Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lady, the badly burned pit bull, finds new home inspiring child burn victims

What a fantastic way for this story to end.
Lady, a pit bull mix, was set on fire in Detroit during the Halloween weekend. It appears as though someone doused her face in gasoline, then lit the fire. (Read the original post, Badly burned pit bull deserves a safe, loving home, as well as photos of her progress in Update on Lady, the badly burned pit bull)
There's also this video, previously posted by the Michigan Humane Society about Lady:

Now, the great news is that Lady found a seemingly beyond perfect home just days before the holiday. 
Lady, right, with her new family
Gretchen Kohsmann, a Lansing fire investigator, and her daughter Kassandra, adopted Lady into their two-dog home. 
The most perfect part of it all is that Gretchen is the director of the Great Lakes Burn Camp in Texas Township, a refuge for child burn survivors. 
Lady will take part in the camp, meeting and playing with humans who have suffered burn wounds.
"I hope that Lady's story of recovery will inspire these kids, just as she's inspired us here at MHS," said Michele Baxter, who is leading the investigation to discover who is responsible for Lady's abuse. 

$10,000 reward still offered for information on who set Lady on fire
Unfortunately, the people who set Lady on fire have not yet been caught. Donations from concerned citizens as well as the Humane Society for the United States have increased the reward being offered in her case to $10,000. 
Anyone with information can call the MHS' Cruelty Investigation hotline at 313-872-3401.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fundraiser for Animal Welfare Society at Biggby Coffee in Madison Heights on Thursday, Dec. 23

Check out some local entertainment, have a slice of pizza for a buck and do it all in the name of helping out a local animal shelter.
The event, coined "Santa Paws Java Jam" will be from 8 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 23, at Biggby Coffee, 31055 John R. Road in Madison Heights, and benefits the Animal Welfare Society of Southeastern Michigan.
Biggby Coffee will be donating a portion of their proceeds from the night to AWS and Mr. B's will be donating pizza. Pizza slices can be bought for $1 and all proceeds will benefit AWS.
People are also encouraged to bring something on AWS' wishlist as a donation. Items on that list include: dry dog and cat food, collars and leashes in puppy and adult dog sizes, bleach, paper towels, dog and cat toys, two-pocket folders, page protectors, hand sanitizer, gas cards and more. Monetary donations are also welcome.
Providing entertainment will be Channel 7 News Anchor Stephen Clark, who sings country music, and the local alternative rock band September On.
Find out more about the event by going to the Santa Paws Java Jam website.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dog sickened by recalled Old Yeller food from Kroger

Shadow was sickened by Old Yeller dog food
Rod and Donna Reinmann are struggling like so many families in today’s tough economy. That’s why they switched from Purina dog food to Old Yeller recently, and it’s also why when one of their dogs fell sick last week, they couldn’t afford the tests to determine what was making him sick.
And so, they continued feeding him and their other dogs the Old Yeller food — even going to Kroger yesterday and buying another bag.
After they got home, though, they heard about the recall on the food and it became clear that’s what had been making their 3-year-old Rottweiler and Chow Chow mix Shadow sick.
“He wasn’t eating with the rest of the dogs, he was lethargic, then he threw up and threw up again,” Rod said.
Shadow fell sick late at night and the Reinmanns’ drove him 90 miles through their state of Illinois to get him to an emergency veterinarian, but once there, they found out they couldn’t afford the testing to determine what was wrong with their dog.
“Our kids are all grown; we love our animals just like our kids,” Rod said. “My wife and I are pretty upset. There should have been more quality control.”
Rod said he’s been unemployed and his wife lost her job as a nurse for quite a while, though she just found a new job. Before switching from Purina to Old Yeller, he said he asked his veterinarian about it.
“The vets would tell me that all food companies that make dog food at least have to make certain requirements; that all dog food is pretty much safe,” Rod said.
Now, he’s mad and worried that his dogs — a total of five — may have long-term damage from eating the food.
“They almost ate 50 lbs. of this food before we discovered any harm,” Rod said. “We looked at the numbers and the bag has the dates and UPC codes (of the affected products).”
Long-term damage can be caused by the recalled food, which has the toxic fungus aflatoxin in it. Aflatoxin affects the liver and unfortunately, once the damage is done, it can’t be reversed. Aflatoxin poisoning can be fatal.
Dr. Stephen Steep, veterinarian and owner of the Oxford Veterinary Hospital in Oxford, said that by the time symptoms of liver damage occur, the liver is usually severely affected. Fortunately, most people and animals can function with only a small portion of the liver working.
“If I find out he’s got a damaged liver, I’m going to have a suit against Kroger,” Rod said.
Rod said his other dogs haven’t shown symptoms of aflatoxin poisoning and he thinks Shadow was the only one to become so ill because the amount of food he ate.
“He was always wanting to eat,” Rod said. “He eats the most dog food out of all the dogs we have.”
The couple plans to return the Old Yeller food they purchased yesterday and have stopped feeding the dogs out of the current bag. He worries that the other dogs, even though they haven’t shown symptoms, could have long-term health affects as well.
“If some food I ate made me sick like that, certainly there’d be recourse for me. It doesn’t seem like dogs have an advocate,” Rod said.

