Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Monday, July 16, 2012
A few years ago I discovered decals made to notify emergency responders of any pets in the building. These decals can be placed on your front window or door, and give you space to write the number of dogs in your house to help ensure they are rescued in the event of an emergency. Of course, I loved this idea! My animals are like family to me, and I would hate to lose another beloved pet to a fire. Immediately I ordered one online (you can get them free through the ASPCA, or purchase one at your local pet specialty shop).
As you may know, one of my brothers is a firefighter, so I turn to him for all fire-related questions. One day we were talking about dogs in emergency situations, and how a normally docile dog may turn violent or aggressive when surrounded by the stress of a fire, first responders in full gear, sirens, etc. He explained from a fire fighter’s perspective the first priorities are saving human lives and putting out the blaze to save the building, but they do try to save animals, when they can. Many fire trucks are even equipped with oxygen masks for dogs to combat smoke inhalation. When I learned this I asked his thoughts on these decals, mentioning I always keep one in clear sight at the entrance to my house.
I was saddened to learn that decals like this are rarely noticed or relied upon by fire fighters… of course, this could be different for each department or area. He told me in the event of a fire the firefighters are focused on clearing the building and putting out the fire. With this in mind, they do everything possible to search for lives (including pets), but it is unlikely they would have the time to look for said decal in such instances.
I’ve blogged about the decals in the past, and I will continue to hang a decal notifying emergency crews of my animals, but I now have a more realistic view of how effective this tool is in saving the lives of my pets in a blaze. Fires are terrifying, and I pray none of my readers ever has to go through one, but there are some tools you can have in place. Practice for an emergency. Plan your exit strategies, and factor your pets into them. My brother said practicing is far and away the best preparation tool! Keep collars and leashes in an easily accessible place, but also keep in mind you may not be able to access that spot in a blaze. Your first priority should always be getting you and other humans out, but if time allows do try to bring your pets with you. As fires are an incredibly high stress situation for pets, work on socialization and obedience with distractions. Take your dogs places they may encounter loud noises, sirens, or people in full gear and practice your basic obedience. The last thing you want is your dog to hide in fear during an emergency like this. So work heavily on your recall, as well as your stay command.
Monday, July 9, 2012
You may remember I purchased Hush as my first show dog, and while conformation has been put on the back burner (for the time being), that is still my ultimate goal with her. In the meantime, I’ve found I absolutely love obedience, and am working towards getting her ready for competition! At the end of last summer/early fall, I began taking basic obedience classes with Hush at the Mt. Vernon Dog Training Club, a wonderful group that runs incredible (and affordable!) classes out of the basement of a church in Old Town Alexandria. Between classes, I do a lot of practicing with both dogs. Here are Hush and Milly in a sit stay while on a walk with considerable distractions (children playing on the sidewalk, cars, and the dreaded squirrel!). I love our practice time almost as much as our class time, as the improvements are so apparent in my daily living!
Basic went very well – we took an 8 week course where no treats were allowed, and this put a great foundation on her (you may remember I took the same course with Milly). Treats are an incredible tool, but I have become a firm believer in needing to know how to get your dog to perform both with and without treat-based rewards. By not having treats in class, I was able to really hone my skills as a handler, and learn the importance of verbal and physical queues, and most important, verbal and physical praise! The lack of treats in a very distraction filled class enabled me to be firm when necessary, and produced great results – particularly with her sit and stays.
At the end of the 8 week course, Hush graduated alongside Evan, my best friend Eileen’s dog. This was a great milestone, and we hosted a graduation party for our dogs at Jay’s Saloon and Grill in Clarendon (a section of Arlington, VA for those non-DC readers). The doggie graduation party was a blast for both people and dogs, and was well attended by friends and canines alike. Yappy hours and restaurants with outdoor/dog friendly seating are always fun and a good way to reinforce obedience with a multitude of distractions… so graduation was a perfect excuse to get everyone out to celebrate! Here are some pictures from the patio of Jay's saloon on graduation! Hush is the golden and Evan is that handsome boy in the natural tuxedo! They're BFF - which makes obedience class even more fun and challenging - talk about a MAJOR DISTRACTION when your dog is in a down-stay, you're 30 feet away, and their best friend walks by in a loose leash heal!
