Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Yes to the Urine Finder, no thanks on Urine Off

I suppose this blog must be picking up some steam (thank you, readers!), because I’ve been getting inundated with requests to review products.
Among the first products I agreed to review was a new cleaner called Urine Off.
I agreed to review it for one reason: It is super-important to be using an enzyme cleaner when cleaning up dog and cat messes. If you don’t, the dog or cat will continue to smell its scent in those areas and return to use them again. So, I wanted to find out if Urine Off was indeed an enzyme cleaner, and if it wasn’t, I wanted to make that clear to the public.
I’d have done more research into that topic if the product had actually worked in the first place.
But it didn’t.
My dog doesn’t have potty accidents inside the house anymore, so I couldn’t exactly test this product out myself. However, a coworker of mine was having some issues with her aging cat and suspected the cat had begun urinating in her closet.
When the Urine Off product arrived, it came with a special black light that “is essential to finding all the deposits.” Called the Urine Off Urine Finder, this product is available for $10 on my favorite dog-product Web site, www.jbpet.com.
The finder worked. It found urine stains in my coworker’s closet, in her bedroom and in other parts of the house. She was mortified when she came into work the next day.
“I just feel gross,” she said to me. “I can’t believe this was happening and, except for in the closet, I had no idea.”
She tried to follow the instructions to clean up the mess, but they were a bit complicated. The directions say: “Apply liberally to the deposit ... to wet the carpet, padding and subfloor. Cover with plastic overnight. Using a spot cleaning/extraction machine, rinse and extract the nap.”
My friend was a little flabbergasted at the elaborate instructions. What the heck is a nap, anyhow? She poured on the Urine Off, used a plastic bag to cover the spot and some heavy shoes to try and pin the plastic to the carpet as best she could.
“But, what do they mean by using a spot cleaning/extraction machine?” my friend asked me the next day. “I’m assuming they mean a steam cleaner, but I don’t have one and I can’t rent one every time I need to clean up like this.”
I told her I’d check into it and I did. However, the company never got back with me to clarify the instructions.
Most disappointing, though, was that after several attempts of using the product, putting the plastic on it and letting it soak overnight, the stains never went away. Every time she turned on that black light, the stains were there in their original form.
On the jbpet.com site, the Urine Off products themselves start at $8.99 for the smaller bottles.
My determination on this one? Buy the urine finder for $10 if you really want to know what secrets your carpet holds, but skip on the actual Urine Off cleaning solution.
One last note, it appears the company sells different lines of products — one for dogs, one for cats, etc. I was worried that perhaps I was using a dog product on a cat problem, so before I published this, I checked the bottle to see what I had received and it said “Multi-Pet” and bore the images of both a dog and a cat on its label.
So, my determination will remain the same.

What to use instead
Funnel your funds toward a local company that makes a similar product which has earned the stamp of approval of my favorite dog trainers, Nicole and Brian Herr of Herr Pet Training.
It’s called, Naturally It’s Clean and has a local business branch in Bloomfield Hills. Not only this is a natural product, but it’s also an effective enzyme cleaner.
Nicole said she recommends the carpet cleaner from the product line up because it has the highest concentration of enzymes.

Be wary of citrus smelling cleaners
While I chatted with Nicole Herr, she asked if the Urine Off had a strong citrus smell. It does. Apparently, this smell tends to drive dogs and cats away, so cleaners with a strong citrus smell can give the appearance that the product is working because the animals won’t return to the spot.
However, they’ll probably just move a foot or two away from the citrus scented spot and go potty there. Even worse, if you use a citrus product to clean your cat’s litter box, you run the risk of driving your cat away from its litter box all together, she said.
One last thing I don’t like about Urine Off? There’s no ingredients on the label. Being that I have a very allergic dog, I read the ingredients on all products I bring into my house. For me, no ingredients equals no purchase.

I found it odd that ...
... on the multi-pet Urine Off solution, pictured between the dog and cat were also the images of an iguana and a turtle. Really?
I imagine it could be a problem for some reptile lovers.
Of course, it’s also a problem for some parents potty training their toddlers. And I’m sure it’s a problem at college frat houses where too much beer consumption is the norm.
Perhaps they should’ve stuck a human on there too!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Oh, our canine wildlife!