Read more about the Kroger pet food recall: 

Monday, December 20, 2010

UPDATED: Kroger recalls Old Yeller, Kroger brand pet food — you heard about the recall, but how do you know if your dog is sick?

Brands affected: Old Yeller Chunk Dog Food, Kroger Value Chunk Dog Food, as well as Pet Pride Cat Food Pet Pride Kitten Formula and Kroger Value Cat food.

Those products at risk of making your pet sick will have expiration dates between Oct. 23 and 24, 2011.
At issue here is a toxin called aflatoxin, which is a fungus.
(see below for my first post, this is an updated one with information from direct from my veterinarian).
“Aflatoxin is a fungus that can grow on crops such as corn, cottonseed and peanuts,” said Dr. Stephen Steep, owner of Oxford Veterinary Hospital in Oxford.
He added: “When dogs consume food contaminated with aflatoxin, their clinical signs will vary depending on the level of contamination, how much they eat, over what period of time they eat it, and how sensitive they are to the toxin.”
How do you know if your pet is affected? Look for gastrointestinal signs like vomiting, bloody diarrhea and loss of appetite. Because the toxin affects the liver, look for signs of that too — jaundice, a yellow coloration of skin and eyes, as well as neurological signs like weakness or seizures.
“This creates a challenge to diagnose as many dogs exhibit these signs for other reasons,” Steep said.
However, if you’ve been feeding your dog or cat the affected foods and notice these signs, let your veterinarian know.
“We test for aflatoxin toxicity with blood tests, urine tests and food analysis,” Steep said.
Unfortunately, there’s no real cure for a pet who has been exposed to this toxin. Once the damage is done, it’s done.
“If the damage is not excessive, we can stabilize and nurse them back to health,” Steep said.
In some cases, aflatoxin poisoning can be fatal. Younger and older pets or those with other health issues can be more sensitive to it.
“I’ve searched the veterinary information, and nobody’s reporting anything recently,” on aflatoxin poisoning, Steep said. “I have not seen any patients recently where I suspected (it).”
He added: “Hopefully, this is a situation where very small quantities were detected by the manufacturer and this is a precautionary recall.”
Steep recommends keeping pet foods in their original packaging, monitoring your pets for unusual symptoms and always contacting your veterinarian with questions.

Kroger recalls dog food — Old Yeller and Kroger brand — because of aflatoxin. What is aflatoxin and what health risks does it pose for my pet?

Did you buy Old Yeller Chunk Dog Food? Or maybe Kroger Value Chunk Dog Food?
If so, stop feeding it to your dog. Now.
Kroger is recalling these two brands as well as two brands of cat food. Those bags at risk of making your pet sick will have expiration dates between Oct. 23 and 24, 2011.
Read the full article, Kroger recalling select pet foods in 19 states, including Michigan.

