It’s a Misnomer That Only Pure Breeds Make the Best Dogs

Dogs have made fabulous companions for generations. Some are protective, some are energetic and some are athletic. Regardless of type, size or color, any well-tempered dog can be a loyal and loving friend for you and your family. While some people are convinced that purebred dogs make the best companions for them, there are plenty of reasons that you might want to consider a mixed-breed (or “mutt”) instead.

First and foremost, purebred dogs are extremely expensive. Certain breeds can cost upwards of one thousand dollars. The reasoning behind this is that a purebred has been (supposedly) genetically tested. The breeder’s dogs have may have been in dog shows and won a number of ribbons for various traits (which unless you want to do the same, only serve as bragging rights and mean absolutely nothing about the disposition of your dog). A breeder also practices selective breeding – which is a process that is used to eliminate certain undesirable aesthetic traits, which in the majority of cases results in physical problems for dogs – thus extremely costly vet bills for you. Examples are hip dysplasia, extreme neurological problems, breathing and overheating issues, seizures and spinal problems.

A kennel dog will cost fraction of the price of a purebred dog. When you buy your pooch from a pound, you don’t have to subsidize any of the costs of shows or genetic tests. Many pounds are run by the city too so they receive funding from taxes and donations – which means they don’t need to charge you a bundle for your companion. Better still – you will be able to choose from a variety of different dogs and choose the personality, size and age of dog that suits you and your family best.

A breeder can supposedly tell you the personality of their breed. However, the personality of a dog can have so much more to do with how it is handled as a puppy. Only certain personality traits are passed on through genetics. When you buy a puppy from a breeder, you are only guessing based on the breed’s reputation that the dog will turn out as you hope. The breeder runs a business of selling puppies, so she probably doesn’t spend much time getting to know the dog that you end up taking home.

When you adopt a dog from a shelter, he has already interacted with staff, volunteers and other dogs at the shelter. They will be able to tell you all about him – whether he is good with other dogs, has a dominant personality, likes kids, cats and other dogs, etc. Many mutts are just so desperate to have a home that they will love whoever wants to give them attention.

Mutts are typically heartier than purebreds. Purebreds often have genetic defects, which are passed on from generation to generation. With such a limited gene pool, inbreeding is almost inevitable and can cause huge problems with the pups. Breeders want to pass on only the most desirable traits, but such desirable traits are not necessarily the traits that make a dog a good companion (but they might make the dog a good showpiece). Often dogs from breeders end up with kennel cough, and other health issues that require immediate attention.

Over the life of a dog, mutts turn out to be much healthier dogs over pure breeds.

When you choose a dog from a shelter, you could be saving his life. There are an unfortunate number of unwanted cats and dogs in the world, and not enough room to house them in shelters. When shelters get overrun with animals they are forced to euthanize the least healthy. Many mixed-breed dogs have heartwarming stories, have led difficult lives before ending up at a shelter. So many of them just need to be loved and find a good home. Purebreds do not share the same problem.

It is becoming all too common to read about breeders whose ethics and breeding practices are far from above board. Think about it. It’s a money making endeavor. Rarely are people truly in it for the opportunity to hand down champion traits, because the majority of people aren’t showing their dogs, but use them for bragging rights. And for every dog you buy from a breeder, you are potentially letting a shelter dog to be euthanized because a home won’t be found for him.

And at the end of the day, when Sasha comes barreling down the hall to greet you, love you and lick your face all over, will it have mattered whether she is a purebred costing you $1000 or a dog whose life you rescued?

The Forgotten Soldier - Combat Dogs

War is an emotional and often brutal business. It becomes even more so on a personal level for those who are related to those brave soldiers who, by merely stepping into a uniform, put their lives in immense danger on a daily basis. A soldier’s life is not an easy one and the impact of war during and after service can be devastating to themselves, their families and loved ones.

As our time in Afghanistan comes to a close, for those soldiers who manage to make it home, special welcome events and readjustment plans are often the norm. Perhaps, a vibrant town parade should be a mandatory welcome home for all soldiers, but for the ones who don’t get to ride high on colorful floats with an American flag in hand, hopefully every community can offer post-war support in the form of job training, PTSD assistance, family counseling, etc. Returning from war is a tough adjustment period where soldiers must learn how to reenter the civilian world and this can be an uphill battle for many.