After basic, we continued obedience classes and moved up into the advanced basic course – the goal of this course was to prepare owners and dogs for the AKC Canine Good Citizen test. Advanced Basic was a 10-week course, where treats were allowed. The class reinforced and perfected everything we learned in the basic course, and incorporated more distractions and exercises geared towards passing the CGC test.
All dogs learn at different paces, and Hush is no exception. She has always been a dog that takes quickly to certain things, and seemingly takes forever to understand other concepts. For Hush, “down” is one of those areas that she and I both struggled greatly with. In basic, this was the hardest thing for us, and that struggle continued through advanced basic. Down is a very submissive command, where the handler is exhibiting a great deal of authority over the dog, and the dog is being asked to go into a very vulnerable position. It was less that Hush was not obeying or resisting me, and more that she just could not figure out what I wanted her to do. Luckily, Mt. Vernon Dog Training Club is run by incredible volunteers, and each teacher spent considerable one-on-one time with us working on this.
On the final day of class, we took the Canine Good Citizen test, and Hush went into a perfect down. For us, down stay is easy, but getting that down is hard. The rest of the test included walking in a crowd, meeting a stranger with a strange dog, sit and down, sit and down stays, loose leash walking, an off-leash recall (with a 20 foot rope dragging behind for safety purposes), and being left with a friendly stranger while the owner is out of sight for 2 minutes. Hush was perfect, and passed with flying colors! We received both an official certificate from the AKC, and our first ribbon (from MVDTC) upon graduation. While the Canine Good Citizen is a certificate and not a title, many dog enthusiasts like to include it as a suffix to their dog’s name, where you would also include your title abbreviations as you earn them. I can’t tell you the sense of pride I had as I updated Hush’s pedigree on K9Data.com to include her CGC. With the updated suffix, I decided to include a more grown up picture of her, as well. You can check it out here. And remember, those Golden Retriever and lab owners can use K9data.com to research your dog's pedigree! Is your dog not on there already? Do you know your dogs parents? Or have a copy of their pedigree? If so, you can enter your dog yourself!
So where are we now? After the advanced basic course, we continued with obedience, taking the Pre-Novice course, but as luck would have it, Hush went into heat for the majority of the Pre-Novice course. Because of this, I requested I retake the class to continue to solidify basics. The great thing is MVDTC lets you re-take Pre-Novice up to three times. Hush is no longer in heat, and we're about 3/4 through Pre-Novice, we have learned so many new things – and perfected those we already know (like the dreaded down!). I am currently finishing up this level of courses, and will hopefully graduate and move to MVDTC Burke location, where we’ll work each week at the Novice level until we're ready to compete! I am one step away from seriously training for competition with Hush, and I am so excited and proud!
Friday, June 29, 2012
Monday, June 18, 2012
Friday, April 13, 2012
The stigma is there, and the trend is apparent on multiple levels. Many families now refer to the act of purchasing a puppy from a breeder as “adopting from a breeder,” and it’s no coincidence considering we live in a culture that exalts adoption of homeless animals while condemning breeding. In fact, the very language of “adoption” vs. “ownership” humanizes our pets. It is no coincidence, either. Animal rights groups push heavily to shift the language used when referring to our pets. No longer does a family own a dog, but the dog is part of the family, a “furbaby,” as some say. In the sanctity of my home, I consider my animals to be family. To the public, however, the language I choose to use is one of ownership. I own two dogs: one I adopted from a local shelter, and one I purchased from a breeder. Most people do not realize the true agenda of the animal rights movement is to take away ownership rights and instead create a guardianship – essentially giving animals the same legal rights as people, the implications of which are simply terrifying. Recently, headway was made to stop this in Missouri with two measures – one promoting proper legal status of animals, and the other promoting responsible breeding - both passed Missouri committees and are now awaiting votes by the Missouri House of Representatives. Unfortunately, this headway is just a drop in the bucket as vague animal rights legislation is currently pending in numerous states. Often times, this legislation is masked with good intentions, and the potential loopholes go unnoticed.