What is aflatoxin?
So here’s the deal — the recalled food might have something called aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a fungus.
It might’ve grown on the food because it was stored too long and rodents were able to get into it, or because the food sources used in the first place were affected by the fungus.
I looked up aflatoxin this morning on the Cornell University Department of Animal Science website and found what I’m going to guess is the culprit — corn.
Which brings me to my next statement: Stop buying your pets food that contains corn. Corn gives many pets many problems, regardless of whether it’s affected by a fungus or perfectly normal. In fact, in may be a big reason why we’re seeing so many pets (like mine) develop allergies.
I recommend avoiding corn as much as possible, and that means giving up on traditional commercial diets like Purina and other popular brands. Just assume that corn = junk.
There’s some good alternatives out there. Personally, I’ll be trying a bag of Fromm pet food — a limited ingredient chicken and rice — for my allergic boy.
And if you want to avoid grains all together, you can even go with a brand like Orijen. I think Fromm has a grain-free line as well.
It’s still kibble. You can still scoop it out of the bag and into the bowl. But it is much, much healthier for your pet.

How do I know if my pet got sick from the recalled food? What are the symptoms?
The sickness caused by aflatoxin is called aflatoxicosis. According to the Cornell website, it causes liver damage and lowers immune function, making your pet more susceptible to infections.
It can be fatal.
Young pets are at the greatest risk.
In terms of symptoms, look for gastrointestinal dysfunction (I’d say this covers diarrhea, vomiting) less interest in food and jaundice (What is jaundice? It’s when the skin and whites of the eyes become more yellow in color)
Anemia can also be a result of aflatoxicosis, and some specific strands of aflatoxin are cancer-causing.

Last but not least, I have no idea when the photo above was shot, but I did notice the 50 lb. bag is marked $9.99. At $10, you weren't really expecting quality, were you?
I know times are tough. The budget in my household is no less difficult.
But really, at $10 for 50 lbs., you've got to realize you're not buying quality — not when commercial brands go on average for $30 for a 35 lb. bag and they're really not quality either.
The state of pet food in our country is disgusting. Though that's not saying the state of human food is all that much better, because it's not.

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Oakland County pet stores offer good health food, treats, toys and non-allergenic, grain free kibble diets: Healthy Pet in Lake Orion and The Pet Beastro in Madison Heights

Treats at Healthy Pet
For years now, Sensi — who is allergic to beef — hasn’t had a real bone to chew on.
I was determined to stop that this Christmas, especially since I’ve heard of local stores offering antlers as alternatives to bones for dogs with allergies like Sensi.
My original plan was to make the trip down to The Pet Beastro in Madison Heights. I started receiving press releases about this new pet store earlier this year and have been wanting to blog about it.
In one press release, it states the store sells everything from dehydrated bunny ears, beef or lamb tracheas, freeze dried chicken hearts, cheese treats, elk antlers and more eclectic items — many of which Sensi, despite all his allergies, would be able to have.
I mentioned this to my dog-loving aunt, who said: “What about that new store on M-24? I think they sell items like that.”
She piqued my curiosity, so last weekend, I stopped in at Healthy Pet, 1472 S. Lapeer Road in Lake Orion, to check it out and do some Christmas shopping.

Video from my trip to Healthy Pet

Christmas treats at Healthy Pet
Now, I’m happy to tell you that whether you live in the northern reaches of Oakland County, like myself, or in the southern part, you have a choice of stores to shop for healthy products for your dog — even if your dog has allergies. If you live north, check out Healthy Pet (248-690-7796). If you live south, check out The Pet Beastro (248-548-3448).
I was so impressed with the selection of kibble available at Healthy Pet that after I get through one more bag of Sensi’s prescription kibble, I’m going to start buying from Healthy Pet. I haven’t decided on a brand yet, but no matter what I choose, it’s going to be about $45 cheaper than the prescription food (we’re paying $95 for a 30 lb. bag).
Last weekend, I purchased Sensi a medium-sized antler for $12.95. You can pay up $25 for a monster elk antler too.
I also found some jerky sticks on the counter for $1 a piece — chicken and turkey, both safe for Sensi.
There’s a good selection of treats that are organic or natural. You can
Antlers available at Healthy Pet
even get a giant “Merry Christmas” baked cookie for your dog!
Baked Merry Christmas cookies at Healthy Pet
For those interested in raw food diets, there’s a refrigerator with those items too.
I also intend to try some of the supplement powders offered for allergenic dogs.
The owners of Healthy Pet, Mary Beth Darby and her husband Tom Peters, said the store grew out of their rapidly expanding online business, www.K9CriticalCare.com. Darby said the online business focused on foods and health supplements for sick dogs, like those with cancer.
By the way, there’s stuff for cat owners too, and even bird food. Sorry folks, but I didn’t spend a whole lot of time perusing those items.
If you’re thinking about checking it out, you absolutely must go this Saturday, Dec. 18. Healthy Pet is offering 10 percent off everything in their store, giving a free gift with purchases and you can walk a storefront down to get a free slice of Chicago Bros pizza after making your purchase.
And let me tell you something about Chicago Bros pizza — it’s the best, hands down, anywhere around. I will drive 20 minutes out of my way to pick up pizza from Chicago Bros. It’s the dough, in my opinion, that makes it so darn delicious. While you’re there, pick up an order of breadsticks. You’ll be hooked for life.
Dog and cat adoptions will also be available at Healthy Pet on Saturday, Dec. 18.
So if you’re thinking about checking it out, make time to go tomorrow!
Merry Christmas to all you dog owners out there — I hope you find the perfect gift for your pooch, allergies or not!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