Not All Solders Are Afford the Same Welcome Home
There is, however, one soldier that rarely receives even the slightest accolade or post-war treatment upon arrival. Arguably the most loyal and courageous warriors on the battle field, military dogs play a major part in protecting our freedoms and rarely receive attention for their dutiful years of service. It goes much deeper than just order pet meds online.

These dogs are not your ordinary mascot, eagerly waiting to play fetch when the soldiers get home from the battlefield. Combat dogs are highly trained soldiers that continually risk their lives in times of war. Often used for foot patrols, search and rescue, tracking and pursuit, these dogs have one exceptional ability that has yet to be bested by human ability or technology: their keen sense of smell. These canines are often the first ones to step onto hostile territory sniffing out homemade bombs, which are responsible for the vast majority of causalities in Afghanistan.

Recently gaining notoriety since the raid on Bin Laden’s camp in 2011, these military canines add a touch of “aww” to the incurable pain that comes with seemingly endless years of war. But, it’s not all puppy love and treats for these dogs.

These are highly trained canine soldiers and they have an immense value in what they do, actively saving lives every day. Today, there are over 2,700 registered war dogs in the US military and about 800 were specially trained for war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Their loyalty is never ending; their service immeasurable and their spirit unbreakable, but what happens to these fierce canine veterans when the papers are signed and the tanks roll out?
The life of a combat dog is relatively short, usually retiring at the age of 8 or 9 and after their years of service. Previously, military dogs were often thought of as “surplus equipment” and cruelly put to sleep after their service was completed. Thankfully, we are now seeing a much more humane side to placing these heroes in a loving home which they deserve. In 2000, then President Bill Clinton passed the Robby’s Law (H.R.5314), requiring that all military dogs that are suitable for adoption must be placed in a loving home if possible.

Adopting a war dog does have its unique problems, though. Most of these dogs have been through a traumatic time and will probably have unique needs. Before adopting one of these heroic dogs, make sure that you contact a service that specializes in adoption of military dogs. Military Working Dog Adoptions and Lackland Air Force Base are both great organizations to get information on military dog adoption.

In addition to adoption, one of the best options is to have the dog’s handler bring its military canine companion home when the soldier is granted permanent leave. Handlers create strong bonds with these dogs during combat and it’s common that they make room for their canine colleague in their new civilian life. This is perhaps the best case scenario because it’s highly therapeutic for both the soldier and the dog during the civilian readjustment period.

It’s clear that these dogs are more than just war mascots; they are dutiful and loyal soldiers who protect our liberties every day. These silent and fearless canines deserve our respect and admiration and even more so, a place to run around and live out their civilian years with a loving family. Why not support these beautiful animals and adopt a war dog today?

Odd Doggy Behaviors

You love your dog Chippy, right? He’s your best friend, your constant companion, always happy to see you. And he’s probably well behaved in general. But he has one or two very strange behaviors and you’re wondering whether you should be worried about it. First of all, you are not alone. Many dogs have unusual or quirky behaviors. Most are nothing to be concerned about, but others may indicate a physical or psychological problem.

Weird or Actually Normal?
Just because it seems weird to you, does not mean that Chippy’s habit is abnormal. Some things that dogs do that we humans would not are normal for them. This would include butt sniffing, licking another dog’s mouth, sticking his head out of the window in a moving car, or circling several times before settling in for a nap.
• Sniffing another dog’s butt is a greeting in the canine world. When Chippy does this, he is getting crucial information about that dog. You should not stop him from doing it. Doing it to you and your guests is another story. It is okay to train him not to sniff human’s crotches.
• Licking another dog’s jowls is a way of showing submission. If Chippy does this, you know he’s not the alpha dog.
• The head in the window is simple: good smells!
• Circling before a nap can be chalked up to evolution. It is a remnant from their days of living in the wild. Dogs and wolves would circle before lying down to flatten grass for more comfort and to check for any potential dangers like a nearby snake before going to sleep.

