Do your kids speak doggie?

It's important that kids know how to interact appropriately with dogs.

While the rest of the world smiles at, shares and ‘likes’ the plethora of videos and photos of dogs with kids on the Internet, positive dog trainers like myself cringe. In many cases, the child appears to be having the best fun while, if you know what signs to look for, the dogs are clearly uncomfortable at best and at the opposite end of the scale, about to bite as their warning signs have gone unheeded and they have run out of options which with to communicate or protect themselves.

In this second installment from the Modern Pet Dog seminar held on Sydney’s Northern Beaches last month, Louise Colombari from Pittwater Animal Hospital addresses dog and child relationships. Her philosophy is based on five pillars:

  1. Teach the dog – reinforce the behavior you want through positive training methods and puppy school is not the end of their training, it’s a life-long requirement for any dog to keep exercising their body and their brain.
  2. Teach the family – take proactive action to manage interactions between your dog. This involves setting rules such as ‘the dog is not a jungle gym’ that includes principles of no riding, tugging, teasing, grabbing, jumping on, poking, annoying, pestering, provoking or bothering during sleep or meal time. There’s a lot of educational resources available – see below for lots of awesome links for adults and kids to talk about together.
  3. Management – use tools such as baby gates, tethers or crate training the dog to separate and manage the smaller and furrier members of the family. Keep the dog amused with alternatives such as stuffed Kongs or interactive toys. Teach the kids to reward the dog for calm or training really cool tricks instead of rough play.
  4. Deal with problems – learn dog body language as they may be communicating discomfort clearly and ignoring it is not an option as a responsible dog owner. Deal with problems straight away – such as separating them and giving the dog a ‘safe’ area where they can relax without anyone near them. If in doubt, seek a qualified and positive dog trainer really quickly.
  5. Seek help and resources. There’s a lot of free information available online, covered in the next section.

Learn to speak Doggie

Here are some great resources – free by the way – that Louise highlighted as essential reading for any dog or human parent as they advocate a both positive and proactive approach:

  • The Family Dog – has the fabulous video ‘Pat, Pet, Pause’ which features a ‘doggy genie’ that appears to gives kids tips on how to approach a dog and see if they want to interact as well as Dog Stars with its catchy tune that young people will relate to. I speak Doggie is produced to the tune of London Bridge and its message will remain in your head long after you close YouTube.
  • Doggie Drawings – Lili Chin’s posters and doggie drawings are a must-download item (great Christmas stocking filler idea!) as they show dog body language in an easy-to-understand cartoon.
  • The Vet Behaviour Team in Sydney – offer great fact sheets ranging from early to severe stress signs in dogs, including how to read their facial expressions.
  • Mighty Dog Graphics – has free posters and infographics including the ‘Young Person’s Guide to Staying Safe Around Dogs’.
  • Doggone Safe – fabulous links including the ‘Speak Dog’ video, interactive games for kids to play and bite prevention tips. This includes the Doggone Crazy Board Game which ships via Amazon (another Christmas present idea, nudge nudge, wink wink!). It teaches adults and kids how to be safe around dogs – players race around the board earning bones by demonstrating safe behaviours such as ‘be a tree’ and interpreting photos of dogs.
  • 4pawsuniversity – a range of articles including ‘Training Tip Tuesday’ articles
  • Good Dog in a Box – specific resources to help families who have dogs (some you have to purchase)
  • Positively – has a large knowledge repository including a focus on dog bite prevention and children.
  • Family Paws Parent Education – their Dogs & Storks and Dogs & Toddlers programs help parents prepare for the addition of a new baby to the house where there is already a dog living in the house.
  • Animal Behavior Associates – offer a range of articles ranging from behaviour analysis to wellness with Helping Fido Welcome Your Baby designed for expecting or new parents.

Look out for the next installment of the ‘Building Relationships’ theme of the night coming soon. If you want to find out about future events email barbara@goodog.com.au or follow the Modern Pet Dog on Facebook.