So, Michael Vick wants a dog, but should he have one?

There’s lots of opinions on this, and I’m going to post here what people are telling me.
But first, what’s my opinion?
Well, in a non-Michael Vick related post called Dog ownership for dummies I wrote this:
“If your pit bull gets loose and kills a puppy or mauls a person, you should be banned from owning dogs. You had your shot at dog ownership and you did such an incredibly bad job that other people or living beings had to suffer as a result of your stupidity and/or irresponsibility.
“And if you’re caught dragging a dog behind your car, well ... I hope karma gives you back the pain you caused another living being tenfold.”
I think fighting and killing dogs (and yes folks, he was directly involved in this. Don’t believe me? Check out Jim Gorant's book, The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's dogs and their tale of rescue and redemption and my blog post, New book tells the tale of Michael Vick dogs) falls into that category too.
To recap: If you do something that horrible, you’ve had your shot and you did such an incredibly bad job that other living beings had to suffer as a result.
I think Twitter follower @AndrewPritchard speaks to this when he wrote with sarcasm: “Yes, while we’re at it, let’s allow child molesters to adopt!”
Here’s more of what you had to say about the topic:

From The Oakland Press Facebook fan page:
Bette Boling Haas: No way !!!!
Michelle Bennett: Would be a travesty for the poor dog that gets him for an owner.
Angela Kula Powers: No. Anyone who thinks otherwise should read the book The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption
Eve R. Pickman: Michael Vicks should be rotting in jail, where he can be someone elses b*tch.
Lauren Wells: noooooooooo!
Kevin Sandler: He should be made into dog food.
Kim Davis Eller: No!!! He gave up that right. No Humane Society would even consider him as dog worthy.
Wayne Reif: Why not? Drunk drivers are allowed to own cars.
Mark Steven: Why not? Vic paid his debt to society. Vic's an Eagle and he wants a Beagle!!
JoAnn Browning: absolutely not!
Joe Ogg: First of all mike Vick did rot in jail. And paid his debt to society. If he wants to have a pet he should be aloud to have a pet. I'm sure he is not the same person he was a few years ago. And he knows if he gets a dog all eyes will Be on him. It would go to show that everyone deserves a second chance and that people can change.

From Twitter:
@MsQuote: Sending a dog to Michael Vick would be like sending a kid to Neverland
@ColleenFKelly: NO NO NO! No dogs for M.V! I think it should take more than him “wanting” one, like counseling!! LOTS!
@AndrewPritchard: Yes! While we’re at it, let’s allow child molesters to adopt! sarcasm
@TotallyTypeA: Absolutely NOT!
@helenback54: Never let Michael Vick own a dog. They are not animals to him they are mearly $$ signs. He clearly has no remorse.

