just like with collars there are a couple specialty harnesses that do different things, such as a harness which gets tighter around the chest the more the dog pulls so that it acts almost as a choke collar would but instead of the tension being around your dogs neck it is instead around their chest, which is a bit less sensitive. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Discipline…. Need I Say More?

The Problem
Today’s blog is going to be about an aspect of dog training and owning a dog that most people love to avoid, discipline. Many people view their dogs as something that should be loved and nothing else, or are so caught up on how cute their pup is that no matter what their furry friend does they see it as cute and do not ever discipline their animal. First and foremost, discipline is not just for the human it is actually many for the dog’s mental health and well-being. Dog’s need discipline and in fact in the wild dog’s choose a pack leader so that he/she will lead them and provide the similar discipline to what the dog received as a puppy from their mother. Without rules and boundaries dog’s cannot be happy, and will become mentally unstable the only problem is how do we discipline our dogs without physically hurting the pet that we love so much.

The Solution
I am a firm believe in what I call “the touch”. The touch has been coined by Cesar Milan in many of his Dog Whisperer episodes, the idea of it is that instead of hitting your dog or spanking them when they do unwanted activity the owner instead makes his/her hand into a claw type formation mimicking the teeth and mouth that a dog would normally use, to quickly and firmly poke the dog in a sensitive area in an effort to get the dogs attention and let them understand that what they are doing is unwanted. Though the touch is to be firm and pinching it does not hurt the dog and should not be used with hurting the dog in mind. Every dog has a different spot on their body where they are sensitive and thus more receptive to the touch, as to finding the spot, that is the job of the handler to go about the trail and error process. If done correctly the touch is honestly the only disciplinary tool any handler needs in order to communicate properly with their dog. Many people have different idea and products to do exactly what the touch does (bottles of water, clickers, dog whistles) however in my experience, it is best to not use an outside tool, because when you don’t have that tool you loose all power in your dog’s eyes and this is never good in forming the submissive relationship that you want with your dog. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Potty Training…. The Right Way

The Challenge 

Probably the biggest challenge to owning any dog, and especially owning a dog in the city is potty training. Obviously it is very important for your canine companion to know the difference between using the bathroom outside as opposed to inside on your rug/carpet/hardwood floor etc, and the process of making your pup understand this distinction can be a tiring one, but if you follow these steps you can get your dog potty trained as soon as possible.

The Process

When you pup is really young (8 weeks-12 weeks) your best bet is probably to get them pee pad trained first so you can save yourself a little bit of sanity, because they are going to be going to the bathroom constantly and without pee pads it will be very challenging to try and get them outside each time. After your pup is about 3 months old however you need to start getting them outside to use the bathroom as much as possible so they can get used to it. I found that the key to potty training my dogs was to anticipate their bathroom needs based on when I give them food and water. A lot of people mess up at this point, because they give their dogs access to food and water 24 hours a day, however for potty training purposes I suggest feeding and watering your pup 3-5 times a day and making sure to take the food and water away after about 30 minutes then about 5-10 minutes later take them outside to go to the bathroom and eventually they will make the distinction and realize that outside is the place to go. Now when your dog does have an accident inside, which will happen, its important to not get too angry and yell because your dog really does not understand why you are even upset, in their mind the choice was simple they had to go, they went, they feel better now. When your pup has an accident I found that the best way to handle it is a simple and gentle spanking and then a THOROUGH clean up of the mess. I capitalized “thorough” because getting all the smells and mess up is by far the most important part of potty training. Dogs see everything through their nose and if their nose smells pee or poop in an area, they will not think twice before using that area to go to the bathroom again. Eventually, if you keep with these simple instructions you are going to have a dog that will not have accidents and who eventually you can trust to not soil your home whether your watching him/her or not, and once potty training is over all that’s left is to enjoy the friendship and love of your four legged companion. 

Crate Training… God’s Gift to Dog Owners

The Pro’s

Crate training is something that I am a very big believer in, however seems to be somewhat of a controversial issue with a lot of dog owners. Many people view locking their dog in a crate as cruel, however this is quite the contrary. Dogs are den creatures, so they enjoy and actually need a small space that they can call their own for sleep and to feel safe. If you try and look at things from your dog’s point of view, sleeping without a crate would be like sleeping outside for us. As well as being healthy for your dog physically and psychologically, crating your pup can insure that none of your personal objects get chewed or destroyed, and can be very helpful when potty training because dogs do not like to use the bathroom in their crates.

How To

Now, there is a little bit more to crating your dog then just buying a crate and expecting them to go in there and be quiet for 7 hours, you have to train your dog to live in their crate. First thing is first, the best way to get your pup to enjoy their new home is by putting their food in their crate for a while so they will associate the crate to happy feelings. To begin with you should keep your dogs crate somewhere close to you like the couch, so that they don’t feel like they are all alone when they go in there, this should take away any potential whining or crying that your dog might do at first. Personally, I like to cover my dogs crates at least partially with a blanket or towel just to help them sleep and keep some of the lights and sounds out, but a lot of people really just don’t like to do this, so it is your choice. If you follow these few simple steps within a week or two your dog will be sleeping in his/her crate and you will never have to worry about waking up to any pee puddles or chewed up furniture, however always remember not to ever use the dog’s crate as a place of punishment because this will circumvent all of the training that you have done and your pet will no longer see their crate as a good place but rather relate it with bad feelings and will not want to be in there.