Tag Archives: neutering

Reining in Dogs with Wanderlust


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We’ve all seen the infamous “Lost Dog” posters from distraught owners longing to see their furry loved one again. Unfortunately, having a dog run away is a reality many dog-owners face at one point or another. But if your dog bolts from the home, then it might take some extra training to keep him from getting hurt, stolen or worse. Your pup belongs home and safe in your loving arms.

Understanding the Behavior
We all know that dogs like to run. But, why? Is your warm, loving home not good enough? On the contrary, the problem typically has nothing to do with the owner, but rather with the dog’s own natural instincts. Dogs may run away for a number of reasons including boredom, predatory drive or distraction. For example, a dog left alone in the yard for hours without anyone to play with might escape out of boredom, curious of what the outside world has to offer. Like humans, dogs are creatures with social needs, and thus might seek out social stimulation if that need cannot be fulfilled at home. A dog ready to mate, especially a male, un-neutered dog, is prone to roaming as well. After all, he’s got to spread those doggy genes somehow! Lastly, another common reason dogs run away is they have too much energy to contain. Oftentimes owners leave their dogs alone in the yard thinking that they’re doing them a favor, but really, without a companion, dogs will soon grow bored. Especially for dogs who require exercise, being alone in the yard can be frustrating and therefore, a jog around the block can be a much more attractive option. Keep a watchful eye on breeds that are especially prone to wanderlust, including the Siberian Husky, Afghan Hound, terriers, Basset Hound, Great Pyrenees, Puggle, Weimaraner, Schnauzer, Vizsla, shepherds, Alaskan Malamute, Dachshund, Samoyed and Beagle.

Corrective Training
For the owners whose dogs have a taste for wanderlust, there is hope and help. One of the easiest ways to stop your dog from running away is to identify the cause of the behavior. Is he bored or lonely? Then, schedule plenty of playtime every day (the duration depends on the breed, individual personality and physical needs of the dog) and give him tasks to keep mentally and physically alert. Hormonal? Have him neutered to reduce the urge to roam for mating. Or, if your dog is female, have her spayed so that she doesn’t attract male dogs while in heat. Too much energy? Make sure your dog gets the appropriate amount of daily exercise for his type. The following tips can further help your dog stay safe:

• Train your dog to not leave without permission by holding him on a leash and repeatedly giving him the “sit-stay” command when you open the gate or door.
• Take your dog on visits to a local dog park to give him the socialization he needs, both with dogs and other humans.
• Secure your yard with a high fence or gate (ensure the fence extends a few feet underground if you have a digger such as a Husky).
• Make home an ideal place for your dog to be, with his own designated comfort spots and a bowl of clean water throughout the day.
• If you must leave him alone, give your dog a few toys to keep him busy, rotating them periodically to give the impression of something new and exciting every time. Or even better, drop him off at a trusted friend’s house or doggy daycare if you’re away from the house for extended periods of time.
• Finally, do not punish your dog once he returns from his excursion. This will only teach him to dread rather than look forward to his return home.

Having a dog that constantly runs away can be a real cause for anxiety in owners, and it’s not something that can be changed overnight. But, rest assured that with consistent training and positive reinforcement, your dog will see you as a loving parent and his home as a comfort zone, from whom he wouldn’t want to stray.

SERIES: When The Bite’s Bigger Than The Bark: Aggression in Dogs Part 3


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Dogs are complicated animals with distinct personalities and therefore temperaments based on their individual genetic makeup, environmental factors and breed history. Just like humans, dogs have faults and behaviors that need correcting. And one of those common issues is aggression. While we’ve established in Part One of this series that training an aggressive dog takes time, patience and consistency, before choosing and committing to a training plan, the first step is identifying the various types of aggression and the respective motives and triggers for each. In this final part to our special series, we hold a microscope to four additional classifications of aggression.

Redirected Aggression

Consider this situation: In the midst of a scuffle between two dogs, one of the owners jumps into the middle attempting to stop the fight. Instead, the dog suddenly turns and bites the owner. This scenario describes a dog redirecting aggression towards an interfering party. Or, if two dogs are standing behind a fence together and one becomes aroused by something or someone on the other side of the fence, he may have no other way to take out his aggression than by turning to his furry companion and biting him.

Training approach: The remedy for redirected aggression is often to remove the dog from volatile situations which may trigger these feelings. For example, in the fence scenario, a responsible owner should not allow the dog to be outside unsupervised. Reward-based obedience training is also always a good idea.

