Responsible Dog Ownership

June 6th, 2012 No comments

I wanted to take a moment to comment on responsible dog ownership. Although this subject can take many forms, today’s topic is dog containment. Since I mostly write about working dogs, please take this into consideration when reading the article.

Having recently moved to a new area, my first major action was to scope out my property and determine what had to be done to make it safe for dogs and humans. This is a rural area, but near a couple of upscale subdivisions.  Young children play nearby, so safety is a big issue.

The first observation made after two days was that nobody, I  mean nobody, has put up a barrier of any kind to contain their dogs. No fences, not even kennels, yet dogs all around. In the first week at my new place, no less than three dogs owned by neighbors had wandered onto my property. I started looking and found people do not even use leashes to control their dogs. Dogs, as large as Danes, walking around the streets, loose as can be.

As I began the task of building an enclosed, fenced in area for my dogs, I began to realize why there were no other fences or barriers for dogs in the area: it actually costs some money and involves hard work to get something like this done! (Note: If you feel it’s too much work to keep your dog and others safe, then owning a dog may not be a good choice for you)

Just to expound a bit, the property liability laws are pretty clear in most states in the US.  If someone comes onto your property and is injured, you, the owner, are still liable, whether the person is invited or not (I’m not talking about criminal trespass here..). That alone makes it very clear to me why it is vital for one to safely contain their dogs on a permanent basis. Other situations, such as dogs breeding bitches that are in heat down the block, annoying your neighbors due to your dog crapping on their lawn, dog fights, are among a long list of reasons for containment.

Okay, so here is the rest of my lecture on responsible dog ownership: If you own a dog, one of the first things you need to do is construct a safe barrier for your pet to be in, whether it is a secure back yard, a paddock, an enclosed kennel or a completely fenced in property. I am not advocating tying out a dog all day, by the way. That is just ridiculous, lazy and potentially harmful to the dog.

To those of you who insist that kenneling or crating a dog is ‘cruel’, just imagine what it would be like for your dog to get hit by a passing car or the lawsuit you’d have on your hands when the dog bites your neighbor’s child. By the way, good obedience training and socialization also helps immeasurably in controlling a dog’s actions, but that is another topic altogether.

To those of you who have already done the above, congratulations! You are true friends to your dogs and your neighbors.

To the remaining dog owners who are continually bailing your dogs out of the pound or getting threatened by a neighbor for your dog’s misbehavior, please  consider implementing responsible containment for your pet.

Worrying About What People Think Of Your Dog?

February 18th, 2012 No comments

It seems that everybody is a dog trainer. I just came back from socializing my dog and a guy came up to me, proceeded to tell me all about how I should train my dog. Some of it was okay, but most of it was nonsense. I didn’t tell him anything about myself or what I do with dogs. I allowed the guy to pet my dog and while she was in a sit, let him stand next to her. It was invaluable socialization. The rest of the conversation was pretty unproductive.

This is not the first time an incident like this has occurred for me. It’s as routine as the number of times I have taken a dog off the premises for socialization/fun time.

Again, I have nothing against people talking with me about my dog, but what I do find amusing is the pedantic nature of the conversation. “You need to………….”. “Your dog is…………”. And so on. Like I said, everyone is a dog whisperer or a show judge.  The false information, idiotic conclusions and faulty advice that I have been given over the years could fill a small book. Yes, it used to bother me to no end. And yes, I’ve gotten my own self confidence up enough that this stuff doesn’t ruin my day, but it took a while and quite a bit of handler training to have enough knowledge to get past these little encounters.

So, the problem isn’t so much the stuff that comes out of these ‘expert’s’ mouths. It’s whether or not you can take all of it with the objectivity that it deserves. In other words, take what people say and decide for yourself whether it merits further handling or inspection. Don’t reject it out of hand, but don’t sit there and develop issues for yourself and your dog because so and so said something you didn’t like about your obedience.

