Xylitol products

Sugarless Sweetener: Not So Sweet for Canines

Xylitol is a common ingredient used to sweeten human food products.  It’s most notably found in sugarless items like chewing gum, peanut butter, Jell-O, pudding, or other household products like vitamins, mouthwash, and toothpaste.  Ice Breakers Cubed gum is the most common culprit we’ve seen lately at Aldie, and unfortunately has a high amount of xylitol.  Just ONE tiny, little, delicious cube can cause toxicity in a 25-pound dog!

Xylitol toxicity is not documented as well in cats; most research indicates they are a bit more tolerant than their canine counterparts.  However, it is not recommended to give cats xylitol and you should contact your veterinarian if you believe your cat has ingested any amount.

WHAT DOES IT DO?

A dog’s body responds to xylitol in the same, but exaggerated, manner that it would typically respond to sugar: it releases insulin.  This causes a low blood glucose (blood sugar) level, which can result in subsequent weakness, muscle tremors, or even seizures or death. Xylitol is absorbed rapidly after ingestion; the drop in blood sugar can occur as quickly as 30 minutes after ingestion, but signs may take up to 12 hours to develop.

Xylitol can also cause damage to your dog’s liver.  It can take up to 2-3 days for evidence of the damage to appear on lab work.  The liver damage can range in severity from mild and temporary, to extreme and life-threatening.  The liver is an important organ and has many jobs.  We typically think of it as the filter/recycler of the body, as it processes blood from all around the body and “cleans” it up.   However, the liver also makes many things, including clotting factors. Clotting factors allow the body to stop a severe hemorrhagic event from occurring following a simple injury (think bumping your knee=small bruise, not life-threatening hemorrhage).   Dogs with severe liver damage may become jaundiced (have a yellow tinge to eyes/skin).   If the clotting factors are also affected, life-threatening anemia can occur, and a blood transfusion may be required.

WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Time is of the essence! As soon as you realize your dog has ingested something containing xylitol, contact the veterinarians at Dulles South Veterinary Center and bring them in right away!  Blood glucose can drop as soon as 30 minutes after ingestion, so there’s no time to waste.

WHAT DOES THE VET DO?

We will induce vomiting, and make recommendations for further treatment and monitoring based on how much xylitol your dog ingested.  Inducing vomiting at home with hydrogen peroxide can work, sometimes. However, there are studies that show that burns from the peroxide ingestion can persist in the esophagus/stomach days after the vomiting episode. Veterinarians have a much more potent vomiting agent, which is more likely to be successful than just peroxide, and less likely to have the abrasive side effects.

After vomiting occurs, we often recommend hospitalization for IV fluid support, dextrose (sugar) supplementation, liver protectant medications, and frequent monitoring lab work.  These hospital stays range from 1 day for minimally affected dogs, to a week or more in very severe cases.

PREVENTION

Xylitol is a sneakily dangerous food ingredient.  Make sure to double check what kind of peanut butter you use to feed treats/medications, and use extreme caution with oral hygiene products, medications/vitamins, and chewing gum in the house. Make sure to keep your toothpaste and mouthwash in a drawer if you have a counter surfer, and keep purses and bookbags with gum up high on hooks to deter “shopping” from these items.

The veterinarians at Dulles South Veterinary Center are here to answer any questions or treat your pet if he/she happens to get a hold of xylitol-containing goodies.

Skipper's Reaction

Neutering and the Cone of Shame

Skipper is now 6 months of age, a milestone which brings up an important conversation about the future of those two things between his hind legs. Does he really have to lose them? What health benefit is there to neutering my pet? When is the best age to part ways with them? Let’s go over some of the most common questions.

Should Skipper be neutered?
Breeding dogs has its place, for responsible, thoughtful breeders, who want to contribute to an individual breed’s future. Breeding a litter of puppies sounds fun, right? Who wouldn’t want a litter of tiny wriggling puppies in their house for a few weeks? But, whelping (birthing of puppies) is a full-time job. Keeping momma and puppies safe and healthy is tough, requires hard work, conscientious, round the clock care, and should be left to the educated breeders who truly have a passion for the duties associated.

