Spring has sprung. Hello Rattlesnakes . . .

As the weather warms the rattlesnakes begin to move around, and after a long sleep, not only are they hungry, they are choc-full of dangerous venom. Curious dogs are bitten by rattlers every year. Rattlesnake venom can kill a dog in a matter of a few short hours if antivenom is not administered immediately following a bite. Given that treatment for rattlesnake bite is intensive, expensive, risky, and is no guarantee a bitten pet will survive, it makes sense to find a way to avoid bites altogether by training your dog to avoid snakes.

Rattlesnake training is important for dogs that live in areas where rattlesnakes are found, particularly in the southwest. While some snake aversion trainers use inhumane methods, such as shock collars, to teach dogs to avoid snakes, positive reinforcement training (as well as safety precautions while walking) can have the same result without inflicting cruelty on your dog.

Teaching the “Leave It” Command
Before you can teach your dog to avoid rattlesnakes, you’ll need to teach him or her the “Leave It” command. “Leave It” is a command that says to your dog, “Turn your nose and body away from that object immediately.” Start teaching “Leave It” with something of low value to your dog, such as a rock. Hold the rock in your hand and let your dog sniff it. Wait until the dog turns its nose away from your hand, then reward him or her with a small treat. Repeat this until your dog will sniff the rock then turn away from it to get a treat. Once your dog will turn away from an object to get a treat, give the behavior a name. Say, “Leave It!” as your dog turns away from the rock, then give praise and a treat. After a few repetitions, stop rewarding the behavior unless you’ve first given your verbal cue. Continue this training with progressively higher-value objects. Move up to a stick or an old toy. When your dog will turn away from these objects on cue, try getting your dog to turn away from a food treat. But be sure never to reward a dog with the food you just told him to turn away from. Always give a different treat as a reward.

Snake Avoidance Training
Purchase a realistic plastic snake. If possible, put it in a tank with a friend’s pet snake for a few days so it acquires the scent of a snake. Drop the toy snake on the floor and walk your leashed dog by it. As you approach the snake, command firmly, “Leave It!” If your dog turns away from the snake and looks to you for a treat, praise and reward the dog. If not, go back to Step 1 and practice for a few more training sessions, then try walking by the snake again. After your dog has learned to consistently turn away from the toy snake on cue when walking by it on a leash, you can increase the difficulty of the behavior. Have your dog sit on one side of the room while you stand on the other side, with the snake in the middle. Call your dog. As he approaches the snake toy, command “Leave It!” and give a big reward if your dog alters his course to avoid the snake. After this is accomplished, continue your rattlesnake training by periodically incorporating the toy into other training sessions and commanding your dog to turn away from it. Never allow the dog to approach, sniff or mouth the snake toy. Keep it out of your dog’s sight and reach when not in use.

The next step, if at all possible, is to acquire a recently shed rattlesnake skin and repeat the same steps you did with the toy snake. It may be difficult for most pet owners to procure a real snakeskin to work with, but it increases the impact of this type of snake avoidance training significantly. Ask a local rancher to keep an eye out for snakeskins and call you if they find one. To complete your snake avoidance training you should reinforce a fear response in your dog along with the command to “Leave It.” Repeat, preferably with the shed skin, the exercise in which you walk on leash toward the snake. When you get close have an assistant in another room drop some pots and pans on the floor with a loud crash. React with extreme fear to this stimulus, screaming and running away. If your dog thinks that you, the “pack leader,” are terrified, the dog will also respond with fear. Reward any fearful reaction with treats and praise. Repeat this exercise several times with the loud, scary noise. Once your dog is reacting with fear to the noise combined with the sight of the snake skin, try walking toward it then reacting with extreme fear to the sight of the snake skin, only without the noise. Repeat the process of rewarding any fearful response until your dog becomes reluctant to go anywhere near the snake. If you know a friend who owns a snake, repeat this process yet again with a live, non-venomous snake. Once your dog refuses to approach the snake and pulls away when you walk the leashed dog toward the snake, your training is complete. You’ll need to repeat these exercises periodically so the dog will remember to stay away from snakes.