This is most insidious with dog trainers and more specifically people pretending to train dogs. I worked with someone recently who had been told all sorts of things about her dogs, all from experienced trainers. Some of the statements were true, but because the people who gave her the advice or critiques had some kind of authority on the subject, she decided to become neurotic on the subject of training her dogs. This got directly in the way of her learning how to correctly train her dog, because she was more concerned about what people thought than just getting down to the task of getting the dog to sit. Now, granted, a person like this is always concerned about what other people think, so there’s a bigger issue than dogs here. Nonetheless, the bottom line is that you are the only one, as the handler, who can either observe your dog’s faults objectively or wait for some ‘expert’ to tell you something that you don’t want to hear.

It’s up to you. I personally prefer to take matters into my own hands and work to develop an objective, honest viewpoint about each dog I am handling, with the end in mind of correcting as many faults as possible within a reasonable time period. I am more than willing to listen to what someone has to say, but I try to simply and only take what I need out of the conversation or incident and leave the rest behind.

After all, not everyone can own Rin-Tin-Tin, can we?

Training The Handler: The Big Mistake

January 23rd, 2012 No comments

I just wanted to do a quick post on dog training and specifically, how handlers behave when they are working their dogs with a trainer (or without one).

Over the years I have personally been subjected to some of the craziest techniques and attempted transferences of weird behavior, compliments of the local dog ‘trainers’ and obedience ‘gurus’. Well, I have to tell you, there were some things wrong with the way these ‘teachers’ imparted knowledge and technique regarding training people how to train their dogs.

First of all, the basic element which I believe reverses any good things these trainers are doing is that they are not allowing the handler to comfortably work with his dog.  Breaking this down, this problem arises when the handler/dog team are not allowed to get comfortable before beginning a lesson. Omitting this step results in missed commands, lack of observation and a host of other problems that will arise from the fact that the handler is not ready to do the work with his dog. It adds insult to injury when the trainer asks for his money at the end of a horrible lesson.

The second half of the problem is caused when the trainer constantly interrupts the handler while doing the lesson. All this does is make the handler and dog exasperated and prevents the handler from actually figuring out how to do the exercise. I once had to spend two weeks straightening out this very thing with a handler who had been in some class where the trainer was constantly correcting her with no chance for her to figure out the actual exercise for herself. (The opposite happens as well, where the trainer completely ignores the handler to the point where neither they nor the dog have a clue)

What is happening here is that the trainer has never allowed the handler to take the time to actually work out how to COMFORTABLY BE THERE WITH THE DOG while training their dog. In order to train a dog, the handler must be comfortable and at ease with what he or she is doing. This does not require constant badgering, corrections, interruptions, comments, invalidations or whatever other techniques the trainer uses with his students.

The correct method is to first get the handler and dog comfortable,  patiently show the handler the exercise and then HAVE THE HANDLER WORK OUT HOW TO DO THE EXERCISE, REGARDLESS OF HOW LONG IT TAKES.  Occasionally fix the positioning of the dog or timing of the command/correction/reward. That’s it. Just give the handler the damn exercise and let them have at it. The handler and dog team will figure it out, believe me. If not, the handler will give up and never touch a dog again for the rest of his or her life. In which case it was never meant to be.

Either way, you have thus allowed the handler to retain enough of his own personality and comfort to get the exercise completed with his own dog. There are so many combinations of personalities between both humans and dogs that its just best to give them the room to work things out together without the constant interruption and evaluation of some trainer who may be good with dogs but has no understanding of people.

I mean, that’s where all the fun is with dog training, isn’t it?

How Much Is Too Much Food?

January 18th, 2012 No comments

Okay, now some more insights regarding the feeding of your dog, whether pup or adult.

I have found that some puppy owners may be over feeding their pups. Their idea is that the pup is growing and needs all of this extra food to survive. So, I get reports of three month olds being fed three or four cups of high calorie, high protein food per day. Now, I did an experiment with some pups, litter mates of these other placed puppies. I fed them two measured cups per day, same food. After side checking, I found the pups I was feeding less food to were growing at roughly the same pace as the other pups.