Here’s the link to the first article – ‘how to train your tiger, or dog’ in case you missed it

How to train your tiger… or dog.

dog-with-tiger

Louise Ginman, the Unit Supervisor of Carnivores at Taronga Zoo bases her relationship with the animals she looks after on the principles of choice, trust and mutual respect. And if this works for lions, tigers and snow leopards then you can be sure that this is a good choice for our dogs too.

The theme of the Modern Pet Dog seminar held at Canine Kindergarden in Narrabeen, Sydney, last night was all about relationship building, presented by a range of experts. This first installment of the topics covered will focus on how positive reinforcement is being used to manage the health and wellbeing of the carnivores at Taronga Zoo and implications for those of us who own meat-eaters of the canine variety.

Louise is seeing the difference that positive reinforcement is making to the health and wellbeing of the animals she manages at the Zoo. She said that the approach has changed in the last 16 plus years. For example, animals used to have pressure applied to get them to move between different parts of their enclosures.

louise-ginman

Louise Ginman focuses on building relationships with all her animals.

The focus, these days, is on building relationships. Using food as positive reward is a key part of it, but it’s not just about treats. It’s also about trust, seeking connection with the animal and investing in time to built the relationship.

That’s important when you’re sticking a needle into a full-grown male lion. Who, by the way, is voluntarily presenting his hip for his inoculation. Or when cleaning the sharp teeth of a large Sunbear that is sitting patiently while a buzzing electric tooth-brush is run around its mouth. With the prevalence of paralysis ticks in the area, the Red Pandas need tick treatment applied around their necks every two weeks. Previously animals had to be darted and sedated for these types of healthcare activities.

But what Louise has achieved through her training philosophy is nothing short of remarkable. From the minute an animal enters the Zoo, either as a new-born or a transfer from elsewhere, relationship building activities start. These are equally important as all the other parts of looking after them such as cage cleaning, feeding and providing environmental enrichment.

It may involve sitting quietly with new-born tiger cubs while their parents are in another area having breakfast. Quietly talking to them and patting them gently so they get used to humans and their touch. Or feeding baby Fennec Fox kits food off a teaspoon so that these highly strung animals make the early association that humans mean good things by choosing to come closer to get a treat. They don’t need to hang out all the time or want to spend vast amounts of time with the humans, but objective is that they can be calm and accepting in the presence of their keepers. It keeps the animals’ stress levels down and makes managing them much easier.

Louise demonstrated her approach through a number of videos. In one, she is crouching down in the front of a Fishing Cat’s cage. She is turned sideways to it, sits very quietly and doesn’t look at it directly so she doesn’t appear threatening. The cat is given choice to interact as it can either come closer or move away, and when it stops hissing and growling at her, she marks the calm behaviour with a clicker and gives it a treat.

So what about our dogs? Louise is also a dog trainer and runs a company called Positive Dogs. She applies her relationship philosophy to her canine clients too:

  • If positive reinforcement works for wild animals, then it will work for our dogs. It’s about giving them choice and freedom to interact and building mutual trust that humans mean good things.
  • You can mark the behaviour you want very clearly when you’re reward it as the most effective way to communicate what your dog should be doing.
  • Food is a great tool to desensitize fear through classical conditioning – either by reinforcing the behaviours you want or making positive associations with things that may frighten them. For example, if they are scared of going to the vet, take lots of treats and their favourite toys with you when they go.
  • It took the lion 5 years to learn to shift his hip towards Louise while lying on his belly so that he could present it for the inoculation. Learning takes time so be patient and don’t get frustrated or give up.
  • Use available tools to help your dog. At Taronga Zoo they play ‘Through A Dog’s Ear’ in the enclosures, which is music scientifically chosen to create calm. They also use the Adaptil or Feliway synthetic pheromones to relax and reassure their carnivore charges. Flower essences have also proven effective.

It was great to see how positive learning methods are benefitting the amazing animals of Taronga Zoo.

Look out for the next installment of the ‘Building Relationships’ theme of the night coming soon. If you want to find out about future events email barbara@goodog.com.au or follow the Modern Pet Dog on Facebook.