I just love to hear about and see photos of the local wildlife — especially those who are the “canine cousins” of our beloved house pets, the dog.
After the story and photo ran last week about the fox who decided to curl up on the comfy chair in the yard of an Independence Township couple, I received another e-mail with more great photos of a fox.
Check out these great shots of a little fox hanging out in Waterford Township. I like that I can include all four of these photos in the space.
The first picture, taken through the window of what looks to be a second floor room, really sets the scene. Can you believe the fox got so close to their deck?
In the other pictures, the relaxed fellow certainly appears to be enjoying some early spring sunshine.
Waterford Township resident Karen Pollack, who said she lives off Clintonville Road near Adams Elementary, captured these photos on March 16.
“He/she was very calm and stayed for about a half hour. A neighborhood cat walked by and the fox never bothered it,” wrote Pollock in an email.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fox in a chair

Yes, it’s a fox in a chair.
A wild fox using a piece of human-made furniture.
He looks comfortable, doesn’t he?
This is, by the way, a local shot sent in to us by a man living in Independence Township. (Thank you Sam!)
I think this goes back to my earlier blog, Our three brains (apparently, science has proved that our brain is actually made up of three smaller brains, one referred to as the reptile brain, the other as the animal brain and the last and largest of them, the human brain).
These photos prove, I believe, that the animal brain must be the one that regulates comfort.
Obviously, it’s a trait we share not just with our dogs, but with wild animals too.
Heck, maybe the comfort monitoring is even done by the reptile brain — those lizards always look comfortable when they’re out tanning themselves in the sun.
Revisit that "Our three brains" blog by clicking here.
Or, read about what Sam Antonazzo — the homeowner who snapped this shot — had to say about the day the fox came to sit in his chair. Click here to read the story.

Local filmmaker focuses on no-kill shelters

A Royal Oak based producer named Thomas Young worked for about a year to produce the documentary “No Pet Left Behind.”
“In November 2008, my family and I adopted a new family member from the Animal Welfare Society and I truly learned about the lack of awareness of the no-kill shelters,” writes Young.
He was motivated to spread awareness, and hence, the idea for the film was born.
“Along with helping to build awareness, a large part of the profitable proceeds from this program will go to help the Animal Welfare Society and, if we can get a good distribution, some of the other shelters involved in the production,” Young wrote.
It’s a good cause and so, of course I agreed to watch the film and blog about it.
I only saw a shortened version of it, but from what I saw, it was definitely an informative piece of work.
My husband and I used to volunteer at the no-kill shelter K-9 Stray Rescue League in Oxford years ago. One visit there makes it clear how badly funding is needed.
Some dogs live out their rest of their lives in these shelters, grateful for two meals a day but starved of the attention that comes from being someone’s pet. The shelters are always full and always seeking fosters so they can take on even more pets.
It’s truly a heart wrenching experience to be there, surrounded by so many souls in need.
At K-9, the dogs who were sick or recently out of surgery stayed inside in cages. The rest of the dogs lived in pens outside. They got food and water checks twice a day, the pens would be cleaned and the dogs usually got some run time in the yard. A volunteer trainer also stopped by on a semi-regular basis to work with some of the dogs who it needed it the most.
It doesn’t sound so bad, and it’s not — remember, these are dogs who would otherwise be dead. K-9, like many no-kill shelters, takes animals only from the kill lists at other shelters, sometimes rescuing them moments before they were scheduled to die.
Even knowing that, the experience still tugs at your heart. No dog should have to live its life in a pen or cage.
So, do your part. Be a foster. Adopt a dog. Better yet, adopt an older dog or a special needs dog — these are the ones who usually do live their lives out at no-kill shelters. Or you could volunteer to clean cages, walk dogs or even just do some laundry.
As for the documentary, Young hopes to get it on television, possibly enter it in some film festivals and in the long run, raise money for no-kill shelters through the sale of DVDs. I hope his hopes pan out, because it is certainly a good cause.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What a turkey!

