GSP

Moving into Adulthood

Skipper is now almost 8 months old! Time flies by with little puppies turning into rambunctious adolescents.  We’re still continuing training at home, a task that never really truly ends with any dog.  In case you were wondering how things are going, here’s a recent recap:

Potty training: we still have our hits and misses at this stage. If you’re running into the occasional accident, you’re not alone! Now that the weather is nice, it’s hard to tell when Skipper just wants to go play outside versus really needs to pee, so I think some of these failures are on us. We’ll be working on re-training the humans to recognize his signs!

Commands/socialization: In the beginning, I was pretty good about teaching Skipper new commands weekly or even daily. That’s kind of waned away at this point, and I think his brain would enjoy some new tasks. He LOVES to go new places and meet new dogs, although admittedly he went running through a winery unattended after pulling away last weekend.  No one is perfect, and everyone got a good laugh- this little guy is so fast!  We also went through a period of time where he would bark when seeing new dogs on walks. Fortunately, this was pretty easily corrected by redirecting his brain to commands and treats. Remember to always keep some motivational snacks in your pocket!

Teething/thieving:  Considering that just moments ago he stole a lip balm from my bag… I guess we’re still working on this, too! All in all, the incidents are much less frequent. He still seems to have some weird obsession with pillows… not sure where that came from!  Teething, thankfully, has pretty well ended, and we’re so glad that his adult teeth came in correctly, after the baby tooth mishap. I still make sure to keep some appropriate chew items around; those Busy Buddy toys are essential favorites in our house!

Healthcare:  Since Skipper is a well behaved, larger breed dog, I’ve elected to schedule his neuter for around one year of age, so we haven’t experienced the cone just yet!  He’s all up to date on vaccinations, and we’re doubling up on tick prevention with a Seresto collar AND oral preventives, because the ticks really seem to like his favorite hang outs in the yard.  So, what happens now? What kind of vet care do we have to look forward to?

  • Annual Examinations: Make sure to schedule an appointment for your puppy’s veterinarian to ensure he’s continuing to develop correctly, discuss nutrition, and behavior at home.
  • Vaccinations: All those puppy vaccines your puppy was given when he was just a few months old will need to be boostered at the 1 year mark. Some of those vaccines, like rabies and distemper won’t need to be given again for another 3 years, while lyme, leptospirosis, canine influenza, and Bordetella vaccines must be boostered yearly to maintain efficacy.
  • Heartworm Test: At 1 year, we also start performing annual heart worm tests. Remember, this test not only looks for heartworm disease, but also three of the most common tick borne diseases. Even if a dog is kept on monthly prevention year round, this test should always be completed once annually, as some sneaky bugs can slip by the preventives.  There is also some concern for the development of heartworm resistance, so we need to make sure that all dogs stay negative, and can safely continue taking their monthly preventive.
  • Deworming/Fecal: all that sniffing around in the yard puts dogs at risk for picking up intestinal parasites. Once a year, we recommend giving a dose of dewormer, and checking a fecal sample to ensure there are no unwanted parasites hanging out in the intestines.
  • Dental Care: daily dental care is the most effective way to slow tartar build-up.  If your canine companion is of a smaller breed, like a terrier, Chihuahua, or Dachshund, this becomes even more important. Your dog’s veterinarian will do a full oral examination each year, and discuss whether he or she will need a full dental prophylaxis under anesthesia with one of our skilled technicians.

The Skipper blog is signing off for now, keep checking our Facebook and Instagram for updates and cute Skipper pictures! We’ll be sure to share his journey through his neuter procedure with everyone this fall!  I hope that our trials, tribulations, and tips from raising Skipper have been helpful to some readers, and wish you all the enjoyment and amusement that having Skipper in our lives brings us! 

Have a great summer!

-Dr. Conroy & Skipper

#FollowFriday #FF #SkipperAndConroy

Puppy Eating

How, When, and Where to Feed

Our last blog covered a few things on how to select the right food for your puppy.  Choosing the right dog food can be almost as challenging as keeping all those fun extracurricular items out his mouth! If your puppy is anything like our Skipper, he’s equally as interested in the rubber and plastic bits of toys as he is puppy kibble. Once you settle on the right food to give your puppy, the next step is deciding how and when, and where to feed him. 

How

There are two main feeding styles for pets: free feeding, or allowing the pet to have unlimited access to food at all times, and meal feeding, where an allotted amount of food is given at specific times of the day. I always recommend meal feeding, for both cats and dogs, for several reasons. First, it allows for monitoring of an individual’s appetite and feeding habits. Change in appetite is often one of the first signs that a pet is feeling unwell.  Second, it allows for appropriate metering of a pet’s intake.  Dogs often eat way too much, way too quickly, and in their later years, this can lead to obesity. And finally, some types of food can spoil, or minimally become less appetizing, if left uneaten for several hours.