Now, obviously Skipper isn’t having puppies himself, so where does that put us? Un-neutered male dogs (we call them intact males) are more likely to go off roaming, to find a mate. This could put another dog owner at risk for having to care for an unwanted litter and put Skipper at risk for injury on his wandering adventure.

Intact males are at risk for development of testicular cancer, infection of the testicular cord and/or testicles, testicular torsion (a painful twisting of the spermatic cord which chokes off blood supply to the testicles), and prostatitis (inflammation/infection of the prostate). Without the testicles, the risk for these conditions drops impressively, to 0%.

Some intact males may also have some undesirable behaviors, like roaming, wandering, marking, and in some cases, aggression/reactivity to other dogs or humans. Some groomers, boarding facilities, and doggie daycare facilities have policies that restrict or prohibit access to their facilities.

OK, so when do we plan this?
For small to medium breed dogs, anywhere in the 4-6 months age range is appropriate for neutering. For larger breeds, like Labradors, Rottweilers, Great Danes, etc., I often discuss waiting until the dog is more skeletally mature. There are several studies documenting a beneficial, protective effect of sex hormones on joint development in these bigger dogs.

The breeds listed above are inherently at a higher risk of developing some orthopedic conditions, like a torn cruciate ligament (like an ACL tear in humans). Allowing these guys to remain intact until around 1 year of age may decrease that individual’s risk of injury. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Skipper will never have an orthopedic injury if I allow him to stay intact until he’s a year old. Likewise, it doesn’t mean that every dog neutered before a year of age will definitely have an orthopedic issue. It’s just a factor in the planning process to discuss with your dog’s veterinarian.

What should I expect before, during, and after a neuter?
Within 30 days of your dog’s procedure, a pre-operative blood test needs to be completed. The lab work will tell us if his liver and kidneys are up for the job of processing anesthesia and pain medications. It also ensures that we know his red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet counts are normal, which is important before any surgical procedure.

The day of his neuter, withhold breakfast to ensure he doesn’t become nauseous following anesthesia. Check-in for surgery is usually between 7-8 am. The procedure itself is fairly quick, usually about 30 minutes, and once your dog is up and awake, he can go home, sporting his brand new e-collar. Sometimes this is as early as lunchtime; it all depends on where your dog’s procedure falls in that day’s surgical line-up.

Your dog may feel a bit “funny” the night following anesthesia. Some dogs whine or pace, others will just want to go home and go to bed. He will need to take it easy for the next 7-10 days and MUST wear the oh-so-glamorous lampshade, to make sure he doesn’t damage his surgery site until it has time to fully heal. For those dogs who spend more time jumping around on two legs than walking on four, we often recommend a light sedative to help encourage him to stay quiet during the healing period. He’ll also have some pain medications for the first few days after surgery to keep him comfortable.

Since Skipper is a large breed puppy, and so far very well behaved, we’re planning his neuter for around 10-12 months of age. Discuss the best plan for your puppy at his puppy examination; we can help create a plan that fits each individual, and answer any questions you may have.

-Skipper & Dr. Conroy

#Vetsrus #SkipperAndConroy #FollowFriday #FF

I can Help

Outings to the Super Pet Expo

The Super Pet Expo is just a week away! This event has lots of fun things to offer both humans and canines.  For the humans, you can shop from many vendors of unique, pet-related products: beds, treats, collars, clothes, toys, etc. For the dogs, there are several activities: small and big dog play areas, a dock diving pool, and a lure game for dogs who like to chase!

 

So it sounds awesome, and you want to take your dog. But how do you know if your dog is going to enjoy his time at the Expo as much as you will?