Ongoing Rattlesnake Bite Avoidance
Training alone isn’t enough to prevent a bite—remember these important things:

• Keep your dog safe by keeping him on the leash, especially in areas where rattlesnakes may be present.

• Ask your veterinarian about the rattlesnake venom vaccine. Make sure you know where the nearest emergency vet clinic that stocks rattlesnake antivenom is located whenever you go hiking or camping.

• If you see a rattlesnake, don’t try to approach or kill it. Alter your own course to avoid the rattlesnake, and never encourage a dog to attack a snake of any kind.

Most rattlesnake bites occur when the snake is attacked by another animal or when it is about to be stepped on. A snake surprised in its den may also bite. Remember, your pet counts on you to keep it safe from harm. If you would like information regarding snake-proof training for your pet by a professional, check out this link:http://www.snakeproofing.com/index.html

Don’t let urine burn spots on your lawn burn you up!

Many of us work hard to keep a nice healthy lawn, and it can be really frustrating when letting our pets enjoy the yard can result in burned spots. If you have dogs, especially large female dogs, then you probably have had to deal with yellow or dead spots in your lawn that are created by their urine. It’s worse with female dogs, because they typically have stronger urine than males, and they tend to like to squat in the same spots, though yellow spots often occur with male dogs, too. (Life note: male dogs just lift a leg wherever they are at the moment, but the ladies try to remain a bit more organized in their elimination rituals.)

Your dog’s urine is highly acidic and can kill the grass it comes in contact with. This is similar to burning a lawn with too much fertilizer. One way to combat urine burn is to train your dog to do his business in one area of the yard that has been designated as his personal bathroom. It’s a good idea to segregate the bathroom spot with river pebbles, sand or even artificial turf. This way, you can clean it up easily, and the dog comes to know that that enclosed area is his potty. This can help when you travel and have to use small designated dog toileting spaces at rest areas. Since you’ve trained the dog not to pee in the house you may find that teaching him or her to potty in a specific area isjust another step along those same lines.

You can also take advantage of  products like Lawn Saver®, which is produced by 21st Century, that help to counteract the effects of dog urine on lawns. Lawn Saver helps you maintain a nice green lawn where your dogs live and play by reducing those ugly yellow spots caused by pet urine.

 

Does your dog act out? Why and how to crate train your dog or puppy.

During the first several months of  life, a dog must learn to feel secure in his environment. An insecure dog can develop problems that will negatively impact his ability to house train, cause cowering, digging, chewing and incessant barking. Adult dog behavior is shaped during the early stages of puppyhood. Many of the dogs that are placed in shelters or end up on the streets are a result of poor training on the owner’s part. Most problems with dogs can be prevented if proper direction is taken from the beginning. Invest a little of your time now, and  it will result in a much happier life for you and your canine companion.

Dogs are pack animals by nature and prefer a dark, small, den-like atmosphere as opposed to a huge open room that we humans would enjoy. Dog crates are simply a rectangular structure just big enough for the dog to lay down in. They should NOT be large enough for the dog to play in. The natural tendency to stay clean is a basic instinct. The crate becomes the den that humans took away when we domesticated dogs thousands of years ago.

Crates are primarily used for house-breaking puppies. But may also be used to train/retrain adult dogs as well. Crates are not cruel by any stretch of the imagination. It’s like an indoor den for you companion. Crates should NOT be used for long term confinement. More than 10 hours for any dog is too long to remain in a crate without being able to relieve his or herself. Once a schedule is set, dogs usually have an admirable ability to “hold it.” This time period must be gradually increased from puppyhood with proper training.

The First Steps:
When you bring your new puppy home, you should already have his/her crate set up with newspapers or a soft rug or towel. If your new puppy is younger than ten weeks old when you bring him home, I suggest placing an exercise pen around the crate. This will give him the advantage of not being shut up in the crate at an early stage for long periods of time. Puppies urinate immediately after waking up from a nap and defecate after every meal. This is EVERY time! Once they begin to mature (after 10-14 weeks of age), the length of time between urges “to go” becomes longer. At this stage they become ready to stay in their crates all day while you are at work and all night while you sleep. I will keep a toy or two in the crate but I don’t keep food or water as this will create a huge mess. As soon as they eat and drink they will need “to go” and if you are not home to let them out you’ll be very sorry and they will be very upset. It will also inadvertently teach them “to go” in the crate.