My conclusion? That there is a threshold in feeding dogs, beyond which no appreciable gain occurs for the animal. The same is true for adults. If I feed an adult male of mine beyond his usual four cups cups of kibble daily, he will not benefit any differently. After the four cups, the remaining food is almost complete waste = zero nutritional benefit.

As a human, you may feel better, less guilty or whatever your particular fetish is regarding feeding your dogs. But the fact remains that there is a limit to what your dog can digest in a given day. If he is underweight, for sure start to slowly increase the amount of feed. But if it starts to get loose or excessive stools, you are wasting (no pun here) food and endangering the dog’s GI tract with excess proteins and fats that cannot possibly be digested.

Now, feeding a dog or pup a nutrient-dense food requires less volume of food, due to the increase in nutrients per cup of food. In other words, a cup of nutrient-dense food weighs more than a food that has lower calories. So, it follows that  you can feed the pup or adult less food per serving and get a better result. Read my other posts on dog food and visit this web page  to understand what Metabolizable Energy is all about (or search for Metabolizable  Energy) and it will help quite a bit in how you feed your pup or adult dog.

 

Exercise Is The Key

November 1st, 2011 No comments

Let me begin by stating that walking your dog is not a complete exercise regimen.  At best, it is a way for you to get out of the house and for your dog to go to the bathroom.  So, for those of you who own Rottweilers, German Shepherds and other working breeds, let me see if I can give you a fresh viewpoint on the subject of exercise and health.

It is a known fact that most people do not exercise themselves enough on a daily basis.  Just take a look at yourself in a full length mirror if you don’t agree. Now, do you think a dog is any different than a human in this respect?  Over the life of the dog, proper and adequate exercise, diet, training and socialization have a tremendous impact on its longevity and well being.

I’m not going to get into any general statements about what was done elsewhere to draw this conclusion. After over a decade of raising working dogs (Rottweilers, German Shepherds) I can intelligently conclude that these type of dogs require daily, constant, hard exercise to stay in shape, develop good muscle tone, properly digest and metabolize food, keep vital organs oxygenated and live long, healthy lives.

I have always wondered why pet owners will sometimes have a multitude of issues with their dogs,  mostly health related. I used to think it was due to poor diet alone, but I no longer subscribe to that idea.  Taking a look at my own dogs, mostly kennel dogs and bitches, I have observed that without exception, they are healthy, in shape, high energy and long lived. The average life span of one of my dogs is 11 years old. Yet, I hear from people how their dog was put down at age five or six from an assortment of ailments. Why is that?

Okay, I know I’m not doing a scientific study in the purest sense of the word and that I am not a doctor and so on. That does not make me any less qualified to look with my own eyes and draw intelligent conclusions from my observations.

So, based on my own observations over fifteen years of raising working dogs, I am concluding the following:

1. Daily exercise is vital and critical to a dog’s present and future health. This must not be limited to daily walks, as this does not help the dog metabolize his food nor does it help it develop muscle mass/tone, organ development, correct conformation, tissue, ligament and muscle  growth around joints, a strong immune system, and so on. A working dog needs to have at least one good workout per day, for at least five to ten minutes, done when it is NOT too hot, and NOT just before or after eating its meal. Gauge your dog’s stamina and DO NOT OVERDO IT when beginning. Build the dog up, just like a human would build up stamina running or doing other exercise routines. In other words, get the dog in shape and then keep it there by maintaining the daily routine.

2. Obedience training, socialization and play can easily be worked into this regimen, so you can get the most out of the time with your dog.

3. Begin this when the dog is a puppy and continue for the life of the dog.

There is no substitute for proper daily exercise in the life of a dog. (Of course, this doesn’t mean that you run the dog ragged and have it stroke out either!)

Use common sense and help your dog build itself up to be the canine athlete it was bred to be.