My dog’s reaction to his first sighting of a male turkey provides valuable insight into how a dog’s brain works.
Every morning between 8 and 10 a.m., a flock of about 15 wild turkey hens travel through my backyard. In the deep snow, they traveled strictly in a single file line across a path worn down the resident deer, who take the same journey through our yard twice a day.
With the snow gone, they spread out quite a bit more — some come up close to the house to peck at the gravel, others wade through moist swampy area also pecking at the ground, but I haven’t the slightest clue as to whether they’re drinking or eating.
I like watching the turkeys. I hadn’t seen them in the wild since I was a child up north at my grandparents’ cabin. Now, I get a great view of their large, awkward selves — the heads bobbing forward with each step and that giant body of theirs teetering on top of tiny little legs and feet.
All throughout the winter, it was the hens and hens alone who traveled the route. At one point, several flocks seemed to merge together and their single file line seemed to go on forever as more than 50 birds would walk through my yard.
Needless to say, Sensi is quite accustomed by now to seeing these birds. He seems to understand they are no threat to him and quite the opposite, he watches them with what I’d call a predatory gaze.
All this time, we had not seen a single Tom (a male turkey).
While driving home one day last week, a Tom crossed the road in front of me. I laughed at the red thing that hangs under its beak, called a Wattle (I think) because it was swinging violently from side to side as the turkey ran its heart out to race across the road.
It was my first sighting of a Tom.
On Monday, I watched the flock of hens cross in my yard and to my surprise, spotted a small Tom in their midst. And then, bringing up the rear of the flock were three other Toms, but these were the big guys. I was shocked at how much larger they were than the hens, their wattles looking nearly as long as my arm.
Sensi and I watched the birds intently, as we always do, and when they reached the top of the hill, one of the Toms spread out its feathers in that historic fashion we all know turkeys for.
Sensi’s eyes went wide, his hackles raised and immediately, he began barking with all the ferocity he could muster.
This, of course, was a reaction caused by the intense fear he experienced when he watched a bird transform from something he was used to seeing to a much larger, alien life form.
He didn’t know what to think.
He had no prior experiences to tell him this is simply something male turkeys do and as a dog, does not have the analytical capacity to assume, "It was a turkey a few seconds ago. Even though it looks completely different now, it must still be a turkey."
What can we gather from this about dogs? A lesson in generalization.
A dog will not know that a turkey can suddenly appear to double in size unless it is exposed to Toms who exhibit this behavior.
Why? Dogs don’t generalize.
What is new and novel is oftentimes alarming until the dog understands it is no threat.
The situation with the turkey can be similar to a variety of situations with humans.
A human dressed in jeans and t-shirt who walks into a room is one thing; the dog has seen this before, knows this person and is not alarmed.
If the same human walks into the room dressed up in a bulky snowsuit with a funky hat and a mask that covers 90 percent of their face, it is not a human at all to the dog who sees him for the first time — nope, it’s an alien life form, new and novel and the dog will tend to be fearful until it becomes clear that this strange, bulky life-form is non-threatening. Even though the human underneath it all is the same, the scent is the same and the voice is the same, the visual is not.
And this is generalization.
It takes a lot for us humans to really grasp what it means to not generalize, because it is something we do so naturally.
Lucky for all my readers, I’ll just keep pounding it into your heads.
Thanks for reading!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Our three brains

There is so much fantastic information out there about dog behavior and animal behavior in general that I am just continually amazed and dismayed by how well the majority of people avoid it.
A coworker recently lent me a book by Temple Grandin called “Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior.”
I’d love to write a whole book about the incredible Temple Grandin, who has contributed so much to both the worlds of autism and animals. She is an autistic pioneer. I could go on and on, but if you’re interested in learning more, Google her. Buy one of the books, order a copy of the documentary and learn more about this amazing woman.
I’m only a few chapters into this book, but every page I turn seems to be another “ah-ha!” moment for me.
Today, I’ll share my “ah-ha!” moment from this morning. It’s about our three brains.
Yep, I said three brains.
Did you know your brain is actually made up of three smaller brains? You have the frontal lobe, which is the human brain, and then you have an animal brain and also a reptile brain.
The reptile brain is thought to be the earliest form of the brain. It regulates the basic functions of life — breathing, sleeping, etc. The animal brain is second earliest form, which regulates simple emotions and behaviors. Grandin likens this brain to the wolf brain — it gave wolves the ability to form a pack and rear their young, she wrote.
Lastly, the human brain ties it all together and regulates language and more complex behaviors. I believe she wrote something along the lines of, “The reptile brain lets the wolf breath and sleep, the animal brain lets it form a pack and rear young and the human brain allows us to write about it all.”
Beautifully stated.
Why three brains? Because mother nature doesn’t throw away what works, Grandin wrote. Instead, it just builds upon what does.
The human brain, the frontal lobes, are only found to be large and developed in humans and primates.
What’s important to take from all of this?
First — there are MAJOR differences in the way humans and dogs operate due to the large frontal lobes in our human brains vs. the rather undeveloped frontal lobes in our dogs.
Second — Beyond those stark differences, at least two parts of our brains are pretty much the same. So, underneath it all, we share a lot in common.
Incredible, isn’t it?