Log into Facebook and take a look at the over 36,000 people who have “liked” the Stop Puppy Mills page. Perhaps you are one of them, or maybe you know one of the fans of this page. The term Puppy Mill is a loaded term, one that connotes concentration camp like facilities where dogs are bred with little to no regard for animal welfare, and money-hungry breeders treat animals as commodities, disposable only when their reproductive organs fail, and profits run dry. With mental images like this, it is quite easy to click the like button on that page. In the same vein, it is easy to vote to support legislation that promises to end Puppy Mills by limiting the number of dogs a breeder can own. Or to vote yes on a measure claiming mandatory spay and neuter laws will reduce the number of animals in shelters.
On September 11, 2001 terrorists attacked the United States. In the days the following the attacks, brave men and women searched for survivors, but there were places humans could not go and rescue crews relied on specially trained search and rescue dogs to find survivors, and recover victims. How is this related to animal legislation, specifically “Puppy Mill” bills? The first rescue dog to enter the Pentagon after September 11 was trained at Deep Run Farm, a breeding and training facility for Labradors located just outside Fredericksburg, VA. What you will find at Deep Run Farm is a fulltime staff devoted to the training, wellbeing, and breeding of numerous Labrador Retrievers. When I visited the farm there were over 60 adult dogs onsite, 30 puppies, and a litter on the way – breeds onsite included Labradors, Norfolk and Norwich Terriers, and Affenpinschers, along with a handful of other breeds. The farm itself is the ClubMed of the retriever world – an all-inclusive facility with activities (or training) from agility to waterfowl retrieving, situated on over 100 acres. Continuing with top notch all-inclusive service, an onsite canine chiropractor keeps dogs limber, the breeding program is led by a renowned reproductive vet, and the training program is held in such high esteem the kennel owners’ and the dogs they bred were used in a demonstration for the Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus on Capitol Hill. Beyond the plush settings, the knowledge and love of animals found at this kennel is unparalleled – with countless champion hunting, show, obedience and agility dogs, along with service dogs and rescue dogs – serving as testament to their success. Is this a Puppy Mill? The animal rights movement would probably say it is based on the variety of breeds bred at this one kennel, the number of dogs on premises, the number of litters on the ground each year, and the number of intact dogs there, including many used for stud.
The animal rights movement, led by groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), routinely lobby for legislation to limit the number of intact dogs a breeder can own, limit the number of dogs that can live at a kennel, limit the number of litters a breeder can breed each year, push for mandatory spay and neuter laws for pet owners, and much more. Responsible, well-respected experts, like Deep Run Farm, would be considered high volume breeders, perhaps even a Puppy Mill by the masterminds behind the animal rights movement. When in actuality, successful dog enthusiasts, like those who breed top hunting dogs, provide a haven for animals and devote their lives to bettering specific breeds – both in temperament, structure, and health. When a person reads “Stop Puppy Mills” on a social media outlet, or worse, their ballot, are they going to know the current animal welfare laws in place? Will they realize their state most likely already has laws in place protecting animals, laws simply needing to be enforced? Will the person read the full bill they are voting for, or be able to place the initiative into a meaningful context where the full implications of the law are understood? Doubtful, and the groups waging heavily for such legislation do not want voters to be informed on the issues, they want voters to read or hear the words “Puppy Mill” or “Breeder” and think of neglect and greed, not places like Deep Run Farm.
A perfect example, are the bills currently pending in the Iowa Senate to significantly restrict “commercial breeders” abilities to continue to own and breed dogs. Current Iowa law defines a commercial breeder as “anyone who owns at least four intact dogs or cats and receives a consideration for breeding.” Under proposed legislation, breeders would be forced to adhere to strict permitting guidelines, specifically when permits expire or are revoked. To further infringe upon breeders rights, permits could be revoked without hearings, under these bills. If a commercial breeder’s permit were to expire, the breeder would have only 45 days to obtain a new permit, or get rid of (by giving away, euthanizing, or selling) dogs, or sterilize their dogs. The American Kennel Club (AKC) is adamantly opposed to this legislation, because these bills would make it virtually impossible for small hobby breeders to continue to breed dogs.