In either feeding option, you’ll need something to set the food out in.  There are many bowl options aside from the standard dog food dish. Skipper currently enjoys his meals from a puzzle bowl, as does his sister, Lily. We even use feeding toys for Whisper, the feline sibling as well! These bowls cause the pet to take a lot longer to finish meals and prevent them from eating their food too quickly.  There are many options on the market, and changing up the puzzles can keep feeding time fun and stimulating.  Always make sure to select a bowl or puzzle that can be easily and thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis.

When

When your puppy is young, his belly will be quite small.  He should be fed three to four times a day for the first few months to ensure that his stomach doesn’t become uncomfortably distended from being overly full.  For toy breed puppies, like baby Yorkies and Chihuahuas, regular feeding every 4-6 hours is also important to ensure that they have a constant source of energy, as these little guys can experience low blood sugar levels more easily than some larger breed puppies. Skipper was fed breakfast, lunch, and dinner until he was about 4-5 months old. As he got older and bigger, we started weaning him from three to two meals daily, by decreasing the size of his lunch meal, and increasing his breakfast and dinner meals.  At 7 months of age, sometimes he forgets and still thinks he should get a lunch, but otherwise he’s adjusted pretty well!

Where

Historically, most families have fed the household dog in the kitchen. This may work well for some dogs, but it’s important to make sure that your puppy eats in a location where he feels safe.  Large, open spaces can seem vulnerable, and make a dog feel the urge to guard their food or eat it too quickly for fear of someone else stealing it. Always make sure to allocate a safe, quiet space for the puppy to finish his meals on his terms. This may mean separating other pets into other rooms for a short time to prevent any altercations from occurring. Keeping a bowl of fresh water full near the food bowl can also encourage appropriate hydration following a meal. 

We know that feeding your puppy is a huge part of your relationship, and there are lots of conflicting sources of information out on the internet. The staff and veterinarians at Aldie Veterinary Hospital are more than happy to discuss your puppy’s individual feeding program and ensure it is right for both of you!

Buen provecho!

Skipper & Dr. Conroy

#SkipperAndConroy #FF #FollowFriday #VetsRus

Beach Fun

Pet Travel

As summer approaches, Skipper will likely be making some extra trips for vacation.  We can’t WAIT to take him to the beach and show him the waves and let him chase the ghost crabs, and see how he swims at the lake!

If you anticipate traveling with your puppy, it’s very important to work on acclimating to the car early, during the socialization period.  We started by taking Skipper on very short rides with lots of treats.  Ideally, try to get the puppy used to where you want him to sit in the car as an adult. For example, when we brought Skipper home the very first day we met him, he would only ride quietly on top of my shoulders. This was fine for 9 lb Skipper, but not exactly acceptable for the current, 45 lb Skipper.

There are lots of options for securing your pet when traveling, but disappointingly, not very many studies to determine the safest option.  In my opinion, making sure that your dog or cat is secured away from the driver is the MOST important consideration. Your dog should not be able to climb on your lap (or your head), bump any of your car controls, or distract the driver in any way.   Skipper has done quite well with a sling in the backseat which keeps him confined to the second row of the car, but gives plenty of space to lounge and look out the windows.  His sister, Lily, on the other hand, has to be confined to a crate, because she will not settle in and relax as readily.    There are numerous options including car seats, seat belt type attachments, kennels, slings, etc.  Choose what option keeps your dog calm, happy, and away from distracting the driver.

I do strongly recommend keeping some form of identification on your dog during a car ride, as a precaution, in case the unthinkable accident occurs and your dog leaves the site of the crash in the fray.  Because a collar could get lost or fall off, a microchip implanted under his skin is the safest way to ensure he is constantly carrying identification, and your contact information.  Of important note, these microchips do not help track your dog; there is no GPS capability to the standard microchip. I can’t wait for the day that happens! The microchip is only helpful if a Good Samaritan finds your dog, and brings them to someone with a scanner to retrieve the stored information.   You’ll also need to make sure to regularly update the information attached to the microchip, if you move, change phone numbers, etc.

For those dogs (aka Lily) who are very nervous during car rides, there are a few pharmaceutical options to help make the trip less stressful. These medications work beautifully even for short rides to the vet office.  Consider this: if every time you got in the car, you went to the doctor, you vomited on the way, and THEN had to get shots or blood samples were drawn, you’d probably really hate the thought of getting in the car.  For the animals who become car sick, there are a few antinausea medications.  Benedryl will work for some dogs, however, there are a select few who become overly excited from Benedryl doses.  I typically recommend giving maropitant (Cerenia) at home 1-2 hours prior to starting a car trip, long or short.