Not So Normal?
If Chippy is exhibiting any of the “normal” dog behaviors, there is nothing to worry about. Others may not be so normal, but still may not be anything to ruffle your feathers over.
• He is scratching himself…a lot. If you have been careful about fleas and you bathe him regularly, Chippy may have a skin condition or an allergy. A quick trip to the vet for a skin test should get you an answer and help him stop.
• Licking or nibbling. If Chippy seems to enjoy licking people a little too much or nibbles on your guests’ fingers or ears, it is not a huge concern. It may be annoying, but some simple training techniques should stop the behavior.
• Chewing, chewing, and more chewing! When Chippy chews on and destroys your shoes during the day while you are at work, he is sending you a very clear message. He’s bored out of his mind! He needs a dog walker to break up his day, some more interesting toys to play with, or more exercise before you head off for work and as soon as you get home.

Any behavior that is unusual or annoying to you, but isn’t causing anyone harm is not a big deal. Work with a trainer to help change the behavior or consult with a behaviorist to find out what Chippy is trying to tell you.

When to Worry?
If Chippy’s behavior changes suddenly or drastically or becomes compulsive, you could have a problem on your hands. It is absolutely not normal for him to develop a weird behavior out of the blue. If he has always nibbled your ears when you cuddle on the couch, that’s ok. If he suddenly takes an interest in licking your ears and can’t seem to get enough of them, that is not ok. Get him to the vet as soon as possible and have him checked out for any underlying physical problems. Your vet can also tell you if the behavior is likely to be from psychological issues and can refer you to a specialist.

Try not to judge Chippy. He’s a dog, not a human and dogs sometimes do weird things. Take care of him, provide him with everything he needs, and get him some proper training and you and Chippy can enjoy life together, odd habits and all.

Bringing Murphy Home From The Shelter

Adopting a dog at the shelter is almost as exciting as bringing a new baby home from the hospital, almost. Murphy is one of those dogs. Your eyes met, and boom, you were hooked! Falling in love with her is easy. Finding out how old she is going to be more difficult because the shelter wasn’t able to keep record of her exact age. Unlike babies where age becomes apparent immediately, dogs have a unique way of hiding their age behind layers of fluffy fur. While Murphy looks full-grown and middle-aged to you, who knows? What if she turns out to be more of the puppy persuasion? This is where the Vet comes in.

Murphy’s First Trip to the Vet
You quickly pack Murphy in the car for that tail wagging, head out the window ride to the Vet’s office. The Vet performs several noninvasive tests on Murphy’s physique to try and pinpoint her age.

These tests include examinations of her:
• Coat
• Teeth
• Eyes
• Muscle Quality

The Quality of the Coat and Overall Tone
A dog’s coat can prove difficult when determining age because different breeds come with all sorts of furry exteriors, each with different textures, lengths and degrees of fluff. A good rule of thumb is that younger dogs generally have soft, fine downy-like fluff that proves irresistible to snuggle against one’s face. As a dog ages into adulthood, they lose that baby softness and their coat becomes bushy and coarser, like that of a Jack Russell. Along with a thicker coat comes a higher degree of oiliness in the layers of fur.

Examining Your Canine’s Canines
Examining Murphy’s teeth is one of the best ways to determine just how old she is. Like people, Murphy is not fond of having their teeth examined. The following is a pretty good run-down that can help determine Murphy’s age.

6 Weeks
At six weeks of age dogs have all their baby teeth. These appear to be small, sharp and brilliantly white.

3 to 7 Months
Somewhere between three to seven months of age, dogs start getting their adult teeth. This set of teeth will appear larger and have more of a grayish tone. By seven months all their adult teeth will have erupted.

1 to 2 Years
As a dog matures, yellowing and wearing of the bottom middle incisors sets in. A cardinal sign that a dog has reached age one or two is a yellowing of the front teeth and signs of tartar buildup on the front teeth will also appear.

3 to 4 Years
In order to determine if a dog is older, the Vet examines the dog’s level of tartar buildup. A dog that is three to four years old will have tartar buildup on most of their teeth. (After all dogs don’t actually remember to brush after every meal). In addition to the yellowing, the Vet looks that the top middle incisors and may notice that they have begun to wear and become more rounded. By this age a dogs eyes might also have lost the brightness they once had. A healthy middle-aged dog has defined muscle sharpness in the leg and shoulder area. Once ages set in they tend to become bony and frail.