Use It Or Lose It

October 18th, 2011 No comments

Working dogs have needs specific not only to their particular breed type, but to their particular grouping in the dog world. In this case I am referring to Rottweilers, German Shepherds and other breeds listed in the Working Dog Group.

As such, nutrition, exercise and development should be geared towards the actual purpose and functions of each breed type and group. Working dogs have been bred specifically to perform tasks. This is not just a label. It is a fact of life and to ignore this fact or sidestep the importance of raising a working dog AS A WORKING DOG is to violate the actual reason for the dog’s existence.

All dogs have the same basic parts, but the way each is dog bred will determine how those parts are used and meant to be used.  The less they are used, the more prone the dog is to injury, illness and other complications (this includes dysplasia, in spite of what the vets will tell you about it being 100% genetic)

Here is an image of a Rottweiler, with labeled body parts:

Basic Canine Anatomy
Alright, now here is a picture of an Italian Greyhound. This dog is a sight hound and as such has been bred over the centuries to run and chase game. Notice the way this dog is physically centered around that basic function:

So, different dogs have different needs. With working dogs, the needs have everything to do with building muscle tone in the front and rear of the dog, to develop strength in the legs, feet, hindquarters, forequarters, hips, elbows, pasterns, chest, and so on. This is because working dogs have been bred and developed as dogs that do a multitude of tasks, not just one type of job. So, because of this, their muscle and bone development is more demanding in order to potentially perform these tasks.

That is why, when I ask people if they exercise their working dog and they tell me ‘Sure, I take him for a walk every day,” I laugh.  Walking a dog once a day is not exercise. They need to run, jump, sit, lay down, get up and do all of the types of exercise that will develop strong muscle tissue and bone growth. Just like body building with humans. Every day. Look at the muscle groups of the Rottweiler again. That did not come about from laying around the house all day and going for a walk at dinner time.

So, the next time you hear someone tell you all about how horribly prone working dogs are to dysplasia and other issues, think about this article. If I raised a dog that had no muscle tone, no endurance, no immune system, I wouldn’t have a kennel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re: Rottweiler Size Obsession

October 5th, 2011 No comments

This post is for those of you who are actually concerned that your Rottweiler must weigh 140-180 pounds, so it can protect you and your personal property. I have stated in earlier posts that the Rottweiler is a medium to large breed and that there are size restrictions written into the breed standard and that these demands regarding size are unrealistic and unnecessary.

That doesn’t stop people calling me to ask ridiculous questions about the weight of parents, eventual weight of the pup along with the ‘fact’ that their last Rottweiler weighed 180 pounds, and so on. (As a side note, people generally are unable to guess the weights of things. I have a male who most people insist weighs 130 pounds who is actually around 98 pounds.)

If you want a Rottie to protect you, then get a Rottie who has good nerves, loads of drive and then train him or her slowly and correctly to do the work.   Size matters not at all.

To illustrate this, I have a link here of a video from France’s RAID anti-terrorist K-9 unit, showing their Belgian Malinois dogs doing various containment and take down drills.

These dogs weigh around fifty to sixty pounds each, tops. Enjoy the video and support the Rottweiler breed standard!

 

 

Training Your Dog 24/7

September 29th, 2011 No comments

Everything you do with your pup or adult dog is essentially training. It might not fit into the category of formal obedience work, but it is training nonetheless.  For example, when you come with your dog to the front door after a walk, does it sit and wait for you to open the door, or does it scratch the door and whine to be let in? Both of these actions are trained behaviors.  The difference is that the dog in a sit position was trained by you and the dog jumping up and down and ruining your front door was trained by itself.

This is why I frown upon leaving a young pup alone with an older dog to ‘keep each other company’.  If the older dog has some poor habits, you can be sure that within a few days, the pup will have learned them. Dogs learn by watching and then become conditioned through repetition, even if self taught. If you let a dog act like a dope every day, pretty soon, you have a problem on your hands that appears impossible to handle.