Another example is Missouri, where in 2010 the animal rights movement fought heavily to ban Puppy Mills under Proposition B. As they pushed for the ballot measure to pass, the groups relied heavily on depressing images of neglected animals in cramped cages to pull at the heartstrings of voters. They told voters under this bill animals would be required to have access to food and water, and dogs would have enough room to stretch in their cages. Based solely on these ads, it seemed like a good bill. Food, water, room to stretch are all good things, but these things were all current law (actually, current law required animals to have sufficient room to stand, turn around, and lie down, and the ballot measure weakened that, requiring the animal only be able to stretch).
In ad campaigns, the animal rights groups rely on depressing images of neglected animals to pull at the heartstrings of voters. These groups employ celebrities to tout their message of “helping” animals to the public, as seen in 2008 with the farm animal bill in California, and still today with donation solicitation campaigns produced by groups like HSUS. These tactics are working. Deceptive emotional campaigns are pushing legislation to limit the rights of citizens, give government overreaching control, and hurt responsible breeders. Citizens are seeing these images, and supporting causes that at first glance, appear to be noble. Unfortunately, the implications of animal rights legislation are lost in translation as emotional campaigns are pushed forward, and ballots are cast based on what a voter thinks is the “right” or “moral” thing to do.
As a society, we are told by the media and advocacy campaigns that buying animals is bad. Why is it bad? The anti-breeding side says because it contributes to the homeless animal population. Does it? When done responsibly, no. Many responsible breeders sell dogs on contracts stating they must be returned to the breeder if the owner can no longer care for the dog, and this holds true for the life of the animal. That’s a big commitment on the breeder’s part to ensure none of their dogs wind up in shelters. However, as a society, we are told these very breeders are the reason dogs are in shelters. Responsible breeders also do not sell dogs with unlimited registration or breeding rights to the average pet owner, nor do they export intact dogs. No responsible breeder will simply charge more to grant a buyer breeding rights. Instead, puppies sold with breeding rights will be hand selected, only the best puppies in the litter worthy of this registration, and sold to thoroughly vetted homes, typically where the puppy will be actively shown or compete in some other venue. Often times these puppies are sold on contracts stating they must not be bred until a certain age, nor should they be bred without obtaining a variety of health clearances. However, most people looking to buy their next pet do not know this, nor do they know the resources available to find a reputable breeder. Educating the public about irresponsible breeders is important, but giving pet owners the necessary tools to find responsible breeders is critical. Legislation that hinders breeders’ rights may sound nice at first glance, but it can be detrimental to responsible breeders – the very people, like those who run Deep Run Farm, that invest so much to promote the health and well-being of purebred dogs. Protecting animals starts at the grassroots level by educating the public about responsible breeding practices, the responsibilities of pet ownership (particularly owning intact dogs), and finally, perhaps most important, by enforcing current animal welfare legislation on a local level. Headway made to educate the public locally will expand to have a regional impact, eventually spreading nationwide, and reduce the number of dogs in shelters.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
I grew up in South Carolina on 68 acres with anywhere from 1-6 dogs at all times. For those of you who have never been to South Carolina there are many amazing things about the state, but one drawback are the fleas and ticks. For some reason, fleas in South Carolina have become resistant to Frontline, and pet owners and vets are having to figure out a variety of new solutions to this problem. From speaking with my vet fleas becoming resistant to Frontline is a trending problem, and one my vet’s parents have experienced as far north as Southern Virginia. As you are well aware, fleas and ticks can spread a variety of illnesses, diseases, and parasites - and flea and tick prevention - whether natural or through traditional medicine and pharmaceuticals - is an integral part of promoting good health in your pets.