5 to 7 Years
By age five, a dog has considerable tartar buildup on all teeth, including those in the very back. Tooth color appears to be dark yellow or brown. The canine teeth now look rounded and the incisors appear smooth and worn. By this age many dogs have also lost several of their teeth (must be all those missed trips to the dentist). Older dogs usually develop cataracts, which appears as foggy clouds in the iris of the eye, making it hard for them to see clearly, or at all. Like people, older dogs also develop a graying beard around their muzzle, which continues to engulf their face as they age.

Murphy’s Age
After examining her teeth, coat and general tone the Vet tell you that due to Murphy’s strong muscle definition, yellowing of the front teeth, mild wear and on her bottom adult sized teeth coupled with her thick dark coat that Murphy is around two to two and half years old. Now the fun of training comes in!

Pick Your Perfect Trainer

Unless your little buddy Ben was born a model of perfect canine behavior, chances are you will need a dog trainer. It’s best not to simply point your finger at a listing in the phone book or choose the trainer at the top of your Google search. There are plenty of great trainers out there, but also plenty of bad ones. If you want the best for little Ben and you, take the time to make a proper choice.

When choosing a dog trainer, you will need to consider several things. Some of the aspects of a trainer that you will be looking at will be personalized for you and Ben. But, there are also some traits in a trainer that everyone should be looking out for.

Training Techniques
There are a lot of different techniques that dog trainers can use to work with dogs. Before you pick a trainer for your little guy, be sure you understand what those are. There is plenty of controversy, debate, and discussion to go along with all the different training methods. Education yourself so that you can choose a trainer whose style matches what you want for Ben.

Dog trainers are often certified by a training or behavioral organization. There are many different such organizations that promote and use different certification requirements, instruction, and training techniques. You will have to do your homework here as well to decide if certification is important to you and if so, which organization best represents what you are looking for in a trainer.

Sometimes the best recommendation for a trainer is a set of good references. In fact, never hire a trainer unless they can provide some of these. A certification is not necessarily needed to be a great trainer. If you can talk to previous clients who sing the praises of the trainer you are considering, that bodes very well for you and Ben.

Trainer or Behaviorist?
A dog trainer and a dog behaviorist is not the same thing. But, beware. Many trainers use behaviorist or behavior specialist to describe themselves and it may not be true. A behaviorist is someone with specialized, advanced training, such as a graduate degree in animal behavior. A good trainer can correct a lot of bad behaviors, but only a specialist can really diagnose and treat serious behavior issues. You need to decide which Ben needs. Does he have a few annoying habits or does he have some deep-seated emotional issues?

Specialized Training
If you are just looking to get some basic manners for Ben, there are lots of trainers who will be able to help you. If you are thinking about challenging him a bit more and maybe seeing how talented he is, you will want to find a trainer who has experience with more specialized training. Perhaps Ben is destined to become an obedience expert, a star agility dog, or a caring service dog. Ask your potential trainer if they have experience with any of these specialties.

Will the Trainer Train You?
This may be the most important question you ask during your trainer interviews. Having a trainer teach Ben to sit, come, and stay is utterly useless if they don’t teach you how to command and instruct him as well. A good dog trainer trains owners as much as, if not more so than the dog. If a trainer insists on doing lessons without you, a big old red flag has been raised. Walk away.

Training Ben should be a positive experience for the both of you. You want a happy, well-behaved dog, and he wants nothing more than to please you. With the right trainer that works for and with the both of you, you will be able to achieve obedience bliss together.

When It’s Time

As medicine advances for humans, it does for our pets as well. They’re living longer and are more a part of our lives and our families than ever before. Chemotherapy, heart surgeries and even prosthetic limbs have been developed for them. Fifty years ago, that would not have been a likely thing to spend so much money on. Now, it’s not so unheard of. There are even health insurance options, as well as credit cards specifically with veterinary care in mind. As a result, pet parents and pet families want to give the best care possible even when they have to say goodbye.