Forget about all of this ‘dog whispering’ garbage.  Dogs learn to do bad things by doing bad things, over and over. It’s not more complicated than that, I assure you. So, conversely, if you want to undo bad behavior in a dog, you need to recondition the dog, repetitively, daily, until the dog behaves differently. I emphasize the word ‘you’, because you are the only individual who can change the dog’s actions, behavior, habits, etc.

I have reconditioned four and five year old dogs, as well as puppies. Age is not as important as the handler’s willingness to repeat the exercise as often as needed to get the desired result. That means every day, four or five times a day, and so on. You can incorporate obedience and conditioning into daily routines. For example, training the ‘sit’ command can be done when  coming to the door (both inside and out), feeding , entering and exiting the crate, car and so on. After two weeks of this, the dog will get the idea that it has to sit before getting the reward (whatever your reward is for that dog).

Do not expect a dog to change because you yell at it or tell it ‘no’ a million times. That is not dog training. That is you being trained by your dog to react to its behavior.

Actual dog training is for real life situations and is done in real life.

Think about it.

 

The Great Dog Food Scam – Final Notes

September 25th, 2011 No comments

It’s been a year since I began researching dry dog food to find out for myself exactly how this type of food works within the digestive systems of working dogs (Rottweilers and German Shepherds, to be specific).

Well, although I am not a canine food science ‘expert’, I am an expert at what works and certainly very good at observing the obvious as regards my own animals. Here are the results of one year of observation regarding dry dog food:

1. The kcals per kg and kcals per cup are vital to the viable nutrition of the canine. Using this page from a vet supply web site gave me the initial information necessary to begin research and determine how many kcals were needed for active working dogs.

2. Ingredients alone do not determine the caloric content and usable food value of dry kibble. In October of 2010, I had five underweight dogs in my kennel, despite being fed ample amounts of a supposed ‘high performance’ dog food, with chicken as the first ingredient. Since switching to a calorie-dense food with a less fashionable first ingredient (chicken by product meal), every one of those dogs has gained back weight, using the same or lower amounts of kibble per day. So, it really does not matter how much ‘deboned chicken’ or ‘wild salmon’ is thrown into some of these foods, the bottom line is that all of that mush has to result in a calorie dense food that the dog can convert into usable fuel for growth, maintenance and viability. My rule of thumb is that the food must contain at least 400 kcals per cup to do the job.

3. Calorie dense foods are vital to canine reproductive systems and milk production. Prior to switching foods, the loss of newborn pups from mothers fed a lower calorie food was at or around 35% per litter without exception.  Unsuccessful breedings were commonplace. Lack of adequate colostrum and milk may also have resulted in lowered immune systems and more difficulty with puppy growth, but these are not provable with the data to hand. The bottom line is that since switching to a calorie dense food, the newborn loss has reduced to 0%-20% per litter.

4. Calorie dense foods are vital to new puppy growth at weaning. I have observed that pups fed a high calorie diet develop stronger immune systems and experience more stable growth than those feeding on lower calorie diets. Weaning pups on high calorie puppy food had zero ramp up time. This means that before, it would take three or four days for pups to start eating the ‘high performance, all life stages’ kibble. Now, they begin eating immediately, first day, and never look back. Wormings and other preventative meds also appear to work more completely than before. Maybe it’s my imagination, but I don’t think so.

Well, that about wraps it up. If you are a dog owner who is simply status conscious, you will continue to feed your dog low calorie, high cost salmon and bison free range organic kibble, since that is what your vet or the sales rep at the local pet store told you to feed.  If you are a cheap dog owner, you may continue to feed your dog Field Trial or whatever corn based stuff you can buy at the local carry out. Maybe those foods work for you, and that’s fine. I’m not here to revolutionize the dog food industry.