Puppies learn quickly not to relieve themselves in their den/crate. I keep thick layers of newspapers in the crate for the first month or so. Depending on how young the puppy is, it will more than likely urinate in the crate because he just can’t “hold it” as long as an older dog. If the puppy is fed and watered and taken outside before being crated you will have a much cleaner and happier puppy when you return home. Puppies grow very fast and usually within a month you can remove the papers from the crate and replace it with a soft rug or towel.

I usually have two crates per new puppy. One in the family room and one in my bedroom. Puppies should NOT be isolated just because they are in a crate. During the day when you can’t watch every move the new puppy makes he can be in the crate in the family room. But at night he will want to be with you for a secure feeling. And when he awakes in the night and needs to go out you will hear him if he’s in your bedroom.

When you sleep, your puppy should be in his crate with the door closed. He will wake you when the urge strikes. You need to take him out right then and there to further the crate training purpose. Your puppy will learn what you teach him. If you ignore the persistent crying to go out to relieve himself you will defeat the purpose of crating your puppy altogether. Puppies mature quickly and he will not have to get up in the middle of the night forever.

NEVER scold your puppy for soiling his crate. He counts on you to listen to him when he’s telling you he needs “to go.” Again, dogs are clean by nature and, left to their own devices, would leave the den to relieve themselves. ALWAYS praise your puppy EVERY time he “goes” outside. IF he does soil the crate, just get the puppy outside to finish his business, give him LOTS of praise, clean the crate, put the puppy back in the crate and go back to sleep.

Once your puppy has matured and is past the house-breaking period you may start to leave him out for longer periods. But you will want to continue the crating when you are away or cannot watch everything your puppy is doing for a while longer. Teething can be dangerous as well as costly if the puppy is allowed to be loose all the time. My new puppies are crated until they are totally trustworthy and understand what is allowed and what is not. This might be 6 months or it might be 2 years. Each dog is an individual and requires individual training. Once I am SURE the dog is trustworthy, I then start leaving them out when I am away for short periods of time. As long as everything is intact when I return, the next time will be a little longer. Eventually your dog will be able to be loose in the house all the time if you so desire.

It’s your responsibility to train your new pet with kindness, but firmness. NEVER spank your puppy. Remember–scolding or yelling at your puppy teaches it to fear you, causing it to act out with bad behavior. The rewards will be great once your well-behaved and trained puppy grows up, giving you years of enjoyment and companionship.

Do your dogs fight? Why this happens and what you can do.

Does this sound familiar? Maybe it’s time to take a look at why your own dogs have taken to fighting each other. As you think about your relationship with your dogs, see if you can recognize any of the following that could be evidence of your own sibling rivalry:

  • Competition for your attention. Have you noticed that when you are petting one dog, the other comes over and splits the two of you apart?
  • Fighting over who’s the boss. Usually two housemates of the same sex trying to exert their dominance over the other by controlling valuable assets like food, space, toys or your love and affection.
  • They will often times get into a fight exiting the back door when being let out to the yard to play or potty.
  • An initial poor introduction to each other. When you got the second dog, did you properly introduce them on neutral ground to optimize their success?
  • One dog having established territory and resenting the other as an intruder
  • Redirected Aggression. Do your dogs really want to attack the mailman or the dog next door? Not being able to get at their primary target to release this aggression often times causes them to turn on each other in frustration.


Remember, your dogs are pursuing aggression, not because they are not “nice”, but because aggression is:

  • Working for them to get them something they think they need, i.e., access to resources (food, space, articles of play and attention from you), status etc.
  • Working to keep someone or something away they desperately want kept away i.e. a housemate who would otherwise strike first

The actionable steps to develop a solid plan of action:

  1. Redefine your relationship with your dogs. Discover what have you and/or your family been or NOT been doing that may be contributing factors to your dogs fighting? Learn how to build a healthier relationship with your dogs by establishing better rules, boundaries and expectations. This will provide you with a stronger framework with which to begin working on your dog fighting problem. It’s going to be very important to examine your own relationship with your dogs. Have you been providing your dogs with the following:
  • Rules to follow
  • Boundaries to respect and,
  • Expectations of what to do and when to do it?