For me, living in DC, and before that Roanoke, VA, Frontline once a month had always done the trick. I even stop using it for a few months in the winter to avoid putting unnecessary toxic chemicals on my furry friends. The only time Milly were after trips to South Carolina, and Hush had never had them.
That is until recently. Despite my religious applications, always perfectly on schedule, Hush seems to have gotten fleas. Not exactly surprising – she is running in the woods off leash almost every day. Hush has a much thicker and longer coat than Milly – she is very much bred to standard with the thick double coat, which is water repellent. I love her beautiful coat, but it does make it more difficult to notice skin problems. I first noticed some scratching, a telltale sign of fleas. I used a flea comb and found no signs of flea dander, which left me confused. However, when I bathed her and dried her with the high power professional dryer I immediately saw bite marks and flea dander. Having spoken with other people within the Golden Retriever breed, I learned many people up their flea/tick prevention before doing any field training in the woods.
So now the question lies in what to do next. There is a new(er) once-a-month topical skin flea/tick/mosquito product on the market called Vectra 3D, which I have used with good results in the past. Vectra is only available by prescription (I think), and from what I’ve found is more expensive than Frontline. However, I have an inside connection through a friend who works in veterinary pharmaceutical sales, and was recently given a three month supply. Having used it in the past, I did notice the smell is much stronger than other topical flea meds. Finally, some dogs have bad reactions to it. If you are going to try Vectra, make sure to follow the instructions. Unlike Frontline, which is applied in one spot between the shoulder blades, Vectra needs to be dispersed in three spots going down the back – between the shoulder blades, mid-back, and above the tail. If not applied this way, your dog’s skin can get burned from the medication. This product is a brand new technology created with a new molecule called Dinotefuron which is proven to kill fleas and ticks for a full 30 days, and does not have the resistance that other flea/tick products may have. It also is proven to kill all fleas and ticks on the animal within six hours of application. Additionally, the animal does not have to be bitten for the medicine to begin killing Vectra 3D also features a patented applicator for ease of use and is safer for the environment.
When I use any topical flea medication I always apply them at night, just before I go to bed. This minimizes the contact I have with the toxic chemicals, and women who are pregnant should never apply topical flea medications.
I also placed an order for Capstar. Unfortunately, this somehow was shipped to my old address… so I am not sure when I will receive it. For those of you unfamiliar with Capstar, it is a pill given orally that kills all living fleas on the dog’s body. This is not a preventative, and only kills any fleas that may exist, working in a similar manner to a traditional flea-dip. I personally have used Capstar with excellent results in the past – although, I have heard certain dogs do not respond well to it. Capstar has always been especially handy with trips to South Carolina – I know the fleas are in that environment and 2 doses spaced 2 weeks apart combined with Frontline usually does the trick for Milly. This said, before trying any new product; always speak with your veterinarian, especially if your dog has any special health concerns, such as seizures.
Another good product is Comfortis, a once monthly pill that works as a preventative. Comfortis has been shown to have very good results, and the ease of administering a monthly pill makes it appealing to many pet owners. However, it is only available by prescription. In the past, I’ve used Comfortis with great results with Milly, but again the product has mixed reviews. The only reason I stopped using it was because my current vet does not stock it within their office pharmacy, and having had no flea problems, I did not feel I needed her to send in prescriptions to 1-800-PetMeds or a similar pet pharmacy. I think I will be switching to this soon, though.
There are also a variety of natural supplements, like Bug Off Garlic, on the market that you simply mix in each day with your dog’s food. I have heard these, especially combined with traditional medicine, work beautifully. However, I have not tried any myself.
In the meantime, I’ve bathed the dogs multiple times with a flea shampoo (twice weekly), but fear this could dry or damage their coats. I have also started spraying each dog with Adams Flea/Tick spray before going into the woods, and have noticed all of the scratching has stopped. I was also able to secure one dose of Capstar for each dog. They are both scheduled to have their topical preventives applied again on Thursday, and this time I will be using my free samples of Vectra.