What do you think?
Leave me a comment or check out our story online: YOU TELL US: Vick says he hopes to own a dog as a pet someday. Should he be allowed?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pit bull problems in Pontiac

I really don't intend for every post to wind up being about pit bulls ...
But anyhow, I went along with the Animal Care Network in Pontiac last week as they made their rounds helping people care for their pets. (Read the full story: Oakland County Animal Control prepares for expanded services as communities tighten budgets)
Admittedly, I was only out on two stops with them.
In that time though, all of the dogs I saw were pits or pit mixes — a total of four dogs, to be specific.
Animal Care Network volunteers repair a dog house
For the entire time that I've worked here, year after year, a reporter has gone out with the Animal Care Network folks.
What I saw was nothing compared to what reporters have seen in the past. I remember when one of our reporters came back practically in tears after several pit bulls were found dead — frozen — and several more near dead.
I shot video of the Animal Care Network folks, talking to them about why they use straw for dogs rather than blankets (which is because blankets get wet and freeze, straw doesn't, and it tends to wick away any moisture from the dog's body). One of them said to me that pit bulls really aren't outside dogs because they don't have an undercoat.
That is true. They're not the only dog breed like that, but it certainly does seem like they're the dog of choice for most Pontiac residents. My impression is also that many pit bulls in Pontiac are kept outside.

I went home that night — Sensi must've sniffed me for a good half hour — and realized how good Sensi has it compared to some of the dogs I met in Pontiac.
A typical snooze for my dog
First off, with the weather as cold as it's been lately, Sensi only goes out for a quick moment and then barks like it's an emergency to let us know he NEEDS — not just wants, but NEEDS — back inside, right then!
He begged to get up on the couch that night — I had the blanket around me, and I swear, that dog starts begging the instant I lift the blanket up — and I told him no because I had paperwork all spread out around me.
Looking down at those beggin' eyes, I told him, "You just have no clue how lucky you are. All that sniffing you did and you couldn't tell how cold those dogs were?"
He, of course, didn't understand and sighed in a rather pouty fashion as he went to lie down by the fire.

There's lots of problems with pit bulls in Pontiac. Pit bulls that freeze in their owner's backyards may be the least concerning of those problems to some people, but it makes me just as angry as all the violence these dogs are used for and the reckless disregard for safety that many pit bull owners display.

I spoke with Mike Zehnder, who oversees Oakland County's Animal Control Division, for that story as well. We spoke about the issues in Pontiac and he promised that if Oakland County began servicing Pontiac's animal control needs, all those issues would "come to a screeching halt."
I certainly hope to be a witness to just that.

The day before I went out with the Animal Care Network, allegations were made by a Pontiac resident that Animal Care Network volunteers impersonated police officers to intimidate her into taking better care of her pit bulls. The Animal Care Network denies this is true, and when I was out with them, I didn't talk to a single person along the way who believed they'd do something like that.
Either way, I'm just wondering how it feels to complain that someone did something ethically and legally wrong in order to get you to do something ethically and legally right. Just a touch of irony, it seems.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sterling Heights weighs breed specific legislation putting tough restrictions on pit bulls

And there goes another community I won't ever be living in ...
Sterling Heights is looking at some tough new restrictions on pit bulls in the city. Pit bull owners would be required to liability insurance of $250,000, embed a microchip in their dog, accompany the dog in their yard and spay or neuter it, unless there are plans to breed, and there may also be some requirements in terms of fencing.
(Read the story: Sterling Heights residents speak up for, against pit bull proposal)

All things considered, it's a whole lot better than flat out banning the breed — a route most communities take when the pit bull panic reaches pandemonium.
But even so, I'm just not in favor of these restrictions.
I look at it from my point of view. I have a pit bull and I'm definitely among the most responsible dog owners in my neighborhood.
Pit bull owner sits at the Sterling Heights meeting.
I can't afford to build a fence right now, so we use a long cable when letting our dog out to go potty. If he barks, we respond immediately (barking dogs are a huge pet peeve of mine). But to think I need to venture outside every time my dog needs a potty break is ridiculous.
He goes out there, does his business as quickly as possible and lets out a single "Woof!" to let us know he's ready to come back in. In really cold weather, he makes that bark a bit more urgent by saying "Ah-woo-woof!" in this anxious tone of voice.
The cable itself is rated for 300 pounds and the hook on the end of it is rated for 350 pounds. He has enough range to give him lots of choices in where to potty, but he stays squarely in our yard.
As far as I'm concerned, I'm doing a lot more than most dog owners who take the attitude that their dogs should be able to "run."
I won't live in a community that bans pit bulls. I won't live in a community that forces me to purchase expensive insurance, build expensive fences and be by my dog's side whenever it's outside on property that I OWN.
I will be a responsible dog owner. I will take dog ownership seriously. I will view my role as a pit bull owner as an opportunity to change the stereotype the breed has.
But I won't allow a government to discriminate specifically against me when the person down the street who owns a lab or a mutt is spared from having to be equally responsible — especially when so many of those dog owners get away with making the irresponsible decision of letting their dogs "run" and defend the choice as if it's their dog's God given right.
Letting your dog, any dog, loose is risking your dog's life each and every time you do it, and yet I don't see anyone getting passionate about that — unless it's to defend a dog's right to 'run free.'