Pain-Elicited Aggression

When a dog is in pain, a common reaction is aggression. Therefore, it’s crucial to handle an injured dog with care or to defer to a professional in order to prevent a pain-related attack. Even the most gentle, friendly dogs can react aggressively when they feel pain. And remember, while serious injuries are obviously quite painful, a dog can also react aggressively from something as minor as a pinched neck from a collar, stepping on a sharp object or getting stung by a bee.

Training approach: This particular case of aggression may be the easiest to treat and remedy, simply by making sure your pup receives proper veterinary attention. By getting to the root of the pain, once you obtain a diagnosis and medically treat the problem, your pup’s pain-related aggression may simply go away.

Sex-Related Aggression

Dogs who are not neutered or spayed will demonstrate aggression in order to attract the attention of the opposite sex dog for breeding purposes. Fighting can also occur between two male dogs (even if no female dogs are present) in an effort to compete for female attention. In the wild, the strongest dogs are the first to gain access to the female they’re vying for – so this is a natural, evolutionary practice. While it’s possible for females to also fight amongst each other as well, it’s less common. If a dog is fixed later in life, he may still demonstrate aggressive tendencies until the sexual urges wear off.

Training approach: Dog-on-dog aggression is typically remedied with behavior modification programs designed to de-sensitize and counter-condition. Basic dog training commands such as “stay” and “sit” will be reinforced to encourage self-control. After all, a dog who is passively standing still in one position cannot act out on aggressive tendencies.

Predatory Aggression

Classic predatory behavior includes chasing after fast-moving prey. And oftentimes, domesticated pups will chase other pets, wildlife (such as rabbits or squirrels), or even running people, bikers or skaters. Sometimes, a dog will bite his “prey” if they manage to catch the object of desire. While predatory aggression towards people or even human babies is possible, it is rare in pet dogs. That said, this type of aggression can be especially worrisome as there is often no warning before the attack.

Training approach: Those most effective treatment for predatory aggression will be intensive obedience training with a focus on the recall and “and down” commands. If a dog is chasing something, the owner must demonstrate control to retrieve the object. Developing control is a process, but can be practiced with repetitive fetch play and exercises.

In conclusion, while aggressive behavior in canines can be difficult to break, positive change is certainly possible and the behavior should be addressed immediately for optimal results. Through regimented training and therapy, aggressive dogs can recover to become the sweet and loving furry friends they’re meant to be.

Brachycephalic Dogs: The Truth About Those Adorable, Pushed-In Little Noses


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The first thing you probably notice when you see a pug, boxer, or bulldog is that cute, wrinkly, smooshed-in face (Who can resist those velvety folds?). But underneath those wrinkles is a medical condition to be aware of, which can negatively impact a dog’s quality of life. If you have a dog or are thinking about getting a dog with a “snub nose,” here’s what you need to know in order to keep him as comfortable and healthy as possible.

Breeds with flat noses have a condition called “brachycephalic syndrome.” The term brachycephalic refers to a broad, short skull shape that gives certain breeds a distinct snub-nosed appearance. While it’s typically easy to spot a brachycephalic dog based on physical appearance, there are varying degrees of severity. Here is a complete list of brachycephalic breeds:

Because Brachycephalic dogs have a structural narrowing at the nostrils, the back of the throat, and in the windpipe, most dogs with the condition prefer to breathe through their mouths due to the increased airway resistance in their noses. Mildly affected dogs will breathe noisily, snort when excited and snore while sleeping. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, your pup may become distressed, especially after exercise or in warmer temperatures. On very hot days, brachycephalic dogs run a high risk of heat stroke because of their difficulty regulating body temperature.

In addition to breathing loudly, snorting, and snoring, there are a few other signs of distress to watch out for, including retching or gagging, especially while swallowing, which indicates an elongated soft palate and is a sign of trouble. Dogs with elongated soft palates often prefer to sleep on their backs because it makes breathing easier. Watch out for blue gums, blue tongue or fainting after exercise; in extreme cases, this can indicate lack of oxygen in your pup’s blood. Take a look at your dog’s nostrils, too – do they look normal, or do they appear to be pinched closed? Nostrils that are closed too far to allow for proper air flow are a part of the brachycephalic syndrome, and are called “stenotic nares.” While this condition is present from birth, it may not affect your dog until later in life, so even if your dog does not currently show symptoms, it’s important to continue to monitor your brachycephalic dog closely.