There are many veterinarians’ offices that have a special “Rainbow Bridge” room where the family can sit with their pet before, during and after euthanasia. It is a separate room away from the rest of the office where they can peacefully spend their last moments together. Unfortunately, this can still be very stressful for your dog. Most of them don’t like going to the vet in the first place, but possibly even more-so when they’re sick.

Changes in a Senior Dog’s Health
It may start with a little gray hair along their muzzle, a change in their gait or just a loss of pep. Dogs, much like their human aging counterparts, begin to lose their hearing, lose some teeth or their sight is diminished. They can develop arthritis or other joint problems and pain, may become diabetic, develop cancer, heart problems or even have a stroke. Some may have trouble with incontinence, which sadly, is the last straw for some owners and they end up in shelters. More and more geriatric dogs are being abandoned when they need their people the most.

How Do You Know When it’s Time?
If you speak to anyone who’s had to put their dog to sleep, they’ll often say their dog “told them” it was time. Their dog obviously didn’t tell them anything verbally, but they absolutely did communicate that they were tired and that their quality of life was not what it should have been. Typically, small dogs live the longest 15-16 years, medium/large dogs live about 10-13 years and giant breeds, such as the Great Dane, only get about 7-8 years. While the old thought of seven dog years to one human year has been proven inaccurate due to developmental markers, there is not an agreed upon human equivalency. That’s not to say that you are guaranteed that many years with your loved one, but it also doesn’t mean you won’t be lucky enough to have more time.

One of the biggest signs is a lack of appetite. If your dog isn’t eating even when favorite foods or treats are offered, that’s a problem. Obvious signs of pain and weakness should be checked by a vet for any other underlying causes. If nothing else can be done for your dear family member, it no longer needs to be such a clinical-feeling goodbye.

Peacefully at Home
There are now several veterinarians who will make house calls to euthanize your dear dog in their favorite place, where they (and you) can be comfortable and spend their last moments with those they love the most. While the cost of an at-home euthanasia is more than double the price of one done in an office, being able to express your grief at home and being able to take as much time as needed without feeling rushed is well worth any cost to most pet parents.

After the procedure is completed, if you choose, there are services available to have your pet cremated and have their remains either returned to you or scattered at sea. Memorial paw prints can be cast in plaster as a physical reminder of your loving canine as well.

How To Handle a Fearful Dog

Brutus, a Labrador retriever, is considered a large dog. He’s a handsome creature, young and vital, but you notice whenever a thunderstorm coasts into town that Brutus is nowhere to be seen, and when you do find him he is a huddled, trembling mass. Angie is a shelter rescue and suffered an abusive past in a puppy mill. She is terrified of absolutely everything including her new owners, the outdoors and other dogs. She bolts when she sees another dog or a person approaches her; she barks at anyone outside the house. These two examples of fearful dogs are not terribly uncommon but they can be frustrating and even daunting to inexperienced owners. Fortunately, they are fixable conditions requiring patience, a calm demeanor and a pocket full of tasty treats.

What You Absolutely Must Not Do
Your friend is about to deliver her first child and she is terrified. The epidural is on its way but as with many aspects of childbirth there are risks in having the spinal injection. You lovingly take her hand, hold it tight and proceed to tell her she is right to be afraid, that the epidural that can take away her pain can also cause her paralysis if she moves while they administer it. Then, you gently tell her, she can look forward to never being able to hold or hug her baby. Yes, she should be scared; she should be very, very scared. You smile at her in comfort. While these fears are true and founded, is this the right time to encourage her terror? Absolutely not. So it is with coddling and comforting Brutus when he is trembling in fear at a loud thunderstorm.

Fear is natural in all animals but debilitating fear is not something we prize as human beings and it is not something we tend to encourage. In fact, we do quite a bit to get over our fears and say inspiring things to others to help them get over theirs. We act strong and fearless for the sake of the fearful that they might have a role model, someone to draw strength from: we puff out our chests, raise our chins, square our shoulders and make light of the danger or the source of terror. We do these things to help others but we rarely perform this way for a frightened dog that really needs to see it. They look to their humans for an example on how to behave when they are scared and if they get a weak demonstration of baby talk and pawing, they will associate their fearful behavior with receiving attention and continue the cycle. What they need is assurance from your body language; they need to see you are not afraid. Many people call this calm energy but whatever you like to label it, show it to your dog when things like storms, firecrackers and other loud noises frighten him. Brutus will draw his strength from yours and try to follow his leader’s example.

