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

 

Heartworm Sample

Preventives Part I of III: Protecting Your Puppy’s Heart

Virginia is a perfect environment for many parasites of dogs and cats!  Fortunately, we have a wide variety of products that protect Skipper and other pups from these nasty pests.  It’s recommended to have puppies over 6 weeks of age started on preventive products, to make sure their little puppy bodies aren’t susceptible to diseases and complications secondary to a parasite burden.  Let’s go through a few of the parasites we protect against:

 

HEARTWORMS

Heartworm disease is transmitted through mosquito bites, meaning that every dog and cat is at risk of contracting this disease. Heartworms set up shop in a chamber of the animal’s heart and can have devastating, even deadly, consequences on cardiac and respiratory function.  There is a treatment for canine heartworm disease.  The treatment process occurs over several months, and unfortunately, some parts of the treatment can cause significant discomfort to the dog.  There are also notable risks/complications possible. It’s SO much easier for the dog, and safer, to prevent the disease rather than treat it after the fact.  Cats, on the other hand, have no approved treatment. It’s also much harder to identify this disease in cats, and often the first sign is sudden death.

 

Even though mosquitoes are much less prevalent in the winter, Virginia winters CAN be mild enough on certain days that pets are still at risk. Think back to that occasional 60-degree day this January! Skipper was so excited to get out and play fetch in the false spring, but also very exciting for mosquitoes and other bugs. For this reason, we recommend consistent, year-round heartworm prevention administration.  Many heartworm preventive products also have the benefit of helping to cover for several types of intestinal parasites. While cats less commonly contract heartworm disease, the disease is much more severe.  For this reason, it’s also recommended that all cats are on heartworm prevention, as mosquitoes can make their way into the house.

 

Dogs should be tested once a year to ensure they are negative for heartworm disease, EVEN IF they are on consistent preventive products. Preventives are extremely effective, but there are a few resistant heartworms out there, that can squeeze by monthly medication.  Annual testing ensures that we catch and treat any sneaky infections early on. If you’ve recently adopted a pet with an unknown preventive history, or if you happened to miss a few doses, additional testing may be recommended. Also, the “heartworm test” has the benefit of looking for three tick-borne diseases (ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and lyme disease) in addition to heartworms.

 

Aldie’s veterinarians recommend using a monthly oral or topical preventive:

  • Oral products: these are typically a flavored tablet or chew given by mouth once monthly. This is the easiest option and the most common choice of pet owners. Most of the products taste delicious; Skipper thinks he’s just getting another treat! I can even get some good high five’s before giving his medication. It’s really a win-win situation for us!
  • Topical: this is more commonly used to administer heartworm prevention in cats, though there are topical dog products as well.

Here’s to long lives and happy, worm-free hearts!

-Dr. Conroy & Skipper

See more information on heartworm disease

#Vetsrus #SkipperAndConroy #FF #FollowFriday

Skipper_in_the-bath

Veterinary Pet Insurance Companies

While Skipper is young (and highly accident prone!), I’ve been looking into pet insurance.  Often the rates are lower when applying for coverage for a young/healthy dog, as compared to an older dog with chronic conditions.  These policies are becoming more and more common and can offer peace of mind in an emergency setting.  There are several different types of insurance and many companies from which to choose.

There are two main categories on the market right now: all-inclusive/complete insurance and accident/illness insurance. All-inclusive/complete insurance will help cover part or all costs of your dog’s annual examinations, routine vaccines, as well as assist with covering any sort of emergency care.  Accident/illness coverage will not help with annual examination and vaccine costs and is geared more towards unexpected, emergent issues, or chronic conditions requiring extended care.

 

For most pets, their annual examination is planned ahead of time, and the vaccine recommendations are fairly stable from year to year. Typically, these costs can be anticipated and planned for in advance. Conversely, Skipper doesn’t particularly care if it’s Christmas time or just a random Tuesday when he starts eyeballing socks to eat. In sudden, emergency situations, it can be helpful to have an accident/illness policy to alleviate some of the unanticipated financial burdens.  Owners often feel much less stress and pressure making health decisions for their fur-baby during emergencies when they know they can count on some assistance from a pet insurance company.

There are many options out there, depending on your goals for the pet insurance policy, budget, and risk aversion. Please be sure that you read all the fine print and speak with the insurance companies directly to fully understand your policy.

 

Pet insurance is a bit different from human insurance, in that your veterinarian’s office doesn’t typically work directly with the insurance company. The veterinarian is typically responsible for signing a paper verifying diagnoses and invoices for the insurance company. But, in most cases, the pet owner is responsible for covering the costs initially, filing the claim/receipt with the insurance company, and ensuring that the company reimburses them in a timely manner.  From my experience, most companies will reimburse within a 30-60 day period.

 

ASPCA, Embrace, and Trupanion are all very reputable companies, with a few different options.  Your own insurance company, such as Nationwide, may also offer a policy which could be bundled with your existing insurance policies.   The policies often have waiting periods of 2-4 weeks, so you’ll want to have it ready to go before your puppy decides to eat that chocolate or sock. We hope that you’ll never need it, but it’s always nice to have a little extra security if there is an incident.