 

For adult dogs, consider the following:

  1. Does your dog like being around other dogs?
    • Does he greet other dogs in a calm, friendly manner? Look for signs such as a loosely wagging, raised tail, ears forward, and a relaxed face.
    • If your dog is pulling so much that you don’t need to go to the gym tomorrow, and lunging at other dogs, he is not a good candidate. While your dog might be enjoying himself, he’s going to intimidate others.
    • Likewise, if your dog is hiding behind your leg, tail tucked, ears are back and his lips are pulled back tight into a “smile,” he would rather let you shop alone at the Expo.
    • Check out this link for more information on identifying signs of anxiety/stress in your dog: https://fearfreehappyhomes.com/fearful-fido/
  2. Your dog likes being around other people and is comfortable with tiny humans
    • LOTS of people come out to enjoy the Expo and look at all the cute dogs! If large crowds, strange people, or the unpredictable hands and fast movements of tiny humans make your dog uncomfortable, you should think twice about bringing him along.
  3. Leash Manners
    • With so many toys, treats, people, and other pets around, it’s very important that your dog is obedient on a leash to avoid an accident.
    • I strongly recommend using a harness rather than a collar. A dog who pulls on collars can put a lot of pressure on his windpipe, and cause discomfort, difficulty breathing, coughing, and/or gagging. Front-lead harnesses (the ring to clip the leash is on the front of the dog’s chest, rather than on the back) are really helpful for dogs who like to pull. Or look into a gentle leader- with a halter type loop over the nose. For any leash/harness, always make sure to read the instructions to ensure a proper fit
  4. Vaccinated
    • This is the MOST important consideration. Before taking your dog (especially a puppy!) out into a dog-dense location, it’s critically important that he is up to date on vaccinations to protect himself and others.
    • Dogs socializing with other dogs in public should be up to date on their rabies, distemper, and bordetella vaccines.
  5. Caution Alerts:
    1. If you are unsure of how your dog will react, attach a yellow or red ribbon to his leash and/or harness, to alert others that he may not like attention.
    2. You can also get creative and make a t-shirt with a gentle warning, “Anxious. Please do not pet me.”

 

What if you have a young puppy, working on socialization skills and outings, and want to use the Expo as a training time?  This could work, with a few precautions.

  1. First and foremost, make sure your puppy is on track with his vaccination schedule.
  2. Attend the Expo at times less popular times of day to avoid overwhelming his senses.
  3. Bring your pup in a cart/stroller to minimize exposure to germs on the ground, especially if he is less than 5 months of age.
  4. Keep some sanitizer handy for new people to use prior to petting your puppy to avoid disease transmission.
  5. Minimize or prevent interactions with other dogs, as there is no way to know their vaccination status or how they may interact with the puppy.
  6. Remember, it’s your responsibility to advocate for your puppy. It is OK to decline peoples’ request to pet your puppy or ask them to refrain if they forget to ask permission.

 

The Super Pet Expo is a very fun family-friendly event for all.  Make sure to bring LOTS and LOTS of treats from home for positive reinforcement. Keep an eye on your dog’s behavior for signs of anxiety, and make adjustments as needed. That may be offering some treats and re-focusing, taking a time-out in a quiet corner, or even leaving the Expo a little early.   Do not force your dog to participate in the dog activities. Remember to use lots of positive encouragement, treats, and patience.  For example, Skipper has not yet been exposed to water (only ice so far this year, sadly), so you would not find us leaping from the dock diving exhibit. We suspect he *might* like the lure exhibit though!

Have a great time at the Super Pet Expo, and make sure to stop by and see our emergency team at the Dulles South Veterinary Center booth for fun freebies from March 15, 2019 to March 17, 2019!

 

Dr. Conroy & Skipper

#SuperPetExpo #SkipperAndConroy #Vetsrus #FollowFriday #FF

 

Skipper Flies

Preventatives Part II: Stopping the Creepy Crawlies

So last week we covered heartworm disease and its prevention. Skipper and Lily line up on the first of the month, all year round, even if there are 4 inches of snow on the ground, to get not one but TWO very special treats. The first is a heartworm/intestinal parasite preventive, and the second is a flea/tick preventive.  Whisper, the feline housemate, aka Boss of the House, is not so excited for her topical heartworm/flea/intestinal parasite treatment each month, but a little tuna makes everything better in her world.