When it comes to flea preventatives there will always be mixed reviews of each product on the market, and all dogs respond differently. As far as traditional medicine goes, most flea products are toxic chemicals – that is how they kill and/or prevent the fleas – with this in mind, it is always a good idea to work with your veterinarian before making a change. Also, as of December 2009, Frontline is available without a prescription. As a result, there are numerous internet vendors selling counterfeit Frontline and/or damaged products. These can be extremely dangerous to your dog, so when using an OTC product, always buy from a reputable source, and not simply the cheapest available.
Monday, August 29, 2011
I’ve lived in DC for over 4 years – I can’t believe it has been that long! The first 3.5 years in the area I rented large houses split between 3-4 roommates, had yards, and plenty of space both indoors and out. At the end of November, I signed a lease on a small 2 bedroom apartment in an idyllic condo community, and soon after found a wonderful roommate on Craigslist. I love where I live for a variety of reasons, but adjusting to apartment living after always having a house has been trying at times.
Golden Retrievers are more of a medium sized dog breed under AKC standards, but who are we kidding – they’re still pretty big dogs. I have big furniture and a lot of stuff (it’s amazing how much you can acquire in just 4-years!) – so our lives in the apartment are quite “cozy”.
While I’m at work, both Hush (usually crated) and Milly are left in my bedroom with the door shut. I never had this problem in a larger house, with more circulation, but in the apartment the air in my bedroom gets stuffy having the door closed all day. I hate coming home to a stuffy, dog smelling bedroom at the end of a long day.
After all of the rain we have been having surrounding Hurricane Irene, I was finally fed up with my bedroom smelling like a dog, or worse, a wet dog. On Saturday, I bought a baby gate, and today happily kissed my pups goodbye, and left the door open with Milly gated inside and Hush in her crate. I can’t wait to see, or smell, the difference when I get home.
Baby gates should be added to all must-have lists for dog owners! They’re great, and at only $10, this was a very cheap solution to my problem. As Hush gains more and more freedom, I will probably pick up 1 or 2 more baby gates. They are an excellent way of slowly bridging the gap between crating and being loose, and enable your dog to have more space with you not having to worry about your dog getting into anything he or she should not.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Around this time last year I was just starting training classes with Milly at the Mount Vernon Dog Training Club you can read this blog post on a training update mid-course. As I’ve said before, if you want to train your dog and take classes, the most affordable way (and often the best training) is to go through a local AKC affiliated dog training club. This club offers the Basic Obedience class, an 8-week serious, for $80. After you complete the initial 8 week course, you have the option of paying $30 for 10 weeks of classes, where you continue practicing and perfecting what was learned in basic, and focus on the Canine Good Citizen test.
I have also taken training classes from the Capital Dog Training Club. I absolutely loved both training clubs. The Capital Dog Training Club is much larger and able to offer a variety of classes at the same time – they divide their space, a warehouse, into multiple rings like a dog show. The drawbacks with this club are it takes an hour to get to classes, which can be impossible with DC traffic, and the classes often fill up fast.
I knew I wanted to get Hush in a class, and as soon as possible, so when I saw there were openings in the upcoming Basic class through the Mt. Vernon Dog Training Club I jumped on the opportunity. The class starts on September 27th, and is only 10 minutes from my house. Classes are held at 9pm, which gives me enough time to leave work, go home, feed and exercise the dogs, and then head to class. A very exciting added bonus is one of my best friends, Eileen, may also take this class with her dog Evan!!
I am so excited! I’ve already marked my calendar – and I plan on doing the full 18 weeks of training with Hush to cover basic and advanced basic obedience. From there, both Milly and Hush will do their Canine Good Citizen tests. After that, I’ll decide whether or not I want to start training Hush for competitive obedience with a 10-week “Pre-Novice” class, or if I will refocus on our conformation/dog show training. Of course, after these 18 weeks of classes are complete, I’ll have to decide which club to train with based on what classes are offered at each.
My goal is to put an obedience title on Hush by her 2nd birthday, and also get her in the conformation ring by then.