Here are my reasons:
  1. Very rare is a dog that is a natural born leader, meaning your dog likely looks to you for leadership. When you let a dog run, you are forcing it to put itself in a leadership position and it will, though it probably won't like it and won't be very good at it. This means your friendly dog may not be so friendly while out "running" and cause trouble for strangers and other peoples' pets.
  2. Along the same lines, your dog may make the ill-advised decision to enter the yard of a protective or aggressive pet — dangerous for your pet, for obvious reasons. 
  3. Cars. Do I really need to say more?
  4. Wild animals — from coyotes to cougars, they're around here and they can threaten your pets.
  5. Dead animals and other dangerous but enticing finds — I knew a dog once that died from eating a rotting deer carcass. What else might your dog get into while out on its "run"? 
  6. Lost. Yes, your dog could get lost and who knows what will happen from there. 
  7. Respect for your neighbors. Lots of people like to let their dogs "run" so they don't have to pick up dog poop in your own yard, but come on folks, how do you think your neighbors feel about picking up after your dog? It's not cool. 

So I say, if we want to get serious about making people responsible for their dogs, let's start there. We've got lots of good reasons to do so.

Monday, December 6, 2010

QUICK HITS: Good news for dog lovers

A few items today — I'll start off with the hard news first.

Two men brought to justice for burning pit bull
Unfortunately, these men weren't the guys responsible for burning Lady, the pit bull who had gasoline thrown on her face and was lit on fire over Halloween.
But they did burn another dog, and they were caught.
Decarlos Young, 23, was given 17 months to 8 years in prison under a plea deal, and Kristian Jackson, 20, will serve 13 months to 8 years for setting fire to an adult pit bull terrier mix near Puritan Street in Detroit. These disgusting individuals recorded the torture on a cellphone video, which was ultimately used by Michigan Humane Society investigators to prosecute the case.
MHS investigators are still looking for the person responsible for burning Lady, who continues to recover and receive treatments at the MHS office. A December 3 update from the website says Lady recently got to meet and make friends with Scarlett, a mother dog with 10 puppies who was rescued and brought to the shelter.
A $10,000 reward is being offered to anyone who can provide information leading to an arrest in Lady's case.
Meanwhile, let's be thankful that two other men who committed a similar, atrocious crime have been caught.

Winter sports lovers rejoice!
Dog lover at Boyne Mountain
Anyone who loves winter sports in Michigan has probably visited or wanted to visit Boyne Highlands or Boyne Mountain, up north resorts that are favorites among many of my own relatives. 
This year, if you're planning a trip to the resort, you can bring your dog with you! 
Pet friendly rooms and suites are now available in the Bartley House and Main Lodge at Boyne Highlands as well as the Clock Tower Lodge at Boyne Mountain. 
Daycare services will also be offered in the Harbor Springs area, where your pets can join others for play. 
A pet fee of $25 for the first night and $20 for subsequent nights will be charged. The resorts are also offering designated areas for your pet's potty, play and exercise needs. 
Call 1-800-GO-BOYNE or click here to visit their website.