Treatment Options

  • Check in with your vet regularly and keep tabs on the condition. Not all dogs require surgery to be comfortable, but many benefit from corrective procedures if preventative measures are not enough to provide your pup relief.
  • Learn what’s normal for your pooch. Once you figure out which snorts and snores are status quo, you’ll know immediately when you hear troubling breathing sounds or a new type of snorting that it’s time to visit your vet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight for your pup. Obesity can make breathing problems worse.
  • Always regulate your dog’s temperature and exercise, especially during the summer months. As mentioned, hot and humid weather increases a brachycephalic dog’s risk of heat stroke, so make sure he stays cool.
  •  Consider using a harness instead of a collar. A collar can pull on your dog’s larynx, making breathing even more difficult.
  • Sometimes, surgery is necessary to allow your dog to breathe normally and improve his quality of life. The soft palate can be surgically trimmed shorter, stenotic nares can be widened, and both are simple, minimally invasive procedures.
  •  Lastly, consider spaying or neutering. Since this condition is inherited, it’s a good idea to avoid breeding a dog that suffers from severe brachycephalic syndrome. Use your vet as a resource, stay informed on new treatment options and do your part to keep your wrinkly-faced pooch safe.

What to Know about Spaying and Neutering


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Spaying and neutering, defined as the sterilization of dogs through removal of their reproductive organs, are safe and routine medical practices performed by veterinarians across the country. But, the average dog owner may not know why the procedure is done, the associated benefits and whether the surgery is necessary. So, we’re shedding some light on what can be considered a taboo subject with the goal of arming you with crucial information related to your pup’s reproductive health and what it means for his future.

While it’s typical to sterilize a dog from six to nine months of age, veterinarians are now beginning to sterilize puppies as young as eight weeks old. Neutering or spaying your dog may seem costly at first, but in fact, it not only saves money in the long run, but also eliminates the responsibility of having to take care of an entire litter of puppies. Not to mention, sterilization keeps dogs off the streets and safe in happy, healthy homes. Let’s take a look at some of the additional benefits of each:

Spaying
Spaying is the term used to describe the removal of the female reproductive system in animals. The medical benefits of spaying according to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) include increased protection from diseases because spaying a dog before her first heat helps defend against tumors in the mammary glands and uterus. Spaying also eliminates the unfavorable attributes of the heat cycle during breeding season, such as excessive urination, irritability and bleeding.

Neutering
Neutering is a general term for the castration of a male animal, though “neutering” can also be used to refer to the sterilization of both male and female animals. The AVMF recommends neutering to prevent male dogs from testicular cancer and prostate problems. Neutering also inhibits roaming in dogs, a marked trait of an unsterilized dog with the drive to travel far distances to mate. Neutering is also thought to improve the behavior of male dogs as the decrease in testosterone may allow them to be less territorial, less sexually aggressive and less likely to engage in humping and leg-lifting.

When Not to Neuter
While the clear benefits to sterilization are explained above, there are  certain situations in which it is appropriate to leave your dog intact. First, if you are a qualified breeder, you will need to keep your dogs intact for breeding purposes. Second, if you plan to show your dog in a professional show, you will need to keep the dog intact as neutered dogs are not eligible given that the original purpose of showing was to evaluate a dog for its breeding stock.

Lastly, some holistic veterinarians allege that spaying and neutering your dog, especially before she has a chance to fully mature, is not only unnecessary, but harmful to the dog. If you decide not to neuter and don’t want an unplanned pregnancy, then it is vital to do the appropriate research and make responsible decisions such as keeping your dog out of social situations during heat cycles, etc. Spaying and neutering alleviates this worry in dog-owners, making neutering a popular option for American homes today.

Tips to Curb a Dog that Digs


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He’s done it again! Fido’s dug a hole right in the middle of your freshly-pruned row of Petunias. Digging can be one of the most frustrating doggy behaviors, as well as one of the hardest to stop. Below are some pointers to keep your dog’s destructive habit from digging a hole into your brain.

Step 1: Identify the Causes

There are many possible causes of a dog’s digging that go beyond their simple enjoyment of the act. Once you identify the reason (or reasons) for your dog’s digging, it will be much easier to come up with a solution. A few of the fascinating causes for digging include:

• Entertainment—If you’ve seen the wide, gleaming smile of a dog digging a hole in the backyard, you know he has no qualms about tearing apart your garden; digging is just plain fun.
• Temperature Control—In the hot summer months, your dog might find a hole in the ground the perfect spot to cool down. Similarly, getting into a hole he’s dug can offer him more warmth when it’s cold out than staying above ground.
• Escape—High fences or gates aren’t always enough to keep a rebellious dog with a taste for wanderlust contained. Your dog may be trying to get away, at least for a little while.
• Hormones—Both male and female dogs may try to dig their way out of the yard in order to sniff out a mate.
• Burying Objects—Dogs dig to save food, bones and other prized possessions for later while keeping them hidden away from others.
• Natural Instinct—Some dog breeds like to dig more than others; it’s just in their nature. Thick-coated dogs such as Siberian Huskies and Chow Chows might dig to escape the heat, while earth dogs such as Terriers and Dachshunds were bred to do the very thing that gets under your skin—or lawn.