 

FLEAS

Everyone’s familiar with these little jumpy, black bugs. Flea infestations can be quite nasty to control once they’ve taken hold.  And this isn’t just a warm weather issue: a flea that hitch-hikes into your warm house with carpet, blankets, baseboards, or rugs to ride out the winter has hit the jackpot and will have no intention of vacating.  They can live on wild animals (rodents, squirrels, deer, etc.) and jump on your pet from a shared yard/outside space.  Fleas feed off the animal host and lay eggs which fall into the environment (most worrisome, the carpet/floor in your house).  Fortunately, they won’t “infest” a human, but they may incidentally bite humans if they jump off their nearby animal host.

 

If you have seen live fleas on your pet, take care to thoroughly wash any bedding and vacuum carpets/furniture they frequent to remove all flea eggs.  Talk to your veterinarian immediately about treatments to kill the adult fleas present on your pet quickly, and preventives to address future generations. A single female flea will start laying eggs within 24 hours of feeding on a pet and can lay 40-50 eggs per day.  Eek!

 

A flea infestation can take months to get under control once it occurs.  As the old adage goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!” Better to never see these guys than have to try to get rid of them later. Flea bites are exceptionally itchy to dogs, to the point that some quite literally pull their hair out and/or develop skin infections.  Very small/young animals can suffer from anemia in severe cases. Fleas also happen to transmit tapeworms, among other diseases, which can rob an adult or juvenile animal of nutrients.

 

TICKS

Ticks are nasty little creatures which can carry several different diseases, including Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Ideally, we prevent the ticks from attaching at all or kill them as quickly as possible once they do attach. Unfortunately, ticks are also fastidious bugs that can survive the winter, even under snow and during frigid temperatures. They tend to bed in leaf debris to survive these cold spells. For this reason, we need to keep all dogs on tick prevention year round. You can also make your yard less tick friendly, by keeping the grass cut short, and remove all leaf litter/debris regularly.

 

So, how do you prevent these?

I usually recommend giving flea/tick/heartworm prevention on the 1st or 15th of the month, as these dates are the easiest to remember. You can put reminders in your phone calendar to keep on track. Or go old school and use the monthly reminder stickers on the family calendar- super fun for the kids to do!

 

There are several options for flea/tick control: topical medications, oral medications, or collars.

  • Topical Medications: These are easy to apply and fairly effective.  Just part the pet’s fur, and squeeze the contents of the tube onto the skin. There is an oily carrier (nontoxic to humans/pets) which can leave a little greasy spot for a few days.  Some of these products also have the benefit of repelling fleas/ticks, rather than just killing them after they bite. Take care to use only veterinarian approved products.  Store labeled products can be caustic and harm your pet’s skin.
  • Oral Medications: These medications are easy to administer, safe, and very effective.  These products are labeled to kill quickly (<24 hours) after a flea/tick bites. They also have the benefit of not leaving that temporary greasy residue behind on the pet’s fur!  These products are not designed with a repellant.
  • Collars: The Seresto collar is a reputable, effective product which kills and repels fleas/ticks.  These collars should be replaced every 5-8 months. Frequent swimming/bathing can decrease the duration of coverage for this product, so for those water-lovers, we recommend changing them every 5 months.

 

Your veterinarian may even recommend a combination of the treatments, such as oral product combined with a Seresto collar for additional coverage, especially in peak tick season (March-September). Keep in mind, that even if a product has been proven to be 99% effective, if a dog is exposed to 100-200 ticks in a day (shockingly not unreasonable in some parts of our state!), 1-2 could easily attach and have a chance to transmit diseases.

 

It’s recommended to purchase these products through your vet’s office, or approved pharmacy to ensure quality control and avoid counterfeit products that can filter their way onto online markets.  Please feel free to ask any of the Aldie vets about which product would best fit your pets’ lifestyle!

 

Much love from Dr. Conroy & a Bug-free Skipper

#FollowFriday #FF #SkipperAndConroy #Vetsrus

Baby Teeth Missing

Doggie Tooth Fairy

February is Dental Month at Aldie Veterinary Hospital! Did you know that our dogs and cats need dental care too?  Daily teeth-brushing is the best way to cut down on the plaque and tartar build up.  While your puppy is young, practice brushing his teeth a few times a week to get him used to the process. Start by just rubbing your finger across his teeth on each side, and then graduate to using a finger brush or toothbrush for dogs, adding flavored toothpaste makes this activity way more fun.  While it sounds absolutely repulsive to us, there are chicken, beef, and even peanut butter flavored toothpastes for dogs!