Sara Hardig walks her dog, Ginger, at the Birmingham park.
New dog park opens in Birmingham
Dog owners from Birmingham and beyond can check out a new dog park opened by the city at the Lincoln Hills Golf Course.
I recommend checking it out before spring because entry will be free at least until then.
Once spring hits, the city will take a look at whether to institute some sort of dog park pass in order to use the park.
It's 0.85 acres and mostly a grassy, fenced-in area, so don't expect to find a mini Orion Oaks. But for those who live closer to Birmingham than Orion Oaks, it'll be a great place to stop in and get your dog some off-leash social time.
Let me repeat, too, that it is open to residents of Birmingham and other Oakland County communities, so even if you're not a Birmingham resident, you can go check it out.
Read a full story about the park by clicking here.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Trimming Bubba's nails WITH VIDEOS

Bubba, an 8-year-old Boxer, belongs to my sister and her husband, Michelle and Craig Dickinson.
Here is his story, and it's one that has a lesson for all:
Michelle uses food to get Bubba in a comfy position on the couch
Bubba was always a rambunctious dog. He'd spend hours on the brick patio, pouncing on a Frisbee or running around, chasing a toy.
All this activity on the bricks kept his nails insanely short. I've never seen shorter nails on a dog, in fact. I was so jealous of Michelle and Craig — they never had to trim his nails and yet, he had the shortest nails in town!
But then, like all dogs do, he got old. He's got arthritis and he doesn't get around so well anymore.
Needless to say, there's no more pouncing on Frisbees or chasing wildly after toys.
And so, after 8 years on this Earth, his nails are growing, and growing, and growing. But the dog had ever seen nail trimmers before. In fact, he wasn't even used to having his paws grasped by human hands.
"Karen, can you bring your nail trimmers on Thanksgiving?" my sister asked me beforehand.
Touching the paws before we got started
"Of course," I said. "We'll get those nails under control."
I have the heavy-duty clippers and brought them with me. Before dinner, I worked on touching his paws and introducing the clippers. He slowly came around to the idea that this was a pretty easy game.
Unfortunately, it doesn't stay easy.
After dinner, we went downstairs — away from the distractions of the little kids — and set about trimming those long nails.
It became apparent quickly that the heavy-duty manual clippers weren't going to work. As you watch those videos, you can see that I get three clips at those monster nails. What you don't see is that each one of those clips is only taking off an angled portion of the nail — i.e., a little off the top, an angled portion from the bottom.
That's because his nails were so thick in diameter that I couldn't actually fit the clippers around the entire nail.
Getting started with the manual trimmers
That, coupled with Bubba's desire to get away from the clippers, made it clear that trimming his nails the manual way was going to take a long time — like, all night.
I wasn't going to leave that night without having that dog's nails trimmed. And so, as often happens in dog training, you have to modify your plan.
The manual trimmers weren't working. We switched to the Dremel.
Craig had a Dremel in his toolbox and I asked him to bring it down. In the end, we got Bubba comfortable on a couch — laying with his head in my sister's lap, where she could keep his attention on treats, and I had good access to his nails by sitting on the floor next to the couch.
It still took about an hour to get all the nails trimmed, but when everything was said and done, about a half-inch or more was taken off each nail.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the vein in Bubba's nails hadn't grown out, meaning I could really pare back those nails, all the way back to their former shortness.
The Dremel tool worked really well. We used the high-powered, plug-in variety, a standard round sanding head, and I got it up to power level 2. The other power levels were just too powerful.
Fair warning, though: using the Dremel makes it a stinky job. It smells like burning nails, because that's pretty much what's going on. I recommend using goggles and a mask for those faint at heart.
The funniest thing, and what I'm sorry I didn't get video of, was how Bubba reacted after the nail trimming was all done. He walked around highstepping, picking up each paw extra high as though he was wearing boots or something. It was really cute.
Close-up view of the nail trim using the Dremel.
Anyhow, the lesson here is this:
Even if your dog doesn't need his nails trimmed because he's like Bubba used to be, running around and wearing them down himself, you should still make an effort to get him used to it.
One day, that dog will get old and you'll have a nail problem, and a dog who has no idea how to handle the situation.
I'm happy that Bubba accepted the process as well as he did — certainly, the turkey and mashed potatoes had a lot to do with it!
Ah, the power of treats!

And now, for the videos!  


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Touch those paws!

This is first in a series about trimming a dog's nails.

My rule of thumb with dogs is this — if they haven't experienced it often and from an early age, don't expect them to like it.
"It" applies to anything and everything you can possibly imagine — from being around kids to getting a bath, and not in the least, having their nails trimmed.
In fact, even just having their paws handled passes as an "it."
After all, paws are essential to a dog. Without paws, they have no mobility. So we can't be surprised that dogs put a lot of importance on those darling little paws.
From the day you bring your dog home — whether it's an adult from a shelter or a puppy — touch those paws. A lot.

