Thursday, December 30, 2010

Um, that's not alien skin is it?

Yes I watched to much "V" as a child. (You didn't think that was an original show did you?)
It started Christmas day. Jenny wasn't holding her tail up like normal. Now when a curly tailed breed starts holding their tail down it's usually a big sign something is not right. She also kept looking at her hind end. Or so I thought. The logical conclusion was that her anal glands needed to be expressed. So I did that. Several times over the next 2 days that the vets office was closed. Then I took her to work my first day back and had the Dr. express them since I wasn't confident of my ability. (It is a recently acquired skill for me.) She started holding her tail up again so I thought the problem was resolved. I did notice that her tail was sore when I stroked her the other day but it looked normal so I just figured it was still about her anal glands because she was improving. I just told the kids not to touch her tail.
Cut to earlier this evening when she was laying on me and I got a good look at her tail. This is what I saw.
OK what the heck is that!? It's not the best photo. Trust me it looks gross. Of course with all her skin issues the first thing I thought was a new wonderful infection of some kind. So I took her in to get checked. It turns out it's not an infection but probably the result of a crushing injury. The Dr. had to shave part of her tail to get a better look so now it looks like this.
Fashionable no? I know she got stepped on recently and yelped but I thought it was her paw. (being food motivated she is sometimes underfoot in the kitchen while dinner is cooking) Maybe it was her tail instead or maybe I missed something while I was at work and she was home with the family. She does play rough with Jack sometimes too.
The good news is that it looks like it is healing. The bad news is that it might get worse and the skin could slough off. If that happens she might need to be bandaged or wear a cone. She will not be impressed with that! I picked up something for the pain as it is very uncomfortable if touched. I think that's why she keeps looking at it. Worst case scenario, if it doesn't heal and lots of tissue comes off, it would need to be amputated. I can't imagine it will get that bad but I'll keep you posted. (I am slightly superstitious and believe if I talk about the bad stuff it won't happen. That's why I leave "Instructions for the dogs in case my plane crashes or car wrecks." every time we travel. Yeah I am that person.)
Ahh life with dogs. It's always something!

I hate hackers!

OK so if anyone has had issues getting in touch with me please try again. While I was deleting ALL my address book contacts (in efforts to foil those stupid hackers sending out spam under my name) I also accidentally deleted everything in my spam folder before checking the e-mails. I am not trying to ignore anyone! And if you got a spam e-mail from me I am sorry. I am running virus checks left and right in hopes I can catch this before any more go out. Ahhh the joy of living in the technological age!

This is Jenny snubbing her nose at said hackers.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How to get your dogs attention

Here is a long overdue training post on what I consider the beginning of focus work.