 

Now, I know some of you are thinking, “Yeah right, I’m never doing that.”  I encourage you to try because some dogs LOVE this activity and it only takes 1-2 minutes of your day!  And, it can save you hundreds to thousands in dental costs later. Remember, you and I brush our teeth twice a day, and still go to the dentist twice a year. Imagine years of plaque buildup without a single brushing or dentist visit, and how gunky those teeth would feel.

 

Personally, I don’t remember canine oral health being a concern for our family dogs as a child. It just wasn’t a popular topic in veterinary medicine even 10-15 years ago. Many of those pets were silently suffering from dental disease, rotten/wiggly teeth, tooth root abscesses, broken teeth with exposed pulp cavities, or undetected oral masses.  If you’ve ever experienced tooth sensitivity, had a loose/diseased tooth, or felt the sting of an exposed dental nerve, I’m sure you can sympathize with those dogs and cats. The difference is, most of our cats and dogs continue eating without showing any signs of discomfort. They just don’t know any better, and can’t say, “Hey Mom, lately that cold water and hard food really hurts!”

 

So why is all this “old dog” information on Skipper’s puppy blog? Because oral healthcare starts now!  Work on getting your pup used to teeth brushing so that we can delay the timing of his first dental cleaning, and increase the intervals between them.  If you have a toy breed dog, like a fluffy little Maltese or sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, this becomes even more important; those guys LOVE to build nasty tartar on their teeth even at a young age.

 

There are also some dental concerns for young puppies. Skipper is still in the process of losing his teeth, and he’s apparently not read the book on a “typical puppy,” yet again! Most puppies will lose their baby teeth as their adult teeth come in. Well, as you read this, Skipper has 7 canine teeth. 4 adult canines (the big pointy teeth) have come in, but 3 of his baby canines refuse to be evicted.  He’s a little too young to get too worried just yet, and these teeth are wiggly, so I’m keeping an eye on them.  If these “persistent deciduous teeth,” aka stubborn baby teeth, are still around at the time we decide to neuter him (or maybe even before!), I’ll need to extract them.

 

Persistent deciduous teeth can cause numerous problems for that adult tooth which needs to last him for the next decade or so. Abnormal tartar accumulation and food bits can get stuck between the two teeth sharing the same slot, and damage that adult tooth. They can also detour the normal path for the adult tooth to come in and can change the way the upper and lower teeth meet when he takes a bite/chews.  If you notice your dog looks like they have two sets of teeth after about 5-6 months of age, ask your veterinarian if they are a concern. Often times we find extra teeth at the time of a young dog’s spay/neuter surgery and can easily remove them to prevent problems from developing later on.

 

Much love from Skipper, Dr. Conroy, and the Tooth Fairy

#SkipperAndConroy #Vetsrus

Dental Month

February is National Dental month in the Veterinary world. We wanted to take just a minute to let you know why regular dental cleanings on your fur baby are important.

Each day plaque, the soft white material, accumulates on the teeth. If this plaque is not removed, it becomes tartar. Tartar is the “cement-like” yellow material you may see on your pet’s teeth.

Plaque and tartar contain bacteria that circulates through the bloodstream, therefore going through each and every organ in the body. These bacteria can “stick” to organs, including the valves of the heart. Over time, even healthy animals can be affected. This bacteria and tartar also cause halitosis or bad breath.

When the tartar accumulates, it makes a heavy coating over the teeth. If left untreated, this tartar will push on the gingival above/below the teeth, causing gingival recession and gingivitis, the first stage of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is defined as inflammation of the tissue and boney structures supporting the tooth. If left untreated, the tooth will have no structure holding it in place, therefore requiring surgical extraction.

