Friday, February 28, 2014

Responsible Pet Owner Month - Preventing Fleas & Ticks

One of the biggest faux pas you can make as a dog owner is thinking that ticks and fleas are only a threat to your dog during the summer. According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), New Jersey dogs are at high risk for three of the most common tick borne diseases year-round. The common mistake that most people make is assuming that since it is winter and it’s cold and snowy outside, ticks and fleas aren’t a cause for concern. However, ticks and fleas can survive during the winter months and your dog is at risk all year round. Being a responsible pet owner means being informed and taking the steps necessary to ensure that your dog is protected. 

There is a broad spectrum of preventatives on the market that are listed for year-round use, but there are also other ways to prevent ticks and fleas. Avoid tick-infested areas such as high grassy areas and swamps whenever possible, and do your best to prevent ticks in areas near your home. Modify the habitat around your home through basic measures such as keeping shrubbery and grass closely clipped. This discourages both tick populations and the wildlife species that often harbor them from flourishing. 

Inspect your dog whenever you bring them inside from walks in wooded and brush areas, even during the winter months. Keep an eye out for particularly small ticks, which are known to carry diseases. Removal of all ticks and fleas should be done properly and promptly. Check your dog for both bugs throughout the year, as fleas and ticks can survive in the cold.

As a responsible pet owner, it is important to know what diseases and parasites are common in your area. The CAPC has great Parasite Prevalence Maps which help you determine what to look for and to prepare for any major causes for concern. 

Tick-borne illnesses are preventable; educate yourself on the illnesses associated with fleas and ticks and take the steps necessary to prevent your dog from getting them.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Responsible Pet Owner Month - Make an Exercise Plan

Exercise is an important factor to helping your dog lead a healthy life. No matter what age your dog is, consistent exercise will help release their energy and also keep them in good physical shape. As a responsible dog owner, you should be setting a standard for the minimum amount of exercise that your dog will get over the course of a week.

With the cold and snowy weather outside, you may be resistant to venture out with your dog. While it’s nice to stay warm and indoors on these chilly days, do you notice your dog displaying more frustration and boredom behaviors, such as destructive chewing, pacing or excessive barking? The primary cause of these may be as simple as not getting enough exercise. Part of being a responsible pet owner is making sure your dog gets adequate exercise no matter the time of year. The easiest way to eliminate frustration, boredom and anxious behaviors is to make an exercise plan. 

This plan is easy to formulate and should consist of the bare minimum amount of exercise that you will do with your dog for each week. Writing this plan down and clearly following it is key to successfully ridding your dog of these frustrating behaviors. Your exercise plan should include walks outside as well as active games like fetch. Posting a copy of the week’s schedule in a common area is a great way to make sure that everyone in the family follows it. If you have kids, make it a reward game for them too! Putting the plan in writing and posting it in a common spot gives you motivation and leaves no room for excuses. It helps to ensure that your dog gets the exercise they need.

The reason a plan is so important is that it directly shows the correlation between a lack of physical activity and behaviors that any pet owner would find undesirable. Start with a basic plan and after two to three weeks, go back and evaluate. Is your dog’s current amount of activity changing their frustration and boredom behaviors? If the answer is no, you need to increase the amount of activity your dog is getting and reevaluate in two to three more weeks.

Plan your dog’s physical activity schedule and make sure their exercise is as evenly distributed as possible. We’ve made a sample of a plan and contract that you can easily print out for yourself and start using! Download your own copy below and get started today.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Responsible Pet Owner Month - Learn Your Training Terms

Have you ever been to a training class where the trainer mentioned a term and you didn’t know exactly what it meant? One of the most confusing parts of dog training can be the lingo used in training classes. As Responsible Pet Owner Month continues, one of the essential parts of training is in knowing the key terms and words pet trainers use. With an understanding of the most commonly used definitions, success in dog training is easily achievable. 
While there are many useful terms in training, first let’s focus on the basics. These terms are methods of teaching dogs to perform or learn a behavior, and are important for every dog owner to understand before they begin basic training. 

Luring is a term trainers use to describe a method where the dog follows a treat (or toy) to exercise a behavior.
Example: Pulling a treat up over your dog’s head for sit or pulling it forward for stand. Like a fish following a lure, the dog's body follows their nose and their nose is following the treat. Lures should be very quickly faded into rewards. A lure is used to PRODUCE a behavior. A reward is used AFTER the dog offers the behavior.

Capturing is a term coined for when you just happen to catch your dog practicing a behavior and click/reward it. For capturing you’ll need to keep a clicker and small treats close at hand.
Example: To use capturing to teach your dog to lie down, simply wait for your dog to lie down then click/reward it. Capturing is also a great way to have fun actions on command. You can capture things like yawning, sneezing, begging - pretty much anything your dog does that you think is really cute and that you want them to do on cue.

Shaping is rewarding incremental steps to a final behavior. With shaping, you’ll need good timing too, because you must click at just the right moment. Shaping also requires that the dog is clicker responsive.
Example: You can use shaping to get a dog to pick up and hold a light dumbbell. First click for the dog looking at the dumbbell, then up the ante to having the dog touch it with his nose, then licking it, then taking it in his mouth for a moment, then holding it, then picking it up from the floor.
Modeling is the option least used by modern trainers. Modeling uses physical positioning to teach the dog a behavior. 

Example: Pushing a dog’s rear into a sit to teach the sit command. Try to avoid modeling, as it's the slowest and least effective way to train. Because the dog is physically put into position by their handler, it’s unlikely that the dog will remember or offer the behavior on their own. It's always better to get the dog to freely offer a behavior rather than forcing the action on the dog. Modeling makes for very unreliable behavior.

When training your dog, it is important to learn all of the terms associated with dog training. Do your best to educate yourself on additional terms. Words and phrases like “threshold”, “replacement behaviors”, and “impulse control” can often be heard during training. If you are unfamiliar with any language used by your trainer, don’t be afraid to ask! You can also always learn more about pet training by attending one of our Orientation classes. Register for one of our upcoming classes here!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Responsible Pet Owner Month - Scoop Your Dog's Poop!

February is Responsible Pet Owner Month, and every week this month we will be giving you tips on our blog about how to be an outstanding dog owner. This week, we’ll start with one of the most commonly overlooked things for a dog owner; Scooping your dog’s poop. The frequent misconception is that your dog’s waste acts as a fertilizer, so it is ok to let it break down over time outside. However, dog waste is actually a pollutant, not a fertilizer. Since it can be harmful to other dogs, humans and the environment, it is extremely important that you always scoop your dog’s poop.

When you don’t scoop the poop, rainwater can deposit your dog’s harmful waste into local streams and bodies of water that can cause serious harm. E. Coli and Salmonella have been found in dog feces, which can easily be spread to other animals and humans if they consume contaminated water.

In addition to harmful bacteria, feces can contain a large number of parasites, including Giardia, Roundworm, Hookwork and Whipworm, to name a few. Exposure to any of these would require a trip to your veterinarian. They are easy to prevent with proper care and disposal of waste.

It is important to note that the longer dog waste sits, the more potential it has to contaminate. In fact, Parasites require time to form, and with time, they can grow and cause more harm. So make sure you scoop your dog’s poop as soon as possible to prevent possible contamination.

Remember that not only is leaving your dog’s feces behind unsafe, it is also illegal in New Jersey. The law states that failure to pick up your dog’s business can result in fines. Be a responsible pet owner by picking up after your dog and making sure you scoop your dog’s poop whenever you are out.