Step 2: Breaking the Habit

While there are no foolproof solutions to a dog’s digging, there are measures you can take to lessen the behavior. Depending on the cause for the digging, the appropriate solution may vary.

• Keep Him Busy—If your dog resorts to digging as a form of entertainment, he may not be getting the proper attention at home. Prevent boredom in your pup by scheduling daily playtime and exercise.
• Keep It Cool—If your dog is digging because he is hot or because of physical discomfort or distress, make sure you pay attention to him and provide him with what he needs to stay cool and comfortable.
• Get Him “Fixed”—Spaying or neutering makes a dog less likely to wander in search of a mate. Coupled with regular exercise, this can solve escapism, as well as curb hormonal instincts.
• Limit Treats—To get your dog to stop burying his food, don’t give him more than he will finish. If you see him trying to stash a treat for later, quickly take it out of his mouth before he has a chance to bury it. If he reacts aggressively to this gesture, it’s a sign your dog needs immediate professional help.
• Compromise—There’s not much you can do to stop a dog from digging if it’s his natural-born instinct. If he’s digging for temperature control, you can trim his fur in the summer or give him a sweater in the winter. But what if he’s a Terrier with digging in his blood? In this case, it may be best to designate a single spot in the yard where he can dig, rather than him digging holes all over the place.

Step 3: Reward, Reward, Reward

When training your dog, one of the best ways to get your desired outcome is to reward positive behavior. This is called positive reinforcement, and is often more effective than punishment. The same goes for training your dog to stop digging. Instead of scolding your dog for digging, reward him with praise and treats for obeying commands, reacting calmly or digging in the right spot. Hopefully, both you and Fido will dig the end result.

Tackling Obesity: Common Dog Food-Related Myths


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Just as obesity is an unhealthy, dangerous problem for humans, the same can be said for your canine companion. A whopping 34% of dogs are overweight, so as cute as an overly plump dog may be, obesity is a serious issue not to be taken lightly. The truth is that keeping your dog lean and healthy can extend his lifespan up to two years. And, weight management is crucial to avoid obesity-related health issues, especially if your dog is genetically prone to obesity (some breeds such as Cocker Spaniel, Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Basset Hounds, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Dachshunds should be watched more closely). With this information in mind, it is your responsibility as a pup parent to make sure your dog maintains healthy nutrition and a normal weight within the average range for his breed.

Oftentimes, common misconceptions prevent pup parents from taking good care of their pup’s physical health. Let’s debunk some of these myths to set you and your pooch up for successful weight management:

Puppies Are Always Hungry: Pup parents often see their dogs gobble up food in seconds, take treats without pause and beg for table food. These behaviors lead to the myth that dogs never tire of eating and are always ready for food. While dogs may always take food when handed to them (haven’t you ever had one too many helpings at Thanksgiving dinner?), this doesn’t mean they need food. Unfortunately, well-meaning owners often leave food in their dog’s bowl all day hoping to satisfy their “hungry” pooches. However, this is an extremely unhealthy practice. Dogs should be on a strict feeding schedule – depending on your veterinarian’s instruction, typically no more than 2x/day. Pooches don’t need as many calories as humans do. That said, water bowls should be filled throughout the day so that your dog stays well-hydrated.

Spaying and Neutering Cause Obesity: This is simply untrue. Spaying or neutering procedures may slow down a dog’s natural metabolism, but also means that your dog requires less calories to maintain a healthy weight. As your dog goes through body changes such as getting fixed, or getting older, you need to be aware of weight gain and act immediately to reduce caloric intake or increase activity level to offset the change.

Some Dogs are Picky, so Feed Them Whatever They’ll Eat: This may be true with toddlers (to an extent), but dogs should not be given the opportunity to choose what they eat. If you’ve experimented with giving them table scraps, you’ll notice they’ll almost always prefer human food. After all, a flavorful steak sounds much more delicious than a bowl of kibble, right? But this practice forms bad habit and will cause your dog to become “picky” and eat fatty, calorie-filled human food rather than the food designed to keep him fit and strong.