What You Can Do
With dogs a cool head is the main thing. Do not punish fear but do not encourage it. Many dogs will not take treats or eat when they are trembling in horror, so do not force it or yell at them when they refuse to eat. If Brutus has a safe place, let him go there and ride out the storm. It can very difficult for a concerned human parent not to comfort his dog so if you must do something, simply sit near him and show that you are not bothered by what is bothering him. If Brutus allows it you can take his mind off the storm or source of agitation by distracting him with games or commands. He may not be attentive during these moments so don’t take it personally if he does not play along.

In extreme cases like Angie where everything is a fear, you may need to engage in what is call cognitive therapy among humans and desensitization with dogs. Essentially they are the same thing, which is a psychological therapy method that introduces the source of the fear repeatedly until the impact of the source diminishes. With a canine who cannot associate the act specifically with something that is trying to help them, it may take a good deal of time and patience. Each trigger object or situation will have to be dealt with separately and it is started by showing the object to the dog at a distance, praising her for staying calm and giving her a treat, then bringing the object just a little bit closer and repeating the praise. If she does not respond to the treat and praise but shows only fear, then you have pushed her too far and you will have to start over again.

Distraction works well in these cases too, where a command to sit (or teaching sit) with the trigger object in the background helps the dog to associate the fear item with positive praise and treats until they expect something good whenever they are exposed to the trigger object. This is not as easy as it sounds and will require vast patience, endless praise and a lot of treats. It also demands that the human be calm, show no anger at having to start over and can keep a firm tone without shouting. If you cannot perform these functions, you may consider working with a dog behaviorist. Also, do not be afraid to administer some medication to help calm the dog down in the form of acepromazine tranquilizer, which can be dispensed by your veterinarian. This is a good idea for severe cases of terror such as before a thunderstorm.

Do not give up on your dog, she can be taught to rethink her fears and associate such negative experiences with positive attributes. Animals have self-confidence issues too and may need to have their confidence rebuilt or strengthened. Either way, dogs look to their humans for guidance and as examples of how to react to a situation. Every correction takes time; commit yourself to that and Angie will respond in kind… eventually.

Smushed Faced Dogs

Sometimes described as having a face only a mother could love, English bulldogs, are lovable, tenacious, stubborn, affectionate, and loyal dogs. If you love bulldogs, most likely, you also love that sweet, smushed in face. But have you ever noticed how hard the poor thing works just to breathe? Or maybe you’ve been suddenly awakened by his heavy snoring, and surely you’ve felt horrible for him on hot days because he just can’t cool down. That sweet face, selectively bred for, results in numerous health problems.

Brachycephalic Dogs
The official term for the smushed in face, or short snout, is brachycephalic. It is a trait that has been bred into several types of dogs including boxers, pugs, Boston terriers, Pekingese, shih tzus, some mastiffs, and French and English bulldogs. Bulldogs are the classic example of brachycephalic dogs. They were bred originally for traits such as strength and tenacity for the purpose of fighting and bullbaiting. Over time, breeders also selected for the unique appearance of bulldogs, including his short and stocky stature, short legs with turned out elbows, and of course, the smushed in face. The gene that creates this appearance in bulldogs and some other breeds is similar to the gene that causes dwarfism in humans. While selecting for appearance, breeders have created abnormal dogs with health issues to go with their unusual looks.

Respiratory Problems
The most obvious health concern for brachycephalic dogs is the struggle to breathe. In fact, they have what is called brachycephalic respiratory syndrome. Several aspects characterize the syndrome. Individual dogs may have one or more of these: Narrow nostrils and windpipes restrict air flow. The soft palate is too large to fit in the shortened snout. This means it dangles down into the throat, which results in snorting and snoring, although not usually difficulty breathing. After prolonged breathing difficulties, the ventricles inside a brachycephalic dog’s larynx can turn inside out, requiring surgery to fix. Even just having one of these issues can be very serious.