During a dental cleaning, also known as a comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment, our licensed veterinary technicians clean the teeth, examine the entire oral cavity, and take radiographs. Once the cleaning and oral examination are complete, our veterinarian also does an oral exam and reviews radiographs for any signs of periodontal disease. Once they have completed their exams, a treatment plan is recommended.

What can be done to help? Starting a routine home dental program! There are multiple options available including brushing, adding a water supplement, sprinkling powder on food, or using chews impregnated with an antimicrobial enzyme. Brushing daily is the best option but we are aware not every dog or cat will tolerate this immediately! Like anything else we want our pet to do, it takes time and training!

As with anything, do not hesitate to call and speak with one of our staff members about products, cleanings, or training tips!

Chewing Away

Teething & Toys

Puppy teething is upon us.  From about 4-6 months of age, a puppy’s baby teeth will fall out and permanent teeth come in.  You may not see this happen, since puppies often swallow baby teeth during eating/playing, but during this time it’s pretty common for chewing and biting behaviors to worsen. Keep up the remove and replace techniques, and stock up on some good chew toys!

At about 15 weeks of age, Skipper starting teething more than ever, even reaching for our coffee table legs for the first time! So like all good parents, we took him on a socialization outing to Petco and let him pick out some new things.  Adorably, he lost his two front teeth over Christmas! He’s currently completely snaggle-toothed and the baby canine teeth are next to go! Below is a list of some of our favorite toys and chew items.  Keep in mind that NO toy is indestructible, so always monitor your puppy closely and inspect toys for tears/damage often to avoid swallowing hazards.

 

Dr. Conroy’s Favorites 

Skipper’s Favorites

 

Playology Scent Infused Chew Toys

–        These smell faintly like bacon or peanut butter, and supposedly smell more strongly as the dog chews

–        They seem pretty sturdy, and are firm enough for gnawing without breaking pieces off, but squishy enough I’m not worried about him breaking his teeth

–        Cost: $9-15ish

 

 

Plastic Bottles

–        Tropicana OJ and soda bottles are my top choices.  They’re so crunchy and crackly!

–        Mom always takes all the tasty labels, caps, and rings away so I can’t eat them

–        I love trying to get kibbles and peanut butter out of the bottle! And all the loud noise it makes clunking across the floor!

–        Cost: free, PLUS it’s recycling!

 

Nonstuffed Toys:

–        Tightly bound rope toys and knots: watch these for stray strings that can be swallowed

–        Plubber toys are a bit more durable than plush toys, though they are NOT indestructible, especially for terrier teeth!

–        Rubber squeak toys: no fluff to swallow, but watch for disembowelment and squeaker removal

–        Cost: $5-10

 

 

Literally Anything I Can Destuff and Destroy

–        Fluff is SO FUN.

–        It’s a little dry but I still try to swallow it as mom and dad untangle it from my teethies

–        I’m allowed to play with nonpunctured fluff toys under supervision, the nylon ones get to stay on the floor longer!

–        Grandma comes over sometimes to replace squeakers and sew them back together! It’s like Christmas all over again!

–        Cost: $1-$10

 

Kongs:

–        These are great for tossing in a kennel at bedtime or while you’re away for a bit

–        Line the inside with a bit of peanut butter, or toss some kibbles in!

–        Not 100% chew-proof, but pretty durable

–        Freeze low sodium chicken broth, water, and vegetable mixes for an outdoor summer treat!

–        Cost: $5-20

Socks and Shoes:

–        My humans’ feet smell ah-mazing.

–        These are soft and fun to nom on, especially Dad’s thick winter socks and Mom’s slippers!

–        For some reason these vanish and another fun toy appears real fast, but I love to shop for them in the closet!

–        Cost: $2- $5000 for foreign body surgery

 

Nylabones:

–        Any sort of rubber bone or ring can be helpful in the peak teething.

–        Less likely to be destroyed, but Lily once ate a good chunk of one as a puppy.

–        Many different textures/flavors available

–        Toss them in the freezer when the puppy’s teeth seem particularly uncomfortable!