Getting your dogs attention is the first step in building your foundation to having a really reliable recall and for focus work later if needed. To accomplish this the first thing I do is teach the dog that its' name is valuable. When I say the dogs name "Fido" and they look at me I praise them verbally. "Good dog!" A happy tone of voice is important for verbal praise. Otherwise it has no meaning to the dog. If the dog comes over to me I will also add physical praise like petting and stroking if they like it. Note: not all dogs like to be handled, some are touch sensitive. Skip petting for a touch sensitive dog. Do not pet your dog on the top of it's head. Most dogs dislike this form of petting. (Watch your dog closely when you do this, do they pull away or duck? If so they are trying to avoid it.) I will also have a happy facial expression whenever I praise a dog. Remember body language is our dogs first language so they learn to read our body and facial expressions very quickly. If they come over I might also add play and/or a food reward. Our goal is to build a positive association to their name and our contact with them.
A review about using praise ~ The 5 most commons ways we can praise our dogs are:
1) verbally - in a happy tone
2) physically - if they like being touched
3) by smiling - communication in language they understand
4) engaging in play - fetch, tug, games they enjoy
5) using food rewards - high value treats
Because we can't call a dog to us unless they are paying attention we need to teach the attention first. We cannot guarantee we have that attention unless they are physically looking at us. Even then remember that we are competing with things we don't smell or hear so we may not have 100% of their attention, especially if we are outside. If they are sniffing something or looking at something else they are not trying to ignore you. Most times they are just focused on what has their attention and they don't hear us. Saying the dogs name and rewarding them for looking at us is the start of building great focus.
The next step is teaching the dog what the word "come" actually means to us. Now because I want "come" to always mean come to me and sit I teach it that way. If you want the dog to just come closer use a different word. Example: I use "let's go" to mean come along with me. One of the most important things to remember when using the word/cue "come" is to never use it for anything the dog considers a negative reason. For instance if they hate getting a bath and you call them to you and then stick them in the tub you will poison that cue. They will pause the next time you call them because you've used it with a negative association to them. For this reason I also use a completely different word for let's go back into the house or playtime is over. (sidenote tip: to get dogs to want to come back into the house or car toss some well loved treats and/or a favorite toy on the floor as you go out so as soon as the dog walks back into the house or car they get magically rewarded.)
You can teach your recall in a few ways, this is just one of them. I tend to begin with lure reward training especially if the dog hasn't learned his name means anything. Put the treat in front of the dogs nose and back away from them a few steps pulling the treat in front of your legs so they target their nose on it. AS they are coming towards you say the cue word "come". The reason you say the word as they are doing it is to pair the word with the action for the dog. Don't repeat your cue. When the dog gets to the treat simply raise it slightly back over the dogs head so they sit. You can also say the word sit AS they are sitting. Say "yes", your verbal marker (or click) and give the treat after they sit. My hand action pulling the treat towards me, and pulling the treat up, also become hand signals later for the commands. (Lure reward training is also excellent to use with deaf dogs. Use a thumbs up signal for your reward marker signal.)
If you teach your dog its' name has meaning you will notice the dog starts coming to you before you say the actual cue word "come". It can become it's own pre-recall command so make sure you separate the name from the come command with a few seconds. Otherwise "Fido come" becomes the command which isn't the goal because then when you say the word "come" alone they may not understand what you want. "Fido" should mean look at me so you can pair it with other things later, not just for the recall. Whenever my dogs come to me I always reward them in some way. EVERY time. This keeps the recall worthwhile to them. Remember that dogs are very much "What's in it for me" creatures. Rewarding them also establishes that coming to me gets them good things and therefore makes the recall a positive association. Most people have problems getting a dog to come when called because they try calling them when the dog is engaged in a more fun behavior. If we make the recall more fun than everything else that problem will resolve.
Now I know some clicker trainers prefer to get the dog doing a behavior reliably before they name it for the dog. This is also ok as long as everyone understands what they need to do to make that work. I find some people have a hard time not speaking to their dogs so I think this way accommodates that issue. There are some things I also teach before naming and putting on a cue, this just isn't one of them. (for me)
Trouble shooting: If your dog doesn't look at you when you say its name add sound. Clap your hands or make kissing noises. Say the name happily when they do finally look. Shake a toy when they look. Make them want to come to you. Whatever you do do NOT get annoyed and yell at them. Remember we are making positive associations. Practice inside first where there are fewer distractions. When moving your recall practice outside the house start out closer to the dog to be sure you can get their attention. Increase your distance over time. Do NOT say come until the dog is looking at you and on its way towards you. Make sure you remember to have them sit when they get to you. Don't repeat your cue "come" but you can make other noises to encourage forward movement. Keep practice sessions short so they stay fun.
Happy training!
Marie Finnegan

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Holidays!!

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday whichever one you celebrate.

And batten down the hatches for all those on the east coast. They say a storms a comin!

Monday, December 13, 2010

An itchy dog update

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I've been under the weather but still as busy as ever. To get a bit of a break the one thing I try to do when over committed is to keep the online stuff to a minimum.
Jenny's skin is looking a bit better at the moment. (The photo above hides her patchiness.) She just finished some antibiotics for a secondary infection though. I've noticed she seems to be changing color in places now too. Where she used to be all pink parts of her are now turning grey. She is also on a new medication that is supposed to help with the itching. (Cyclosporine which is the generic version of Atopica) I've gotten her off the steriods but am not 100% satisfied with the new meds. If she is still itchy and I need to break out the benedryl what is the point of the Cyclosporine? We are supposed to be at the point of weaning to a smaller dose of it bi-weekly but she is still to itchy. Gahh!
I just picked up some different anti itch shampoo to also try to see if it helps. If I don't see a difference soon I have another medication to try that was recommended by another pug person with similar issues. (Thank you Terry!) Jenny's doctors wanted to try the Atopica first.
I tried to do what I could using natural remedies and even went to a full raw diet for her for quite awhile. Unfortunately her triggers seem to be more environmental than food related and without a noticeable pattern. I gave up on the raw more because I just couldn't sustain it properly with my schedule a.k.a. life. I worry about getting is just right and put a lot of work into the prep. Using a commercial raw diet would be great except they all contain liver which is one of the few food things she tested as allergic to. Once I feel 100% again I might try some honest kitchen dehydrated with the raw venison.
I haven't blogged about it much because I worry about people judging me. I know I shouldn't care about it but I do. Yes I believe in raw diets and yes I believe in (some) natural remedies and I know how not using them looks. I just want my dog to be comfortable. I believe I need to do what I can to provide relief so her quality of life is good. Constant itching is torturous! I am conflicted about everything lately. I am trying to do what is best for her while keeping in mind the long term effects of the treatments I choose as well. No matter what I do there is something to feel guilty about. The most aggravating part? Her itching spells come and go. So there are times no matter what she is on that she itches herself raw and other times she is almost off everything and she is fine. Or she isn't itchy at all but her coat gets all patchy looking. The flare ups are unpredictable and drive me (us!) insane.
If living in a bubble was a possibility for a dog I might consider it. ~sigh~
(And yes we have done multiple skin scrapings. The next step might need to be a skin biopsy.)