Heat Intolerance
Bulldogs and other like-snouted dogs do not tolerate heat very well. The respiratory problems described above result in inefficient panting. Dogs pant in order to cool themselves in the heat. Where humans sweat, dogs pant. If they can’t pant the right way, they can’t cool themselves down properly. Brachycephalics should not be allowed to stay out very long in hot conditions. They should have plenty of water in the summer and can be cooled with a wet cloth on the belly.

Eye Sockets
Because the nasal bones are compacted to such an extent, brachycephalic dogs’ eyes tend to sit improperly and bulge out of their sockets. Again, while some may consider this a cute trait, it can cause serious problems. Blows to the head or even being strained pulling against a leash can cause an eye to pop out of the socket. For this reason, these dogs should always be in a harness rather than a leash.

Skin Infections
Because the upper jaw of a smushed-in dog is so unnaturally compressed, the dog’s skin scrunches up into numerous folds. These wrinkles can harbor grime and bacteria and need to be cleaned out on a regular basis. Dirt and oil that is allowed to build up in the wrinkles can cause irritating and uncomfortable infections. If not treated early, an infection like this may require antibiotics to heal.

Giving Birth
The large cranial cavity associated with the dwarfism gene gives brachycephalic dogs adorably large heads. Yet again, this desirable physical trait results in a problem. In some breeds, this is so extreme, that mothers cannot give birth naturally and require Cesarean sections. Both French and English bulldogs are among those breeds that must have C-sections to have puppies.

Responsible Breeding
While some people believe that creating brachycephalic dogs is completely wrong and should not be done, others think that there is a responsible way to do it. For example, a responsible bulldog breeder would not breed a dog that exhibits the more serious health problems, like a restricted airway or soft palate that is severe enough to warrant corrective surgery. Some breeders have gotten together in recent years to create new breeds that retain the desired look of a brachycephalic dog while eliminating some of the health problems. These breeds, such as the Olde English bulldogge, are not perfectly healthy, but are more so than their predecessors.

If you are considering getting a brachycephalic dog, you need to be informed of the health issues that he is likely to suffer from. You should be prepared to treat and deal with a dog that has many needs.

Dog insurance: why it’s worth the investment

As a member of your family, you don’t want anything bad to happen to your dog. With rising veterinary bills, it’s only right that you go out of your way to safeguard your beloved pooch from whatever life throws at it. That’s why many people compare cheap dog insurance and buy a policy to make sure nothing unexpected will take them and their dog by surprise.

Vet bills are increasing in the UK on a year-to-year basis and getting hold of pet insurance for your dog, or any other pet, will cover them in the face of these costs when they are faced with ill health or are affected by an accident. Dog owners must make sure they find the type of insurance best-suited to their situation, as these animals in particular are subject to more health problems and accidental injuries than other pets.

There are a number of different kinds of insurance available for your furry friend. The simplest and most affordable policy offers cover for single injuries and has a relatively small limit on what can be paid out. Owners can claim this on a one-year policy if such an injury occurs. Alternatively, people can get life cover from their dog insurance, covering any kind of injury or illness. This is a much higher limit paid per year, though gives absolute peace of mind. Providing it is renewed every year, it can be claimed regularly and if a pet has a chronic condition, it can be claimed repeatedly.

While many organizations offering dog insurance will cover vet fees, accidental damage and other benefits should the pet pass away, others give extras. These can include advertising and reward costs as well as boarding kennel fees or holiday cancellation costs. While many people will want these added extras, pet owners should ensure that the additions are necessary as it will raise how much you spend on a policy.

Third-party damages ought to be a consideration for dog insurance buyers, too. This will cover damage that a dog might do to someone else’s property, or other people in general. Just remember that claims often have an excess that needs to be paid, so owners must consider extras that may need to be paid in a number of situations. With peace of mind as the most important thing that dog insurance gives, be sure your dog’s health is covered in the best way possible.