Buy the book online via Amazon.com, click here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Sensi

Eight years ago today, my dog was the first born of his litter.
Twelve other puppies would follow. Yep — twelve. It was a big litter.
I sometimes wonder about the folks we got him from and his dog parents. Are they even still alive? I suppose it’s not likely. But, I know the family was keeping one of the puppies. I wonder what that dog looks like now.

A dog-rific celebration
Growing up, I had next door neighbors who had two golden retrievers. The couple didn’t have kids and treated their show quality goldens as if they were little people in dog suits. For birthdays, the dogs would get a big ol’ party just like a kid.
The woman of the house often talked about planning their birthday party with me, so I know that she’d even make a special trip up north, driving several hours to get some sort of dog-friendly ice cream.
I’ve never gone quite to those extremes. In fact, I must admit that there have been some years I’ve even forgot about his birthday all together. As he gets older though, I think more and more about the time he has left with us and I just really want to make these years “golden” for him.
Tonight, he’s getting two extra large stuffed teddy bears I picked up from the Salvation Army. I’ll wrap them up for him and let him have a go at ripping apart the box — he enjoys opening the gift about as much as he likes the toys inside.
We can’t give him wet food because of the allergy ordeal we’re still trekking our way through. Wet food is one thing he always gets for special occasions. And we can’t give him hard chew toys for the same reason.
So, our dog-rific celebration will be a hike. Brent and I plan to take him on a three mile loop this weekend through a state park. Seems like a great way to celebrate a dog’s birthday — and a cheap one too.

When is your dog’s birthday?
Most people celebrate their dog’s birthday on the day they brought the dog home with them.
I don’t. I might not have his birth date exactly right, but I basically counted back the weeks from when we got him.
Do you celebrate your dog’s birthday? And if so, which date did you choose celebrate — the date your dog came home with you or the date of the dog’s actual birth?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

From dining to exercising

This is part V to my treadmill training exercising.
To recap from the last blog, we left off with Sensi “dining on the run.” OK, OK — maybe it’s more appropriate to say “dining on the walk, the very, very slow walk.”
But the goal, remember, is to have him running. In fact, the goal is to have him running on his own accord before breakfast every morning and again before dinner each night.
I want to make a little note here, too, that there is a reason I chose to have exercise time precede mealtime. In the wild, wolves expend a ton of energy just to get a meal — think about the stalking time and coordination of the pack, then the actual chase, which has got to be exhausting, before the whole deal is sealed with a wrestling match at the end.
So, having your dog exercise before mealtime is bound to feel natural for them. Of course, you don’t want to go from strenuous exercise straight to eating. Just like humans, dogs need a little time to cool down before filling their bellies. It is actually really important for them to cool down or else they risk getting bloat, which can be fatal and require emergency surgery.
All right, back to the main topic. How to move from dining to exercising.
First, let’s recall that the treadmill is moving so very slowly in these beginning stages that even the word “plodding” conjures an image that is too fast to accurately describe the speed he is traveling at.
The focus for him, right now, is still on the dining aspect. I need to move him away from that.
I’m going to do a week of just letting him eat at whatever pace he desires while walking ever so slowly on the treadmill.
The second week, I’m going to make some slight adjustments. I’ll start pulling the food bowl back from him, at first just for a second or two at a time. This way, he’ll have to continue walking while waiting for me to give the food bowl back.
It’s very important that this is done very, very gradually. If I were to pull the food bowl away from him for even five second intervals in the beginning, he might think that he should jump off the treadmill and try a different behavior to get his dinner back. So, this has to be done with the ultimate baby step mentality.
I will continue with this until eventually, he gets no food until after he walks on the treadmill. Once I reach that point, I will begin gradually extending the amount of time I expect him to walk on the treadmill — probably until we reach ten minutes or so.
Once we’ve reached that point, we’re most of the way to our goal and I can then start increasing the speed on the treadmill. Until then, however, the speed of the treadmill will remain painfully slow.
It probably will take me until December 31 to complete my goal of having him run on the treadmill while I shower each morning, and again before dinner each night.
But that’s OK. This is a big deal and when you’re training dogs “big deal” things, you need to make sure you have the patience and take the time to get it right the first time around.
If you don’t, it’ll be a lot harder trying to rehab the effects of a shoddy training job.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Deal for adoption