–        Cost: $5-20

Cat Toys:

–        The  purrfect size for my tiny puppy mouth

–        She has toys that squeak like REAL mice!

–        They have this weird scent that my booply snoot likes to snuffle… some sort of catnip? We have a bush of it outside, too!

–        These apparently live on the coffee table now after I tried to eat one.

–        Cost: priceless hatred from the cat

Happy shopping!

Dr. Conroy, Skipper, and the Tooth Fairy

Skipper_Conroy_Hat

Tips on Training Commands

Keep It Short, Sweet, and the Same


Puppy training can be a daunting task.  I’m here to empower you, and tell you that YOU can do this!  If you’ve been working on potty training and general manners at home, you’ve already learned the important training fundamentals: consistency and positivity. And I’ll add one more: patience.  Remember to be patient with your puppy, but also patient with yourself.  You and your puppy are learning how to communicate, and you are learning to teach, essentially in a different language.

First and foremost: create a setting for success.  As you get to know your puppy, you’ll be able to tell when he’s ready to focus.  There are certain points of the day that Skipper just wants to terrorize Lily and others where he’s wandering around the house needing to occupy his mind.  Take advantage of those moments when you can, and try to minimize distractions.  Separate your training session from other dogs in the house, and work in an area with good traction and minimal background noises.

There are countless YouTube videos, books, puppy classes, and training services that demonstrate how to teach each individual command. Always be sure to select only positive reinforcement training programs; avoid punishing or forceful techniques, as these have no place in puppy training.  Dr. Sophia Yin’s material is a wonderful resource.  She has countless online videos and has written many books, including How to Behave so Your Dog Behaves and Perfect Puppy in 7 Days.

 

Short

Keep your sessions short and simple, as puppy attention span is quite brief.  Depending on your individual puppy, 5-10 minutes may be his maximum.  When he starts to show signs of disinterest, quickly wrap things up on a good note, i.e. one more good sit with a treat, praise all around, and then break for play.   I like to introduce a command during a training session, and then reinforce the command sporadically throughout the day.  For example, Skipper and I will spend 5-10 minutes at lunchtime learning something like “sit.” Then, at random points during the rest of the day, I’ll ask for a sit and reward him for remembering.   During training, you’ll want to maximize the chance of success by minimizing the possibility of failure (like potty training!), so make sure to pick your battles wisely. I don’t ask for a “sit” command in the middle of an intense tug of war session or while he’s running around the yard like a gazelle. The chances my kibble and praise are worth stopping the fun are pretty slim, and it’s important to get the behavior I requested each and every time, or he’ll learn to get away with “forgetting.”

Sweet

Prepare the treats!  Using a handful of puppy kibble is usually sufficient.  Dogs don’t particularly care what you’re offering, just that you gave them something!  Speaking from experience; be careful offering a bunch of rich food as rewards, as you may find yourself punished by the flatulence later.   It’s also a good idea to save the “high value” treats for things like the vet’s office, bath time, and nail trims.  We like to spoil your puppy and bribe away their love so next time they’ll come bounding through the hospital doors ready for more! As a veterinary behaviorist once explained it: if you were offered $20 to go to the dentist, you may be inclined to find something else to do that afternoon; if you were offered $20,000 to go to the dentist, you’d be there every Tuesday!  For Skipper, the $20 kibble is quite sufficient to learn sit, down, roll over, etc.  The $20,000 liquid gold (aka squeeze cheese from the can) has been deemed a fair price for nail trims, vaccines, and ear exams at the clinic.

Same

Be consistent with the terms, hand signals, and the manner in which a command is given to the puppy.  All members of the household will need to use the same terms and process in order to avoid confusion.  And, more importantly, make sure puppy gets praise and/or a treat each time, to keep him interested in learning and doing the right things!

With Love and Squeeze Cheese,

 

Dr. Conroy & Skipper

Socialization and Independence

So, Skipper has been home for some time; we’ve been working on developing some manners, potty training, and crate training.  We’ve also been introducing socialization adventures. Socialization is a time for your puppy to develop basic life skills, like interacting with his environment, playing with other dogs, and meeting new humans. This is Puppy Kindergarten, and you are the puppy’s teacher.  The optimal socialization window for puppies is between 4-14 weeks, so it’s important to get started relatively soon after bringing a puppy into your home.