If it's a puppy, just touch them all the time. If you're carrying the puppy around, hold a paw for a little while. When he lays down, pet his paws. When you're playing, gently find a way to touch the paw for a moment without interrupting the game. And pay attention to all the paws, not just one.
Add in some brief training sessions of the simplest sort too — just ask the dog to sit or lay down, touch a paw with one hand and feed a treat with the other, simultaneously. Eventually, as your puppy begins to realize he gets a treat simply because you are touching his paw, reward for good behavior only — when he's sitting nice and quiet and not struggling or trying to make a game of it. Then up the ante by holding each paw, touching between the toes and under the pads for a treat. The goal is to get the dog to behave nicely and remain still while you're handling his paws.
Don't waste any time introducing those clippers either — but don't introduce them to use them right away.
Bring out the clippers, set them on the floor, put some treats on them and around them and encourage the dog to check them out and eat the treats. Do this every day for at least a week. This teaches your dog that clippers equal good things for dogs.
In week two (and by now, you've also done all the handling techniques described above) start picking up the clippers and rewarding the dog with treats when you have the clippers in your hands. This teaches the dog that clippers in human hands equal good things for dogs.
Then, start touching the clippers to your dog's nails and giving a food reward simultaneously. Now, the dog is learning that clippers in human hands touching dog nails equals good things for dogs.
When you do clip nails for the first time, give the dog a treat after each nail that gets clipped. Up the ante again by making that food reward out of the ordinary and extra special — I like small squares of peanut butter on bread, a little lunchmeat or cooked chicken pieces.
Eventually, begin selecting those rewards for only the best behavior — while the dog is sitting nicely and being still.
I still, after all these years and despite my dog's impeccable tolerance for having his nails clipped, give him treats after the first set of paws are clipped and after all four are done. I simply want to make sure he gets rewarded for good behavior. It's only fair, right?

Retraining an adult dog
If you bring home an adult shelter dog, it's really unknown how that dog may perceive having his nails clipped.
Do the same steps as for a puppy, but use rewards for every time you touch a paw right from the start. Depending on how the dog reacts to the first touch, you may need to go really slowly and use lots of really awesome treats.
If the dog displays that he doesn't like his paws touched, slow down the whole process until the dog realizes that despite his past experiences or lack of experiences, having his paws touched now, by you and your family members, is indeed a good thing.
You absolutely can retrain an adult dog using positive reward methods — it just may take more time, patience and lots of really fantastic rewards.

The work, however, is easy and always worth the time and effort invested.

Still to come
  1. I celebrated Thanksgiving at my sister's house. She has an aging Boxer who is not very used to having his nails clipped. When he was younger, he spent so much time pouncing on a Frisbee on their brick patio that he kept his nails incredibly short. Now, he's got hip problems and doesn't pounce anymore, allowing his nails to grow and grow and grow. I promised I'd bring my clippers and give it a shot as long as my sister would take the video camera and tape the whole ordeal for my blog. The post, with videos, will be up tomorrow!
  2. It wasn't that long ago that I trimmed Sensi's nails, so he's not due for another clipping for about a week or so. I do want to show you his good behavior as motivation for what good nail training can accomplish with a dog, even a pit bull! There will be a video in this blog's future!
  3. Alternative methods to trim a dog's nails. We've all seen those commercials for the electric sanders that file a dog's nails. I bought a Dremel tool for Sensi last year, but have avoided using it due to a lack of good treats (thanks, food allergies) to train him with. I'll talk about what type of electric sander is good for what size of dog and the important steps you need to take to familiarize your dog with the sander, as well as the pros and cons of traditional clippers vs. sanders.
  4. Got an energetic dog who wants to make a game of everything and acts like sitting still for even a second is literally painful? I'll talk about the importance of training a down-stay to help your dog prepare for situations like nail trims (and to give him a better quality of life, period!).
  5. General tips — How to find the vein on a black nail, what to do if you accidentally cut it, dealing with your fears of trimming those nails, picking out a good clipper, etc.