Hey all local folks, there’s a pretty good deal out there for those of you looking for a new furry companion.
Oakland County Pet Adoption will have a variety of their animals available for adoption from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 20, at the Cranbrook Professional Building, 60 W. Big Beaver Road in Bloomfield Hills.
Dr. Glenn S. Spencer, a dentist, came up with the idea to offer dental services to anyone who adopts a pet during the adoption event on Saturday. And, the services aren’t just being offered for Mom or for Dad, but for up to four immediate family members of the person adopting the dog.
Spencer is offering a cleaning, exam and necessary x-rays — it can amount of $900 in total free services.
There will also be coupons available that day for $10 off a visit to Canine Inn Doggie Day Care and Boarding to be applied toward a shampoo, bath and nail clipping. The grooming services are a $39 value and are available by appointment only.
I visited Oakland County’s Pet Adoption Center today — I’m working on a story about a rabid horse that was discovered in Lapeer County and one of the adoption center employees was kind enough to talk on video with me about rabies and the importance of vaccinating all your pets against the fatal virus.
I knew it would be difficult; going into shelters always is. I don’t get teary-eyed and heartbroken, like most people probably do. Nope, I just excited and want to take all the animals home.
I toyed with the idea of perusing those animals up for adoption, but decided that would not be good. Inevitably, I’d end up with the picture of at least one dog stuck in my head for weeks and sometimes, forever.
But I can’t bring another dog home right now.
If you can, please go to this event this weekend or to the pet adoption center whenever you can. And for you cat lovers, there’s even more cats in need than there are dogs.
Side note: I saw the most beautiful black lab in the hallway. He was getting his picture taken. He was very hyper and jumpy, but even in passing, I could tell he had great potential for learning. Picture perfect as far as breed standard goes; just a ton energy.
So, if you’re in the market for a high energy black lab, you might want to snap this guy up before someone else does!
Adoption fees are $136.50 for an adult dog, $114 for puppies and $57.50 for any cat or kitten, which are buy one, get one free.
Call the center for more information — (248) 391-4100.

Dinner on the run

This is part IV to my treadmill training story.
In yesterday’s blog, I left off at the point where Sensi and I were walking down the hallway to the workout room. I had his food bowl and leash in hand — he was so excited that I was carrying around two of the best things in his life that he was practically bouncing down the hall, sure that something really excellent was about to happen for him.
Once in the room, I had him walk on to the treadmill while it was off and gobble up some treats like we had practiced a month before. He was happy.
I clipped his leash on — he bounced around in a merry little circle. “What’s next, Mom! What’s next!!” my dog would’ve said if he could talk.
Then, I turned the treadmill on to its very lowest setting. I encouraged him to walk on the treadmill, guiding him with one hand and holding treats over the treadmill’s surface with another hand.
He jumped right on the treadmill, grabbed the treats and jumped off.
We repeated this, only, the second time I put my hand with the treats in it farther up the treadmill. This time, he ate the treats but locked up his legs and allowed himself to, rather comically, slide off the back of the treadmill. When his rear feet fell off, he jumped off and away from the treadmill — shocked and a little scared, I’m sure.
But I kept pressing on, encouraging him to do it again. Again, he did the same thing — locking up his legs and allowing the treadmill to carry him backwards until his feet fell off it.
I realized the leash was doing absolutely nothing for me. I unclipped it and tossed it on the floor.
A few more times of trying treats-in-hand and I realized it was not working. The point was not just to get him on the treadmill — though it was a good start — but to actually get him walking on it.
Sensi was also becoming a little impatient about eating his dinner. His eyes remained focused on that bowl of food sitting off to the side of the treadmill.
Without really thinking about it, I grabbed his bowl and stood in front of the treadmill, leaning down to hold the bowl at his level.
Without really thinking about it, he jumped on the treadmill and began eating his food. That is when the magic happened. He just automatically began walking while he ate — not even thinking about it.
“What treadmill? Where?” he might’ve said. He had no idea what was going on. He was just glad to get his dinner. In the interim, he learned how to walk on a moving floor.
When you think about the lack of understanding a dog has about things such as treadmills, it really is an incredible feat.
After he finished his dinner, he jumped off the treadmill. I knelt down beside him and lavished him with praise, using my best high-pitched voice to tell him what a good boy he is. He knew he was golden.
I was so happy with him that we went outside and played for a while.