There are so many different companies out there that it can be overwhelming on where to start and how to begin comparing the many available policies. This article provides a great chart comparing many of the well-known insurance companies out there. In addition, this is a great questionnaire to help make sure you are asking all the right questions.

 

Happy Shopping!

 

-Dr. Conroy & Skipper

 

Puppy Vaccines

Core Vaccines: What Are They and Why Does My Puppy Need Them?

The first few months of your puppy’s life are filled with many important responsibilities. For you at home, that means lots of love, training, and teaching him to be a good pet. For us at Aldie Veterinary Hospital, that includes making sure we’re working together to make sure he’s healthy and protected against diseases and parasites.  Your first vet visit can be overwhelming, and information from Dr. Google can be confusing and scary.  Please feel free to ask any questions about diseases, vaccines, and preventive measures you may have. We are here to help and provide you with evidence-based information.

There are two main groups of vaccines for your puppy: core and non-core. Core vaccines are essential vaccines for all dogs to receive throughout their lives. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) lists the rabies vaccine and the combination distemper/parvovirus/adenovirus vaccine in this category. These are dangerous, contagious diseases which are typically preventable with appropriate immunization.

The need for a “noncore” vaccine is based on each individual dog’s lifestyle.  There are four main vaccines listed by AAHA for this category. Your veterinarian is the absolute best resource to help you determine if your dog should have these vaccines; be sure to tell them about where your dog will live, if he will travel, and if he will be around other dogs often, so that you can work together to create a tailored, individual vaccine plan to protect him.

Let’s start by discussing the core vaccines: rabies and distemper.

 

Rabies

Rabies, of important note, is 100% fatal and can be transmitted to humans via contact with saliva from infected animals. Because of this risk, all dogs over the age of 16 weeks are required by Virginia law to be up to date on their rabies vaccination. The rabies vaccine is given once as a puppy, then boostered once at 1 year of age, followed by once every 3 years from then on.  In the event of an altercation with a wild animal outside, the vaccine is often boostered again as a precaution.

Virginia State Law has very strict protocols for unvaccinated dogs who are exposed to possibly infected wildlife, or if there is a dog-human bite incident.  Depending on the scenario, these protocols range from strict quarantine to euthanasia, so it’s important for your dog to stay current on this vaccine.  In our area, raccoons are the number one source of rabies, though other animals like foxes, skunks, and bats could also be carriers. You can help decrease your pet’s risk of encountering one of these animals by securing trash cans and other food sources outside, and always being vigilant about watching your pet outside.

Check out rabiesaware.org for more information.

 

Distemper/Adenovirus/Parvovirus/Parainfluenza aka DA2PP

Veterinarians often refer to this vaccine as just the “distemper vaccine,” but, it is actually a power-packed combination vaccine that offers protection against distemper virus, parvovirus, adenovirus, and parainfluenza virus.  These are all viruses which are transmitted amongst dogs through sneezing, coughing, or sharing bowls. Some viruses can also be passed directly from a mom to her pups.

Distemper virus starts with respiratory/eye symptoms before progressing to neurologic disease. It can be fatal, and some pups that survive will have lifelong deficits. Parvovirus causes severe gastrointestinal disease with profuse vomiting, dehydration, and diarrhea. Affected puppies require intensive care in a hospital for many days at best, but unfortunately many do not survive. Adenovirus affects the lining of blood vessels and can damage many important organs, including the liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, and eyes. Infected dogs may require blood transfusions, or may not survive the disease. Parainfluenza virus is a highly contagious respiratory virus which causes signs such as nasal discharge, coughing, and fever. Young puppies are at the highest risk for contracting all four of these diseases and suffering from complications associated with them.

Fortunately, we can keep your puppy safe from these diseases with appropriate vaccination. This starts with a vaccine once around 8 weeks of age, then a repeated booster every 3-4 weeks until he/she is over 16 weeks of age. Puppies younger than 4-5 months of age are most susceptible to these diseases, so it’s important to stay on schedule with frequent boosters. He likely has some immunity to these diseases from his mom, but over the first few months of life, her immunity will wear off, and we need to be there with our vaccine to take over protection duties. Your dog will receive another booster at 1 year of age, and then every 3 years from then on, similar to the rabies vaccine.

 

Bordetella

Bordetella bronchiseptica is more commonly known as kennel cough. This is a respiratory disease that’s easily shared amongst dogs at parks, veterinary clinics, boarding facilities, doggie daycare, etc.  This vaccine is a liquid absorbed across the lining of the nose or mouth.  No shot needed, and most dogs just think we’ve given them a weird tasting bit of squeeze cheese. At Aldie Veterinary Hospital, we consider this a core vaccine for all our patients, to ensure the safety of all our patients when they come into the clinic for exams, boarding, or treatments.

 

Making It Fun

Aldie Veterinary Hospital staff members are trained in how to make the vaccination process as easy as possible for your pet.  Squeeze cheese, peanut butter, baby food, or other yummy snacks are great distractors and often the puppies don’t even notice the small needle used to give their vaccinations because they are so excited about the treats!

Stay tuned for next week’s blog which covers the three non-core, or lifestyle based, vaccines!

 

Much love from a happy, healthy, and vaccinated Skipper!

#SkipperAndConroy #Vetsrus #Puppy

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