Are you aware that all dog behavior problems are usually stress related? What’s causing stress in your dogs?

  • Not enough or no consistent and predictable structure in your home?
  • Not providing your dogs with enough structured walks for exercise?
  • Too much doting?

Any one of these or other reasons can be causing stress in your dogs which in turn contributes to the fighting. Know that maintaining a healthy relationship is critical for long term success in keeping stress to a minimum and keeping peace in the pack. The rules you establish today must be reinforced tomorrow.

Before you begin to work on resolving the issues between your dogs, fix the relationship between you and your dogs.

2. Strengthen your dog’s obedience commands. Receiving a fast response to obedience commands from your dogs – especially in the presence of each other is critical to the success of your program. Responding to your commands gives your dogs a sense of working for you rather than you following their lead.

Do you know how to be successful here? Clear expectations by your dogs, of what to do and when to do it (obedience training) will begin to foster more pleasant experiences in each other’s company. It relieves stress. And less stress equals less fighting — eventually. The more stress you can eliminate, the easier this will be to accomplish. In the meantime, keep fighting from recurring while you are in the process of fixing issues between your dogs. Keeping dogs and people safe should be your #1 priority. You can do this by using crates, gates or keep them separated with leashes if in the same room together.

Important Tips When Shopping for a Dog Collar

When you go to the pet store to purchase a collar for your dog the selection can be overwhelming. Friends, family, and neighbors, as well as the clerk at the store you shop in, may have advice as to what type of collar and leash may work best for your dog. But in the end it’s up to you to make the right choice for you and your dog. There are certainly many colors, materials, and styles available to select from, so finding the safest and best dog collar should be easy if you stop to consider a few factors before you buy. And that starts with measuring the diameter of your dog’s neck before you ever leave the house to shop!

The four most desirable features when shopping for a dog collar are size, ability to clean, durability and safety. Depending on the size of your dog, especially if your dog is a puppy, you may need a collar that adjusts easily as he grows, or you might choose one for him as a puppy and another for him at his adult size. Look for dog collars that can include your pet’s name and your contact number just in case he is lost or gets away from you. Consider reflective materials if you plan to walk your dog at night.

The ideal fit should allow for one to three fingers to fit between your dog’s neck and the collar, depending on the size of your dog:
• If your dog is very small, (under 20 pounds), leave only one finger’s width between the collar and his neck.
• If you have an average, medium-sized dog, go for a two-finger fit.
• If your dog is very large, a three-finger fit may be better.

Dog Collar Styles
“Slip” or “choke” style dog collars consist of a length of leather, nylon or chain link, with rings on each end. They are used as training collars, and the concept is to snap the collar to “correct” the dog. Choke collars work on the principle of punishment, and many trainers now recommend a purely “reward-based” training. They are NOT to be used as everyday collars. Choke collars should NEVER be used on toy dogs or dogs weighting less than 20 pounds.

“Pinch” or ”prong-training” dog collars are appointed with blunt prongs that face the dog’s neck. They are controversial because they dig into the dog’s flesh, although some experienced trainers find them useful in dealing with large, powerful dogs. NEVER use a pinch or prong collar as an everyday collar or put one on your dog because you think it makes your dog look mean or tough.

Electric “shock collars” are NOT recommended for puppies. While useful in specialized training environments, such as field training of gun dogs by experienced handlers, shock collars should NEVER be used by inexperienced or impatient pet owners as a substitute for proper training, discipline, or socialization. Improperly used, they can do more harm than good.

Head halters and body harnesses are similar to what you’d find used on a horse. Head halters wrap around the dog’s mouth just in front of his eyes like a muzzle. However, the dog is still able to drink water, bark, and bite; it doesn’t keep his mouth closed. Body harnesses wrap around the body rather than the neck. Some people consider this to be a more humane dog collar, however, you should consider how well it will work in helping you to train your particular dog. Body harnesses are ideal for small or toy dogs.