Check back for another blog on how I’ll use his new-found dinner routine to transition him to running on the treadmill without food.

Friday, March 12, 2010

One month later

This is part III to my treadmill training story.
To recap from yesterday’s blog, Sensi and I stopped working on the treadmill daily just before February arrived.
Throughout the month of February, I worked on stretching and strengthening my legs and also, I worked on trying to get Sensi back to health. He had surgery and even after he recovered from that, the allergy debacle continued.
Believe it or not, my dog was actually allergic to the first type of prescription allergen-free dog food we got from the veterinarian's office. As the bag got close to being empty, I called my veterinarian and discussed how I thought Sensi was allergic to the food, finally deciding to switch his food yet again and try a different prescription.
We’re were getting quite low on his remaining bag of food. Because of that, I had not done much training — due to his allergies, he can have nothing except his prescription kibble, no treats or tasty morsels from the fridge, absolutely nothing else.
Fortunately, he likes dog food and it’s a good enough reward to do some training with. But as the bag got low, I couldn’t risk wasting the precious kibble on training exercises. It had to be saved for meals.
On Monday, I got home and with the sunshine coming in through the windows, I was feeling quite energetic.
Time to get yourself back on the treadmill, I thought, and so I laced up my new tennis shoes.
This time, I had to start slowly — walking only. Push yourself too hard and you’ll end up with shin splints again, I reminded myself.
Unfortunately, I had walked barely a half mile before my shin started aching.
I reluctantly got off the treadmill, but I wasn’t ready to be done for the day. Maybe I’ll see if I can get Sensi on the treadmill, I thought.
But there was the low food problem. I know, I’ll just use the kibble that I’d normally feed him for dinner, I thought.
I filled his food bowl as I normally would and brought it back to the room with me. I also grabbed his leash, which I figured would be absolutely necessary.
Sensi was excited.
“My food bowl and the leash!” he must’ve thought. “Great things must be about to happen!”

check back next week to find out what happened on the treadmill.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I want to do it too!

This is part II to my treadmill training story.

When we left off yesterday, I was filling you in on how I began using the treadmill daily in January. I kept Sensi in the room with me to hang out and get used to the treadmill while I walked and jogged on it.
Sensi quickly caught on that it was very bad to try and bite the treadmill — thanks to me saying, “No! Bad dog” whenever he tried it.
He also knew, though, that the treadmill was a very good thing. When it was quiet and motionless, he got treats for walking onto its surface. And when he dared to put a paw on it in an attempt to join me while I was using it, he got a treat then too. In fact, he got a treat just for sitting nicely next to it.
“I get lots of treats when I’m around this strange, noisy thing,” Sensi learned. “This thing is good.”
That’s exactly what I was teaching him — being around the treadmill means good things happen for Sensi.
Most surprising to me were those moments when Sensi seemed to want to join me while I jogged.
A dog is aware of what goes on around him, especially when it involves energy. A treadmill is all about exercising and exercising ups the energy level. Sensi sensed my elevated energy level while I jogged and by golly, he wanted to do it too!
Perhaps he even realized that I was walking and connected that picture with the picture in his brain of us walking outside together. Taking walks is, of course, his favorite thing in the world. Maybe he just wanted to walk with me.
Either way, Sensi definitely wanted to be a part of whatever I was doing on that strange moving floor.
He’d put a paw on the treadmill’s surface, eager yet still wary. As the treadmill carried his paw backwards, he’d inevitably get a little scared and give up on his attempt to join me.
We carried on this way for exactly three and half weeks. Then, I got shin splints. At the same time, Sensi’s allergies were creating a lot of challenges for us — Sensi was lethargic, refusing eat and rapidly losing weight.
I decided we needed to take a break. I needed to get healthy and strengthen my legs, and Sensi needed to get healthy too.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Walking my dog on the treadmill