Because puppies begin to experience fear about 8 weeks of age, with a peak at around 14 weeks, it is critically important that experiences are only positive. Traumatic experiences at this age can have lasting effects on behavior for years to come.  Make sure to use praise in a high/encouraging tone, and give LOTS of treats when introducing something new.  Watch for signs of fear in your puppy, like freezing, whining when looking towards a stimulus, or avoiding something altogether. If these occur, take a step back and offer lots of praise and tasty encouragement. Contrary to popular belief, consoling a dog when he is anxious or scared of something does NOT reinforce anxious behaviors. Gradually re-approach or allow the stimulus to approach only if/when the puppy is still eating treats and relaxed.  You may have to table an experience for another day, and that is ok!

Skipper wasn’t quite sure what to think when the Roomba (we call her Betty) reported for duty one morning.  So we spent some time playing tug and eating snacks on the floor in the next room over, protected by the great brown wall (aka the couch). After some time listening to the noise, Skipper decided Betty wasn’t worth his concern.  We repeated this with the hairdryer.  With the hair dryer on low, Skipper and I played a few feet away.  Whenever he was comfortable and not paying attention to the wind machine, I turned up the speed, level by level, until it was on high.  By introducing possibly scary things in a steady manner, we allow the puppy to feel confident and safe. You can apply this same process to plenty of other things, too!

We also like to take Skipper with us on outings, when possible, to get him used to lots of different sounds, sights, and people. Always pack treats and toys to help make the experience fun!

Here are some basic rules of socialization outings for you to consider:

  1. Positivity, NOT punishment. Socialization experiences should be fun for you both!  Reward him frequently with treats and praise; punishment is not conducive to socialization.
  2. Realistic expectations. Pick excursions your puppy is likely to encounter as an adult and make absolutely sure you are both set up for success and positivity! I doubt Skipper will ever have to go onto a subway or board a helicopter, but I would like him to tolerate trips to Home Depot, wineries, and the occasional Virginia Tech Tailgate (Go Hokies!), so we aim for similar locations during less busy shopping times.
  3. Observe and absorb. The puppy doesn’t have to participate or do anything at all for the experience to be valuable. He can simply observe quietly and eat lots of treats. If he knows any obedience commands, performing them in a new setting is extra credit, but certainly not required.
  4. Puppy does not have to be friends with everyone. Ideally, we introduce the puppy to all types of people, such as officers in uniform, and tiny humans. Your puppy may not enjoy being petted by everyone. As your puppy’s steward and guardian, it is ok to ask someone to refrain from petting if he looks uncomfortable, has a tight/drawn facial expression, or is avoiding eye contact/touch. Carry treats which you can allow strangers can offer as a reward/positive experience.
  5. Socialization The objective is to teach the puppy to tolerate another dog, person, etc., being nearby. Your puppy may not want to play with other dogs; likewise, not all other dogs like to be played with by the puppy. Always bring a few toys for distraction/interaction.
  6. Safety is key! Use extreme caution when introducing puppy to other dogs, as a negative experience could not only be formative and scary but also life-threatening. Ensure that your puppy is exposed to only well vaccinated, friendly dogs, under close supervision, to minimize the risk of disease and injury. The staff at Aldie Vet is here to help you set a vaccine schedule based on your pup’s lifestyle, and help identify safe interactions for him.
  7. No guarantees. Proper socialization experiences can set the puppy up for success, but they do not ensure he will grow up to be free of behavior issues. Genetics, individual temperament, and his life experiences all contribute to adult behavior. Two pups may interpret the same experience differently; it can be fun for one and terrifying for the other. Poor responses may indicate your puppy could have behavioral difficulties as an adult and needs early intervention from a veterinarian or behaviorist to manage/modify the behavior.  Always remember Aldie Veterinary Hospital here to help with tips/tricks, or trainer suggestions if needed.

 

Happy Travels!

 

Dr. Conroy & Skipper

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