Fun with the microscope ~ Heebee jeebee alert!

Turns out you can take pics with a digital camera through a microscope lens. Check out the dog louse. This creepy crawlie came in on a new families puppy recently.
The yellowish dot on the slide below is what it looks like actual size. They are slightly larger than a flea.
This is scabies, also known as sarcoptic mange mites. Not visible with the naked eye.

And urine crystals. With some bacteria and red blood cells thrown in for fun.
I also get to look at fecal samples but haven't taken a photo of that yet. I'm sure there will be some interesting parasites to show eventually.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Let's face it, I got no nose!

I'm not the lone voice after all. Check out the fabulous post from Pedigree dogs exposed:

Pedigree Dogs Exposed - The Blog: Pugs. Let's face it.

I'm glad to see someone else has figured it out! Is it me or does one of those German pugs look like our Jenny?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Let's play a guessing game

And now for something much nicer than the last post. It facinates me how puppies of many breeds of dogs all look pretty much the same when they are first born. These girls are only one week old. They are a mix of two breeds and they weighed around 2.5 lbs each. Anyone wanna guess what they might be? (They are not the pug mix puppies of an earlier post.) My only hints which may or may not help you: Momma was mostly white and Daddy was brindle.

Just look at those tiny paws!

Friday, December 3, 2010

A photo that haunts me

The photo shown below was on a facebook friends page. He currently works with dogs in Vietnam. Since he shared this photo on his page and I cannot get it out of my head. It may be to disturbing for some viewers so don't say I didn't warn you.

This pup believe it or not is being treated for parvo. They are helping him. (or her) I am unsure why the vets there think this is an appropriate handing method for a 4 month old puppy. I'm also sure he'll be thrilled to go to a vet in the future. If this is help I'm afraid to see what they consider cruel or harsh. This photo makes my heart ache.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

To logo or not to logo

So I've been thinking about changing my logo. I don't have my current logo on my site now, I use it on my vehicle instead. It is a silhouette of a standing akita I drew a long time ago. I was thinking about changing it because I found a design I love that includes all dogs. It would also be nice to brand myself more to make advertising easier. Having the same logo on my cards and car makes sense. My current cards have a photo of a bulldog on them.
Some of you might remember the post about my tattoo. The drawing of it is shown above. I found the pawprint originally on another blog called Finnegan's Pawprint and tweaked it for the tattoo. The person that created it has this website:
I've tried to contact her repeatedly for permission to possibly use the pawprint as my business logo. I have had no luck. So this is a public appeal to see if it helps at all. (Cari Buziak if you're out there please e-mail me! ) I'm not sure what the rules are governing such things. I don't want to use it without permission but if I get no respose to my requests where does that leave me?
I thought the pawprint might translate well onto t-shirts and the like. I've never put much into advertising before because I haven't really needed to given my area. I just really like this symbol and would love to put it to use. It's getting near time to order more business cards.
So I am putting this out there in hopes it helps. I'm not sure of the legalities of using it without permission, but I figure a public appeal will help should there be a problem down the road. I could be wrong but since I am small potatos (no tv deals in the works just yet VBG) I figure it isn't likely to ever be a real issue.

What do you think? Yea or nay? (You can also vote on my K-9 Solutions facebook page. Go to my profile photos and vote for version # 1 or #2. )