For the anxious creatures, trazodone or gabapentin (anti-anxiety medications) are great options to give 1-2 hours prior to leaving home. If you’re headed to come see us at Aldie, there is an added benefit of already having that anti-anxiety medication on board before you get to the clinic. Please don’t feel strange about giving anti-anxiety medications to these guys who are so incredibly worried at the clinic, or in the car. It is not a reflection on you, your training, or your pet. If you’ve ever experienced any level of anxiety/stress, you know how terrible that feels, and I suspect that our canine and feline friends feel the same. We CAN help these guys with a little “special” snack just a few hours before a trip!

If you are taking your pet on vacation, always make sure that your lodging arrangements permit pets. I also recommend bringing an appropriate kennel to confine your pet if you have to step out of your hotel room, or baby gates to cordon off dangerous areas of a rental house.  Depending on when or how you’re traveling, you may also need a health certificate to cross state or international borders.  These certificates can take some time to complete, so make sure to check with your veterinarian well in advance of your trip.  Ideally, at least have a way to access your dog’s vaccination records (rabies especially!), in the event that your dog needs to see a vet while you’re away from home, or there is some bite or fight incident.  Many veterinarians, including Aldie Vet Hospital, have user-friendly apps that allow you to access your pets’ medical records any time, directly from your cell phone.

Always make sure to bring your pets’ medications along and try to keep them on a consistent schedule.  I recommend bringing these medications in their ORIGINAL bottles, just in case there’s a need for a new veterinarian to know the dose and drug name.   If you’re going on a long trip, remember to check your supply and get refill requests in early.

If you’re not planning to take your pup along on a trip, there are a few options.  There are several boarding facilities around, which work well for some pets and often have someone on staff 24/7.  These facilities can be loud, and some pets can become very stressed in this type of environment, while others are unfazed and enjoy playing with the other boarders. There are also many in-home pet sitting services, or you may know someone who can stop by, or stay overnight, to watch your pets.  In either situation, I recommend pre-arranging an authorization for veterinary care.  Aldie Veterinary Hospital has forms which can be filled out ahead of time to authorize your pet sitter/boarding facility to request care for your pet in the event of an emergency.  It’s also helpful to create an info sheet for caretakers, including emergency contacts, veterinary clinic number, and medications for each pet.

 

Happy travels this spring and summer! Share your pictures with us on Facebook and Instagram!

 

Skipper & Dr. Conroy

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

 

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

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

Shoe Thief

Thievery and No Go Zones

Skipper is about 16 weeks old now and growing like a little weed!  Potty training is going very well; we only have a handful of accidents per week! He’s been enjoying playing with his sister terrier at home and the other doctors’ dogs from work (Check out our Instagram for pictures of the Skipper Conroy & Phebe Luce playdate!).  He’s also learned a few commands; high five is my most favorite of these. I have grand plans for this to be a gateway into a “touchdown” trick for next football season. As it turns out, he’s a little lanky and unbalanced which results in him just tipping over these days, so we’re going to table that one for now.

With every growing inch, Skipper finds access to new places.  Coffee tables apparently house very fun things, like all the cat toys that have been way more interesting than his 800 dog toys.  Teaching him to stay off the couch was also much easier when he was half this height… and his maximum launch distance was shorter.  Also, in his defense, Lily the terrier sabotages him by pulling him on to the couch during tug of war battles.  As Skipper grew to couch access height, it became important for him to learn “off.” I picked “off,” because “get down” sounds too close to “lay down” for such a young pupper to differentiate.  In my opinion, it is easiest to teach commands along with their opposite. For couch purposes, I taught Skipper “on” and “off” using lots of treats and a very sturdy wooden box. Now, when we correct Skipper for putting front feet on the couch, his (reluctant) retreat is another command worthy of earning praise and a treat.

Now, possibly more than ever, it’s important to keep everything positive, including corrections.  Puppies can be very sensitive; disciplining early or incorrectly can damage your relationship together, and cause the puppy to misinterpret a situation. For example, if the puppy pees on the floor, refrain from pointing at the mess and yelling, “Bad dog!”  He may act sheepish and seem like he understands, but keep in mind that puppies are pretty literal. Your pointing at the yellow liquid on the floor can make him think the pee itself and his proximity to it is bad, not the act of peeing on your floor.  Shame and guilt have the same emotional appearance to us, but there’s a critical distinction.  Guilt is a feeling of that one has done something bad; shame is thinking that one is inherently bad.  There may be some level of satisfaction and accomplishment from these phrases and that sad puppy face you receive in return, but it is in fact a façade, and all we’ve done is derail the puppy’s confidence in your relationship.