The traditional body harness fits across the dog’s chest and the leash hooks on his back between the shoulder blades. This type of harness stops the dog from coughing and choking because it takes the pressure off of his trachea, but the pressure is still felt at the dog’s chest and that reflexive instinct is still there. With the pressure distributed across the chest most dogs pull harder. The body harness that works best is a front-clip harness. This harness easily slips over the dog’s head and buckles behind the front legs, the difference is that the leash hooks on the front of the dog, at the middle of the chest. This simple change in design changes the pressure from the front of the dog to the side of the dog removing the natural feeling for the dog to lean into the pressure.

Leather is a good choice for a dog collar; however, many dogs are dedicated leather-chewers. If your dog spends a lot of time around other canines, check the collar frequently for signs of chewing damage and replace right away if necessary.

If you choose the right collar or harness for your dog walking him will be more fun for you both. Now go get that leash, put your new collar on your dog, and enjoy a walk with your pet!

Rattlesnake Training for Your Dog

Rattlesnake training is important for dogs that live in areas where rattlesnakes are found, especially in the southwest. Rattlesnake venom can kill a dog in a matter of a few short hours if antivenom is not administered immediately following a bite. Treatment with antivenom is expensive and risky, so it’s best to avoid bites altogether by training your dog to avoid snakes. While some snake aversion trainers use inhumane methods, such as shock collars, to teach dogs to avoid snakes, positive reinforcement training (as well as safety precautions while walking) can have the same result without inflicting cruelty on your dog.

Teaching the “Leave It” Command
Before you can teach your dog to avoid rattlesnakes, you’ll need to teach him or her the “Leave It” command. “Leave It” is a command that says to your dog, “Turn your nose and body away from that object immediately.” Start teaching “Leave It” with something of low value to your dog, such as a rock. Hold the rock in your hand and let your dog sniff it. Wait until the dog turns its nose away from your hand, then reward him or her with a small treat. Repeat this until your dog will sniff the rock then turn away from it to get a treat. Once your dog will turn away from an object to get a treat, give the behavior a name. Say, “Leave It!” as your dog turns away from the rock, then give praise and a treat. After a few repetitions, stop rewarding the behavior unless you’ve first given your verbal cue. Continue this training with progressively higher-value objects. Move up to a stick or an old toy. When your dog will turn away from these objects on cue, try getting your dog to turn away from a food treat. But be sure never to reward a dog with the food you just told him to turn away from. Always give a different treat as a reward.

Snake Avoidance Training
Purchase a realistic plastic snake. If possible, put it in a tank with a friend’s pet snake for a few days so it acquires the scent of a snake. Drop the toy snake on the floor and walk your leashed dog by it. As you approach the snake, command firmly, “Leave It!” If your dog turns away from the snake and looks to you for a treat, praise and reward the dog. If not, go back to Step 1 and practice for a few more training sessions, then try walking by the snake again. After your dog has learned to consistently turn away from the toy snake on cue when walking by it on a leash, you can increase the difficulty of the behavior. Have your dog sit on one side of the room while you stand on the other side, with the snake in the middle. Call your dog. As he approaches the snake toy, command “Leave It!” and give a big reward if your dog alters his course to avoid the snake. After this is accomplished, continue your rattlesnake training by periodically incorporating the toy into other training sessions and commanding your dog to turn away from it. Never allow the dog to approach, sniff or mouth the snake toy. Keep it out of your dog’s sight and reach when not in use.