Every once in a while when training a dog, you have those breakthrough moments that just leave your jaw on the floor while you stare in amazement at your dog.
Last night, I had one of the those moments.
I got my dog to walk on the treadmill last night — I couldn’t have been more amazed.
Cesar Millan fans out there know what it looks like when he does it. The dog is held against his will on the treadmill, all four legs splayed out and trying with all his might to get off what must be the strangest moving floor the dog has ever seen.
Eventually, the dog gives up his struggle and learns that if he just walks, the strange moving floor isn’t so bad after all.
With my fearful but incredibly strong pit bull mix, I thought the treadmill was going to be one of the most daunting tasks I’d ever done. I figured, without a doubt, that both my husband and I would be getting one heck of a workout on the night we decided to teach Sensi about the treadmill. All things considered, I was not looking forward to it.
So, you can imagine my surprise when Sensi — encouraged by food — simply walked on the treadmill like it was no big deal.
If there was ever a case in point for positive reward training, this is it.
I’m going to explain how I did it over the course of a few blog entries.
In this blog, I’ll give some background and the basics.

I set a goal for 2010 of having Sensi run on the treadmill while I shower in the morning and also run on the treadmill for 10 or 15 minutes before dinner each night. By the time this year draws to a close, I want to have accomplished that.

In January, I began exposing Sensi to the treadmill. I’d put pieces of kibble on the treadmill — while it was off, of course — and encourage him to eat the kibble from the surface of the treadmill. I gradually moved the kibble toward the front of the treadmill so that eventually, all four paws had to be on the treadmill in order for him to reach the kibble.
We did that daily.
Then, I began running on the treadmill. I kept Sensi in the room with me — that way, he got exposure and became desensitized to the sounds the treadmill makes. This also allowed for me to make some important rules about the treadmill. For instance, in the beginning, he thought it might be fun to try and bite at the treadmill’s surface while it turned — perhaps an attempt to stop its continuous loop. I scolded him for behaviors like that and, when he showed interest in joining me on the treadmill, I rewarded him. (I kept treats at my disposable in the treadmill’s cupholder, by the way). I also rewarded him for sitting nicely beside the treadmill, because I liked that behavior too.

Read more tomorrow.

Monday, March 1, 2010

People products on pets

My sister and her family came out to my house over the weekend. When I pointed out my dog’s “medicine cabinet” to my sister, she looked at the many human products I had in there and said: “At this point in my dog’s life, I am beginning to realize that most things you use on your kids you can also use on your dog.”
What’s unfortunate is that it took nine years for her to begin realizing this, thanks mostly to a veterinarian who kept her in the dark because it was more lucrative for the vet.
I told her that and added: “Really, that’s why you should start going to my vet. He’s honest about that kind of stuff.”
For instance, rather than pay top-dollar for dog-specific glucosamine tablets — which come in such small dosages that I would’ve had to have given like 10 of them to my dog every day — my vet wrote me the dosage Sensi needed on a piece of paper and recommended I pick up a bottle of the for-human-consumption kind at Meijer. It was a huge savings.
I also keep Benadryl handy in case Sensi has a severe allergic reaction to something. I learned about this when he did have a severe allergic reaction to something and we had to take him to the emergency vet, where they gave him a shot of Benadryl and then directed us to pick up a box of the pills on our way home and give him one every three hours until the swelling subsided.
There are lots of products and medications out there that can be used on both people and dogs.
For instance, I’m putting Neosporin on the incision to Sensi’s ear to help it heal. I’ve long used hydrocortisone cream in different situations, and I’m using a little rubbing alcohol on a cottonball to help dry out his acne (an allergy-related thing).
In my opinion, a good veterinarian will suggest things like this to you because it helps you be equipped to respond to emergency situations and can help you better the overall health of your dog.
There is one BIG caveat to all this, though.
Don’t start playing doctor yourself and picking and choosing products to use on your dog without consulting with your veterinarian. There are lots of things in our households, like Tylenol, that can kill a dog. Before you use a human product on your dog, ask your vet.
If you’d like to keep Benadryl in stock for your dog, ask your veterinarian when you would use it and what dosage is appropriate for your dog. Same thing for glucosamine and any other products.
If your veterinarian is suggesting you start giving something to your dog daily, like glucosamine or another supplement, you may want to ask them if there’s a human alternative that could be lighter on the pocketbook.
Your veterinarian can also tell you the pros and cons of certain products. For instance, hydrocortisone is a form of a steriod and steriods can cause long term damage to a dog, so it’s something you want to use sparingly.
Moral of the story: Be wise to the fact that many human products can be used on our pets, but NEVER use something on your pet without first asking and getting some directions from your veterinarian.