The lead is not a steering wheel

Lead walking

Most dogs think their humans are jerks. Literally so, and I agree. Travelling on holiday for the last few weeks has given me an opportunity to observe many dogs and owners together. In many instances I see beautiful loose lead walking, dogs sitting calmly at their owner’s feet in cafes, others tied up outside a store patiently and quietly waiting for their person to come back, dogs being patted and loved greatly.

But there’s one thing bugging me and it has been for a while. It’s this idea that as humans we get to command dogs and that they have to do our bidding without any choice or option to exercise their own mind.

Sometimes this becomes physical. How I’ve seen it manifest many times is the source of the greatest exasperation for me – lead jerking.

The dog wants to sniff a lamp post while the owner is walking, it’s jerked back. The dog wants to stop and look at an oncoming dog in a bit more detail, it’s jerked along. The dog wants to explore the surroundings to the extent of the lead while the owner is standing still, it’s jerked back.

In one instance a man who was walking two dogs suddenly changed the direction he’d been taking but didn’t say anything to them like a “this way”, so they kept going and he gave their leads an almighty jerk. In that second I noticed both dogs look up at him in total surprise – they weren’t expecting the hard pull and it was a total “what the” look on their faces. Imagine how that would feel if suddenly you were almost pulled off your feet for apparently no good reason and no communication…

The lead is not a steering wheel. Not that steering wheels should be jerked either. It’s a tether between people and their dogs. You don’t use it to turn the neck or move their body.

The alternatives are to let them sniff a little when out walking– after all their noses are their most complex input organ with which they learn about their world. Teach a ‘touch’ to turn the head or neck away from something you don’t want them to focus on. A ‘let’s go’ or ‘this way’ helps them know when you’re on the move or changing direction.

Apart from degrading the relationship between dog and owner – they become mistrustful of walking alongside you, as they don’t know when they are going to get jerked – it’s also physically dangerous. I don’t know many dog owners who want to pay for vet bills yet jerking can cause whiplash and more extensive spinal cord injuries, while damaging the soft tissue of the throat and esophagus.

If we teach our dogs that ‘sit’ is a nice way to say please, then ‘this way’ with a gentle and soft tug of the lead in the direction we’re going should be a nice way we ask our dogs to turn with us.

Make your next holiday a doggyday

Beach holiday

With Easter here and the first semester school break coming up soon, many people are planning their next getaway. Luckily attitudes towards taking dogs on holiday in Australia are slowly changing. In this second installment from the Modern Pet Dog seminar held on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, two experts talk about holidaying with dogs and getting them looking good for the trip with stress-free grooming. The first installment covered reducing stress during vet visits.

Ask lots of questions

Planning is the key to having a great holiday with your furry best friend, says Barbara Hodel of Goodog Positive Dog Training. Firstly plan where you want to go, considering that the country-side or dog-friendly beaches will provide lots of opportunity for exploring, walks or running around.

“Also check what ‘pet friendly’ really means,” Barbara says. “Is the place fenced? Are dogs allowed inside or on the furniture? Know what the rules are. Does it cost more to bring the dog? If the person who is renting the place doesn’t know if there are any dog-friendly places nearby then it probably isn’t as pet friendly as is being advertised”.

Travelling to the destination also involves forward planning, considering:

  • Dogs need to be restrained with a harness and clipped in – in NSW there are files over $400 and more if they are hurt in an accident and not restrained. Secure them into a seat belt holder in a harness or in a crate.
  • Never leave them in a hot car.
  • Take plenty of breaks to stretch legs and have comfort stops.

Other things to remember are ensuring their vaccinations are up to date, their ID tag is on (with a number you’ll be reachable on), they’re micro-chipped and you have the numbers of local vets in the area you’re visiting. Make sure they’re dewormed and have had their flea treatment to neither pick up nor leave any critters behind. Also check that your pet insurance will provide cover if you’re on holiday.

“Be a responsible dog owner and clean up after your dog, don’t let them chase wildlife and don’t let them off lead unless they’re allowed,” Barbara says. “We need as many people doing the right thing as possible so that travel suppliers make dogs more welcome. While away, keep a routine for your dog as much as possible, take their own sleeping mat or blanket and their favourite toy to make it feel like home”.