However, if you have a dog that is not doing well on his kibble, for any reason, including, but not limited to:

not gaining or maintaining weight,

having skin or coat issues,

immune system issues,

reproductive issues,

recurring soft tissue injuries,

lack of energy,

constantly hungry resulting in overfeeding, resulting in loose stools and a host of other issues,

then maybe you might consider looking into what’s really in your dog’s food. I hope this has helped.

 

Controlling Your Dog’s Healthcare

September 17th, 2011 No comments

Let me begin by stating that I believe that veterinarians are very useful and important in assisting dog owners with some health concerns of their animals. However, I believe there are limits to what  are the learned skills and understandings of each individual practitioner.

The mere fact that someone attended veterinary med school and received a degree does not automatically mean that this person knows everything about dogs. They may know how to set a broken leg, but may have no idea about specifics concerning your particular breed of dog, nutrition, training, maintenance, etc.

Too many times I have received feedback from owners about ‘opinions’ voiced by their vets that, if actually stated, would cause the experienced dog owner to stop in their tracks, amazed at the audacity and lack of knowledge.

Here are a few samples of things apparently actually told to owners, relayed to me:

1. One owner who had a personal issue with a ‘thin’ puppy (not really thin, just growing, by the way) was told by his vet to ‘feed him as much as he wants’.

2. An owner who’s dog was limping in the front was told by their vet that the animal had ‘arthritis’ and then prescribed a heavy pain killing medication to be taken daily ‘for the life of the dog’. No x-rays or ultrasound was done. When I recommended that the dog be taken off the meds and simply put on buffered aspirin and MSM and crated for a couple of weeks, the dog fully recovered. By the way, the vet was paid for that visit while my help was given because I cared.

3. More vets than I can count have told owners that spaying and neutering their dog will result in the dog living longer. Not only is this not true, but has resulted in at least two known post op conditions with spayed females: incontinence.

4. Assorted vets telling owners of pups that their pup is ‘small for a Rottweiler’. Who do they think they’re kidding”? I guarantee you not one of them has ever fully read the breed standard for the Rottweiler, much less understood the growth pattern of this breed of dog.

5. Diagnosing bronchitis as pneumonia, resulting in a $1500 vet bill for the owner. Can you say malpractice? Apparently, it’s not malpractice if the dog survived, which it did, thanks to me and my own vet getting involved.

6. Charging for visits to clip a dog’s nails, which involved sedating the dog, costing the owner hundreds of dollars. Instead, why didn’t the vet consult with the owner and help her figure out how to do the nails herself? The answer? Because then the vet would have lost all that revenue. By the way, this owner got wise and finally figured out how to do it herself.

7. Telling owners that pups must be vaccinated three to four times prior to 16 weeks, to protect against various diseases. The truth of the matter is, the pup is already being protected by the mother’s colostrum until at least 16 weeks of age, at which time its own immune system kicks in fully. Why do vets scare people into over vaccinating? The answer is: each vaccination and visit costs the owner around $50-$70. This is the vet’s cash cow and the vaccine manufacturers are obviously happy with this as well.

Okay, I’ve had enough! What can  you do to curb the high cost of going to the vet? Well, the first thing I would do when your dog comes up with a health related issue is  to talk with your breeder. If they have an understanding of their particular breed (and they should), and of dogs in general, there should be some comfort and help given to you. I cannot tell you the number of owners I have assisted to handle a simple situation with their pup or dog, instead of rushing it to the vet for a battery of tests, etc.

Speaking of which, you should always demand that the vet not nickel and dime you on unnecessary drugs, screenings, exams if and when they are clearly not needed. The next thing is to demand the vet correctly diagnose the condition of your dog. If  he or she cannot do this, your duty as an owner is to GO ELSEWHERE. Remember, you are not bound to stay with any particular veterinarian. Also remember that you are paying the vet, and should receive value for your money.

Find the good vets through word of mouth and avoid the bad ones like the plague.

Finally, do your research and learn how to do a lot of this basic preventative healthcare and maintenance yourself. It really is your responsibility!