Gently startling a pup to get his attention and redirect it is appropriate in many situations, but remember, you’ll need to remove and replace the undesired activity. Skipper greatly enjoys “shopping” for shoes and socks in the closet.  He will oh-so-proudly return to a room and proceed to nom on his selection. This is an issue for two reasons. First, he can’t chew on expensive shoes. Second, socks, shoes, and clothes make excellent foreign bodies and could be life threatening.  Your first instinct may be to chase the puppy and retrieve the item promptly. This incites a super fun game of chase!  This may work for a little while, but my kiddo is going to have the legs of a deer and is definitely going to outrun me. A dog running away with a toxic or dangerous item is the last thing I want to encourage. To avoid rewarding Skipper with attention for stealing an off-limits item, we nonchalantly approach with another toy, ask him to “leave it” and then trade for an appropriate chew toy. Ideally, we keep the “fun” things out of his reach, or distract him on his way into the closet. If Skipper doesn’t know an item is off-limits, the allure of taking something he’s not supposed to have will likely fade away.   Conversely, if every time he takes my shoe earns him a game of chase and attention, I’ve just increased the value of the shoe exponentially.

Let us know what fun things your pup has decided to have an affinity for, and how you’re working on it at home! We love updates through Facebook and Instagram!

-Dr. Conroy & Skipper

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

#Vetsrus #Skipper&Conroy #PuppyLove #PetLife #ChristmasPuppy

 

SkipperSnugs

Potty Training

Now that you’ve got the puppy home and you’re laying down some ground rules, let’s talk potty training, as this tends to be pretty high on the priority list.  Crate training goes hand-in-hand with potty training, and is your best friend with a new puppy!  A puppy typically will not soil his sleeping place. He doesn’t need a Taj Mahal crate right now, just enough space to be able to stand up, lie down, and turn around comfortably.  The crate shouldn’t be big enough that he can urinate in the back half and lounge up front in the foyer.   The crate is for sleep and safety.

It’s important that your puppy understands his crate is his safe place, a place where he gets treats and pets!  Avoid using the crate as a place for punishment.  I started off by feeding Skipper treats in the kennel and shutting the door for brief periods, and then re-opening it, before leaving him in it for the night.  He definitely still cried for a few minutes when we shut the door for the night; this was expected.  When this happens, wait it out. The crying stops, I promise; usually before your heart completely breaks in half.  If the puppy is removed from the crate or given any attention while he is crying, he’ll learn that making noise means breaking out!  We play with Skipper to tire him out shortly before bedtime, and this definitely cut down the wait time as he was learning to sleep alone in the crate.

Remember a puppy can only hold his bladder a few hours, however. Plan to keep the crate close so you’ll wake when he does, or consider setting an alarm for 4-6 hours into the night for a potty break.  Every puppy is different; some can sleep longer than others without an issue. Now, we don’t want to reward the puppy for crying and make that his ticket out of the crate, but we also can’t have him soiling the crate. Oh no… what to do?  Wait for that ever-so-brief 0.25 seconds of quiet and open the door nonchalantly, with no big fuss.  We discovered that picking Skipper up, putting the leash on, and escorting him outside before putting him down decreases the risk of a premature pee accident.  For the first week or so, Skipper would pee the millisecond his toes hit the ground first thing in the morning, so we had to be dressed in a coat and shoes and ready to run!  Remember, when your puppy pees outside, it is the very best thing you’ve ever seen in your whole life!  “Good boys!” all around with pets and treats and love!

The rest of the day, you’ll need to be very diligent about taking the little pupper outside regularly. Once an hour is a good starting rule, whenever he’s awake and not in the kennel. Additionally, take him out immediately after any naps, and within 5-10 minutes after a meal.  Watch for signs of sniffing/posturing and scoop him up quickly to go out.  Minimizing accidents will maximize your success. At this stage, any “accidents” in the house, are technically on us, because he doesn’t know the rules. During puppy training, keep in mind that we’re working on substrates. Meaning, he needs to learn that when his toes touch hardwood, he cannot go; but when his toes touch grass, he can go.  For those of you raising a puppy on snow, you may want to clear a particular area to make this concept clearer, since (hopefully) you won’t always have snow on the ground.

When there is an accident, startle the puppy with a clap, scoop him up, and immediately go outside.  Hopefully, he’ll still have a little left, and again, when he goes, it’s a party!  Make sure to clean up any accidents right when you come in, preferably with an enzymatic cleaner for carpets. Scents left behind in the house can be confusing and derail your efforts.  The old adages of putting the puppy’s nose into the accident only confuse them into thinking that pee/poop, in general, is a bad thing; therefore this is not recommended.  Potty training doesn’t happen overnight, so be consistent and positive, with time things will improve!

May all the paper towels and patience be with you,

 

Dr. Conroy & Skipper

#Skipper&Conroy #Vetsrus