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:
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/
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
First and foremost, make sure your puppy is on track with his vaccination schedule.
Attend the Expo at times less popular times of day to avoid overwhelming his senses.
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.
Keep some sanitizer handy for new people to use prior to petting your puppy to avoid disease transmission.
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.
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!
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
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.
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:
Positivity, NOT punishment. Socialization experiences should be fun for you both! Reward him frequently with treats and praise; punishment is not conducive to socialization.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.