Thursday, May 24, 2012

Chewing: The Whys and Hows of Stopping a Gnawing Problem

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From The Humane Society of the United States 

Sooner or later every dog lover returns home to find some unexpected damage inflicted by his or her dog; or, more specifically, that dog's teeth. Although dogs make great use of their vision and sense of smell to explore the world, one of their favorite ways to take in new information is to put their mouths to work. 

Fortunately, chewing can be directed onto appropriate items so your dog isn't destroying things you value or jeopardizing his own safety. Until he's learned what he can and can't chew, however, it's your responsibility to manage the situation as much as possible, so he doesn't have the opportunity to chew on unacceptable objects.

Why dogs chew

Puppies, like infants and toddlers, explore their world by putting objects in their mouths. And, like babies, they teethe for about 6 months, which usually creates some discomfort. Chewing not only facilitates teething, but also makes sore gums feel better.

Adult dogs may engage in destructive chewing for any number of reasons. In order to deal with the behavior, you must first determine why your dog is chewing—and remember, he's not doing it to spite you. Possible reasons for destructive chewing include:

As a puppy, he wasn't taught what to chew and what not to chew.
        He's bored.
       He suffers from separation anxiety.
       His behavior is fear-related.
       He wants attention.

Important! You may need to consult a behavior professional for help with both separation anxiety and fear-related behaviors.

Manage the situation

Take responsibility for your own belongings. If you don't want it in your dog's mouth, don't make it available. Keep clothing, shoes, books, trash, eyeglasses, and remote control devices out of your dog's reach.

Give your dog toys that are clearly distinguishable from household goods. Don't confuse him by offering shoes and socks as toys and then expecting him to distinguish between his shoe and yours.

Supervise your dog until he learns the house rules. Keep him with you on his leash in the house so he can't make a mistake out of your sight. Confine him when you're unable to keep an eye on him. Choose a "safe place" that's dog-proof, and provide fresh water and "safe" toys. If your dog is crate trained, you may also place him in his crate for short periods of time.

Give your dog plenty of people-time. Your dog won't know how to behave if you don't teach him alternatives to inappropriate behavior, and he can't learn these when he's in the yard by himself.

Give your dog plenty of physical and mental exercise. If your dog is bored, he'll find something to do to amuse himself and you probably won't like the choices he makes. On the other hand, a tired dog is a good dog, so make sure he gets lots of physical and mental activity. The amount of exercise should be based on his age, health, and breed characteristics.
If you catch your dog chewing on something he shouldn't, interrupt the behavior with a loud noise. Offer him an acceptable chew toy instead, and praise him lavishly when he takes the toy in his mouth.

Build a toy obsession in your dog. Use his toys to feed him. At mealtimes, fill a Kong-type toy with his kibble.

If your puppy is teething, try freezing a wet washcloth for him to chew on. The cold cloth will sooth his gums. Supervise your puppy so he doesn't chew up and swallow any pieces of the washcloth.

Make items unpleasant to your dog. Furniture and other items can be coated with a taste deterrent (such as Bitter Apple®) to make them unappealing.
Caution! Supervise your dog when you first try one of these deterrents. Some dogs will chew an object even if it's coated with a taste deterrent. Also be aware that you must reapply some of these deterrents to maintain their effectiveness.

Offer your dog a treat in exchange for the item in his mouth. As your dog catches on to this idea, you can add the command "Give" as his cue to release the object in exchange for the yummy treat.

Don't chase your dog if he grabs an object and runs. If you chase him, you are only giving your dog what he wants. Being chased by his human is fun! Instead call him to you or offer him a treat. 

Have realistic expectations. At some point your dog will inevitably chew up something you value; this is often part of the transition to a new home. Your dog needs time to learn the house rules and you need to remember to take precautions and keep things out of his reach.

What not to do

Never discipline or punish your dog after the fact. If you discover a chewed item even minutes after he's chewed it, you're too late.

Animals associate punishment with what they're doing at the time they're being corrected. Your dog can't reason that, "I tore up those shoes an hour ago and that's why I'm being scolded now." Some people believe this is what a dog is thinking because he runs and hides or because he "looks guilty."