The next step, if at all possible, is to acquire a recently shed rattlesnake skin and repeat the same steps you did with the toy snake. It may be difficult for most pet owners to procure a real snakeskin to work with, but it increases the impact of this type of snake avoidance training significantly. Ask a local rancher to keep an eye out for snakeskins and call you if they find one. To complete your snake avoidance training you should reinforce a fear response in your dog along with the command to “Leave It.” Repeat, preferably with the shed skin, the exercise in which you walk on leash toward the snake. When you get close have an assistant in another room drop some pots and pans on the floor with a loud crash. React with extreme fear to this stimulus, screaming and running away. If your dog thinks that you, the “pack leader,” are terrified, the dog will also respond with fear. Reward any fearful reaction with treats and praise. Repeat this exercise several times with the loud, scary noise. Once your dog is reacting with fear to the noise combined with the sight of the snake skin, try walking toward it then reacting with extreme fear to the sight of the snake skin, only without the noise. Repeat the process of rewarding any fearful response until your dog becomes reluctant to go anywhere near the snake. If you know a friend who owns a snake, repeat this process yet again with a live, non-venomous snake. Once your dog refuses to approach the snake and pulls away when you walk the leashed dog toward the snake, your training is complete. You’ll need to repeat these exercises periodically so the dog will remember to stay away from snakes.

Ongoing Rattlesnake Bite Avoidance
Training alone isn’t enough to prevent a bite—remember these important things:

• Keep your dog safe by keeping him on the leash, especially in areas where rattlesnakes may be present.

• Ask your veterinarian about the rattlesnake venom vaccine. Make sure you know where the nearest emergency vet clinic that stocks rattlesnake antivenom is located whenever you go hiking or camping.

• If you see a rattlesnake, don’t try to approach or kill it. Alter your own course to avoid the rattlesnake, and never encourage a dog to attack a snake of any kind.

Most rattlesnake bites occur when the snake is attacked by another animal or when it is about to be stepped on. A snake surprised in its den may also bite. Remember, your pet counts on you to keep it safe from harm. If you would like information regarding snake-proof training for your pet by a professional, check out this link:http://www.snakeproofing.com/index.html

Cat Spraying: Why Do They Do It?

Cat SprayingOk, so there are several good reasons why cats like to spray, but why do they suddenly start doing it when they never have before? Unfortunately, a cat spraying urine indoors is fairly common. Knowing this doesn’t make the job of cleaning it up any easier. So what’s going on? There’s a difference between a cat spraying and a cat urinating outside of their litter box. When your cat sprays small amounts of urine in the house, he’s marking out his territory. It has nothing to do with house training; it’s everything to do with letting everyone know “You are now entering my home. This bit’s mine…and so is this…this is mine too!”

Cat spraying also takes place as part of the sexual reproduction cycle. A cat can broadcast to all other cats in the vicinity that they are available for mating.

Some Common Explanations for Spraying

– Stress or anxiety: A new house, either a change of location or even a renovation can be enough.
– A new addition to the family: This could be a new baby. It could also be a new kitten, pup or other animal.
– A reduction in attention: Do you have a new job, friend, hobby that is taking up more of your time?
Continue reading

How to Deter Pet Furniture Scratching

Stop Cat ScratchingCats scratch things to mark their territories, exercise, and they like the way it feels. Cats tend to scratch, seemingly, anything that does the job, and this may sometimes include your expensive couch. So, how do you stop them from tearing up your house?

Buy A Spray Bottle
Buying a spray bottle and filling it up with water works wonders. These are typically found at most stores. Most every cat hates water, so getting a blast of it when they are scratching something that they shouldn’t be will teach them pretty quickly. If you have a cat that loves water, this method most likely won’t work too well. I have also found that sometimes when you start this method when the cats are kittens, they may begin to not mind the water at all.

Deter Cat ScratchingCitrus
Cats do not like the smell of citrus. To prove this, let your cat smell some citrus fruit. My cats make the ‘you really expect me to eat that?’ face and back away. So, you could try making the area that they scratch smell like citrus. This may not stop all cats, but it will definitely make them not enjoy scratching those areas as much.

Scratching Posts
Cat furniture and scratching posts are an excellent way to prevent cats from scratching up furniture, and it provides them with their own area. As you may have noticed, the multiple surfaced cat scratching posts are quite expensive. They do sell smaller and more affordable ones that your cat will probably love just as much. If you are a crafty person and have some time, you can also make your own. It’s not too terribly hard, and you might be able make a much cooler one than the ones in the store.