The Best Way to Reward a Puppy is with Treats: When your puppy does a good job, you give him a bite sized treat, right? While this is fine practice in moderation, an over-consumption of treats, which are often filled with empty calories, can lead to pet obesity. As a general guideline, treats should not comprise more than 10% of your dog’s overall diet. Also, if you notice your dog over-snacks on treats and sometimes doesn’t finish his entire bowl of food, it may be a sign he’s consuming too many treats.

Frequent, Small Meals are Better than a Few Solid Meals: Not necessarily. Again, consult with your veterinarian, but while this is a commonly adopted diet plan for humans, this can cause overeating in dogs and bad habits. Just because dogs eat the food that’s put underneath their noses, doesn’t mean their bodies require the calories.

Begging Dogs are Hungry: Dog behavior can be misleading and begging for food is an art that many dogs become quite talented at perfecting. If your canine is pleading, they’ve likely become accustomed to the fact that begging is rewarded with food. Any dog trainer will tell you it’s important not to indulge, but rather to ignore the bad behavior. Giving in will only teach your dog to continue begging. While we all love our animals dearly, in any kind of training, consistency of discipline is key. It only takes one time for your dog to learn this kind of behavior is tolerated. Rest assured, if your dog is a healthy weight and eating the correct amount of food at meals, he is not hungry.

While these myth-busters are helpful for common weight issues, there are some circumstances where your pup’s obesity may be the result of a medical issue such as hypothyroidism. If the weight management solutions you’re trying at home are not showing results, it’s best to take your pup into the vet for an evaluation to rule out other diagnoses.

Spotlight on Police Dogs


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You’ve seen them on TV, in the movies and even in your own neighborhood. They’re cute and cuddly, but have a bite as big as their bark. They’re police dogs, and they’re here to fight crime and save the day!

thumbnail-copsPolice use canines, called appropriately “K9s” in English-speaking countries, to provide police departments certain skills humans lack. For example, an average dog’s sense of smell is almost 50 times more sensitive than a human’s. Also, the brute appearance of police dogs is intimidating enough to prevent confrontation from a criminal (HowStuffWorks). Not to mention, police dogs are also much faster and stronger than most humans, and can provide the force necessary to take down an escaping suspect. Together, a police dog and his carefully-chosen handler make up what’s called a “K9 unit.”

The two most common breeds utilized by police are the German Shepherd and the Belgian Malinois. Most of us recognize the German for its impressive size and no-nonsense demeanor, but the Malinois might sound less familiar. The Malinois is a slimmer version of the German Shepherd and hails from the Netherlands. Much like the German, it is prized for its speed, agility and intelligence. Labrador Retrievers tend to be used for responsibilities that require a high level of attention and focus, such as sniffing out explosives that can detonate from sudden movement, while German Shepherds handle more aggressive tasks. Most police dogs are males left intact (unneutered) to preserve their natural aggressive instinct.

The first police dogs were actually Bloodhounds, not German Shepherds. With their keen sense of smell, Bloodhounds were used by police in Europe as early as the 18th Century to track criminals on the loose and missing persons. After WWI, countries like Germany and Belgium started using dogs for specific purposes, such as guard dog duty. Police dogs didn’t join American law enforcement until the 70’s, but over the past few years, the US has made notable advancements in their K9 training.

Before being trained for specific duties, all police dogs must be experts at basic obedience training. This means that the dog obeys his handler’s commands without hesitation, which is crucial in a high-risk, emergency situation. Training a police dog to do specific tasks is an intensive process, but includes continual rewarding of the dog. For example, the dogs are trained to sniff out drugs by teaching them to associate drugs with a fun game of tug-of-war. After the K9 unit plays a game of tug-of-war with a scent-free towel, they will then play using a towel encasing a drug such as marijuana so that the dog recognizes the smell of marijuana as the smell of his favorite pastime. It’s a highly effective process with results that translate into real life situations.

In our nation’s current climate of tense police-to-citizen relations, using K9 forces can help reduce police departments’ liability. K9s often prevent the injuries and struggle that arise from a suspect resisting an officer’s commands, which in turn prevents lawsuits against the department. If a K9 unit ever does encounter a lawsuit, the court will often judge in favor of the police because a dog’s training provides strong evidence that he acted appropriately in any situation.

At the end of a long and tiring work day, a police dog will go home to his owner, who is often also the handler, to enjoy the company of his family. It just goes to show how versatile dogs are to fulfill different roles in our lives; hardworking crime fighters by day, loyal family companions by night.