In reality, "guilty looks" are actually canine submissive postures that dogs show when they're threatened. When you're angry and upset, your dog feels threatened by your tone of voice, body postures, and/or facial expressions, so he may hide or show submissive postures. Punishment after the fact will not only fail to eliminate the undesirable behavior, but could provoke other undesirable behaviors as well.

There is a really great site called that has wonderful and humorous pictures of dogs and the damage they have inflicted. Think your dog is bad? Check out some of these!

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

How To Switch To The Raw Food Diet For Dogs Who Are Picky Eaters

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To get some dogs to switch to a raw food diet will challenge your creativity. But you know you need to persevere because it’s for the good of your dog. Fortunately, there are some tips out there that will help you help your dog adjust to this new and healthier diet.

Here are 7 tips from Maggie Rhines' “Going Rawr! Dog Lover's Compendium” to help you encourage your pick eater onto raw food:

1. Adjust your feeding schedule.

Some dogs are more open to trying new food when they are on a set feeding schedule. Other than being used to being fed and eating at a certain time, you are also certain that they are hungry by the time you give them food.

Another way to improve your dog’s reception of raw food is to schedule his feeding after a vigorous routine activity – say after his morning walk or a jog around the block. A good run will help him work up an appetite.

2. Regulate how much food your dog is getting.

If your problem is getting your dog to finish his serving of food, you may want to re-examine how much food you are actually giving him. It may be too much for him to consume.

One way to help your dog finish his food and finish it quickly is to set a certain amount of time for him to eat. Say you only give him 20 minutes to finish his food. After that, take away his food bowl. That way, he’ll be encouraged to eat his food and to finish it quickly.

Another reason why you want to do this is because with a raw food diet, you don’t want to leave food lying around. This will allow bacteria to grow on your dog’s food, which could cause stomach upset when your dog consumes the contaminated food.

3. Lay off on the treats

If your dog is often disinterested in his food, it could be time to examine what food your dog is getting outside of his meals. Does he get to eat when he comes to you while you are preparing his food? What about when the family sits down for dinner, does he get a bite as well?

Treats are meant to be rewards for good behavior and should not be something you routinely give your pet every time. That will turn treats into snacks, which will only spoil your dog’s appetite during meal time. So if your dog seems full during meal times, check if unscheduled snacking could be to blame.

4. Variety is the spice of life

When feeding your dog raw food, variety is key to keeping him interested. If you are feeding him the same kind of food all the time, it won’t be a surprise if there comes a time when he’s just not that interested in the same old thing.

Planning a varied meal doesn’t have to be complicated. You can rotate his meals every 3 days. Serve different kinds of meat or different kinds of fruits and vegetables to keep him excited during meal times.

5. Make it fun

Just like with little kids, sometimes dogs need a little stimulation to encourage them to try and to eat new food. You can experiment with various activities and different kinds of toys that dispense food. Or you can take his food (for example, raw meaty bones or whole carcasses) and dangle it a bit in front of him. That could work to get his attention to try the new food.

6. Maybe he’s not feeling well

When you’ve tried different methods and your dog is still not eating, it could be a sign that your dog is not feeling well.  If his lack of appetite is accompanied by a general lack of interest in any activity, you would do well to have him checked by a vet.

7. Do the slow switch method

Some dogs just need more time to adjust to raw food diet especially after being so used to a different type of food for a long time. To facilitate his adjustment, you might want to consider doing the slow switch method. What you do is you mix his old diet with the new diet, gradually increasing the proportion of the new diet, until such time when you are feeding him just raw food. This will allow him to acquire a taste for raw food at a less stressful pace.

Introducing the raw food diet to your dog isn’t always as easy as just giving him raw meaty bones to munch on. There are a lot of things to consider, especially if your dog is the sensitive/picky eater type.

A good resource to check out though would be Maggie Rhines’ “Going Rawr! Dog Lover's Compendium”. If you have a dog or a puppy that you want to raise on a raw food diet, her expert tips and guidance will go a long way in helping you make the transition as easy and as pleasant as possible for both you and your pet!

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