How To Deal With a Fearful or Timid Dog

Does Gracie avoid stepping on sewer grates? Does Raquel jump out of her own skin when you rattle a plastic bag? Is a car backfiring down the block enough to transform Charlie into a glazed and drooling mess? Certain sights, sounds, and even smells may terrify the fearful dog, creating real suffering for dog and owner. While fear of thunder and fireworks are among the more common sound phobias, many different experiences can scare the fur off a scaredy-dog. Are you lost, at your wit’s end and in need of solutions? Read on!

Training Suggestions
Accentuate the positives. To train your dog into being brave and confident, be prepared to praise, praise, praise! Use an exposure-desensitization method in which you expose the dog to a very small dose of the fearful item and then praise and offer treats. For example, walk your dog on her leash near the sewer grate, but far away enough so that the dog is mildly uncomfortable but not panicked. If she manages to pass the grate without showing fear (no stopping, backing up, whining or barking), then offer big praise. Use both verbal praise and give her an enthusiastic head scratch. Repeat the exposure, walking her past again without trying to go any closer and again, if she doesn’t react, offer big praise. If she does react, you are too close. Allow her to have more space between the scary item and her feet. Over a week or two of repeated successful exposures, slowly move closer to the scary object. Always praise the lack of a reaction. If the dog reacts with fear – in other words, shows signs of regression - back up your training until the dog is only mildly uncomfortable. Do a few more repeats at that level before trying to inch closer again.

Believe it or not, many dogs are frightened of plastic bags. They can blow in the wind, moving in erratic or unpredictable ways, and they make crinkly noises. For some dogs, that’s enough! Begin your training out of this fear slowly, by petting and praising Porter while you slowly pull a plastic bag out of a coat pocket or from up your sleeve. That’s it, just minimal exposure with maximum praise. After a few successes at this level of challenge, crinkle the bag a little as you set it down. Again, offer the dog big praise for tolerating this without freaking out. Once some small success has been achieved, you can start to do things like hiding a treat in the bag, or slip the bag over your hand and pet Porter with it. Always back off if your dog seems stressed. For most dogs, the scariest thing you can do with a plastic bag is to shake it out to open it up. Save that for last, and take your time, making sure that just plain being near the bag is tolerated before you start swinging it around or snapping it open.

Some dogs get frightened in situations where there is a lot of noise, stimulation and people (a crowded farmer’s market, for example). In these cases, you want Percy to focus on you, since you are his person and if you are calm and happy, he will eventually trust that he can be too. Again, walk him in the general area, and praise him like crazy when he doesn’t react to the other people. If this is too difficult either logistically or emotionally, then set up a training exercise with friends or acquaintances where just a few people loiter and mill around in your backyard or driveway, ignoring the dog but scaring him simply by being there. Then walk the dog near the people, praising like crazy for any lack of reactions on his part.

Choices in Training Methods
Some people prefer to use clickers or food treats when praising their brave dogs. These methods work well too. In fact, some dogs are less motivated by verbal praise or a pat on the head, but will do anything for a tasty morsel. Use high value treats, such as cheese, chicken, or other strongly flavored rich items that you can hold easily and dole out quickly. Then use the treats to keep Patches focusing on you and distracted from the scary situation. Use verbal praise along with the treats, and see how it goes. You may be able to wean her off the treats after a few exposures.

Lifestyling Your Training
Integrate your confidence training into an all-around lifestyle approach. Be ready to turn any moment into a training opportunity. For example, when cooking dinner, let your dog smell the handle of the blender if she seems worried about the noise it made. Don’t shut the dogs in the bathroom while you vacuum, but let them try being nearby. Whenever you see that cocked head or tucked tail, offer your dog the opportunity to grow through their fear into brave and confident dogs.

A Few Don’ts
Don’t hit or in any other way punish a fearful dog for refusing to cooperate out of fear. It definitely won’t help and it might make matters worse.

Don’t laugh when your dog seems frightened, no matter how cute or funny it might appear to be. This could be misinterpreted as praise.

Don’t force the dog to do anything he or she is terrified of doing. Don’t drag a frightened dog over the sewer grate or shove a plastic bag in her face. Don’t throw the water-phobic dog into the pool.

Don’t get discouraged if the training goes slowly. Be patient and be positive, and your dog will respond eventually.

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