Goodog’s holiday packing list for dogs:

  • Bed or crate
  • Toys
  • Food and treats
  • Poo bags
  • Leashes
  • Collar with ID (with your contact details where you can be reached on holiday)
  • Grooming equipment
  • Medication
  • Tick and flea treatment and tick removal device
  • First aid kit
  • Familiar fluffy toys to help them feel at home
  • Contact details of the local vet

If you can’t take your dog on holiday with you, then there are other options such as organising a pet sitter or having friends or family come to stay. If you do leave them with a kennel, read Pedadoggy’s guide to ensure the kennel is not a jail for them.

Build a trust bank account

To get your dog looking good and feeling comfortable for its doggyday, Maxine Fernandez of Canine Kindergarten says that prevention is the key to reduce stress when going to the groomers.

“Grooming involves the big noises of the hair dryers, and the tables and tools such as nail clippers look scary,” Maxine says. “Starting desensitation early and slowly is important – and giving lots and lots of treats will help your dog associate it with the positive experience of food. Get them used to touching, the noises such as your own hair dryer and build a trust bank account”.

Tips for reducing the stress of grooming:

  • Teach target training or ‘touch’ early such as a nose or paw touch so they get used to having their feet and faces handled. It’s also helpful to teach them to maintain a position and condition the touching. Start with one body part and don’t rush as it’s really important to build their confidence by going slow.
  • Invest in CDs or apps that play noises –e.g. blow dryer noise playing softly while the dog eats. Slowly increase the volume. Makes the noise a positive experience.
  • For bathing, throw the treats into the bath but don’t bath them – simply do a few ‘in’ and ‘out’ exercises so learn that the bath is a great place to be where they get food.
  • Be prepared to regularly groom long coated dogs, else if they are brought in when the coats are very matted makes it a more traumatic experience for the dog.
  • To teach nail clipping tolerance, desensitise and counter-condition your dog – having their paws touched but start where they are comfortable – start with no touching and build it slowly.

The next Modern Pet Dog Seminar is all about having fun with your dog on 21 July. Email barbara@goodog.com.au to register or find out more.

Fixing their bones but breaking their brains

Vet visit

Storms, vacuum cleaners, skateboards, having their nails clipped, being groomed or going to the vet – modern pet dogs face a myriad of stressors in their lives that they all respond differently to. A range of experts shared their knowledge at the booked out Modern Pet Dog seminar held on Sydney’s Northern Beaches this week.

This first installment of the topics covered will focus on how to recognise and then reduce stress in dogs, particularly during visits to the vet.

Stress escalates with obvious signs

Louise Colombari of Pittwater Animal Hospital says dogs experience similar physical signs as we do when we’re afraid – increased heart rate, sweating (through their paws), raised blood-pressure and shutting down of non-essential systems such as digestion.

There are plenty of signals that dogs show when they are uncomfortable, uncertain or getting increasingly stressed – in the categories of freeze, fiddle, fight or flight – including:

  • The whale eye (eyes rolling to the side and the white showing) or a tucked in tail over a rounded body shape
  • Lifting an paw
  • Blinking a lot or squinting
  • Lip licking when not eating, yawning when not tired, scratching when not itchy or shaking off when not wet
  • Actively trying to move away from the stressor
  • Having tense muscles and a tense mouth
  • Increased panting
  • Excessive vocalization such as crying or whining
  • Increased pacing or sniffing the ground
  • Excessive licking, digging or chewing
  • Not eating, vomiting or having diarrhea
  • Growling and lunging.

These signs usually occur long before the worst-case scenario of a dog bite and it’s important that dog owners learn to recognise these and also teach others. This is a useful graphic showing the stress escalation ladder in dogs – from low levels of stress to complete communication shut down and the dog taking action such as biting:

 

This is a great cartoon showing a typical stress response of a dog in a park – which is unfortunately a familiar sight.

https://i2.wp.com/www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/iaabc-dogpark-Is-Your-Dog-Scared.jpg

Dogs take trauma snapshots

Dr Heather Chee & Dr Amanda Cole, the dog psychiatrists from the Vet Behaviour Team see a lot of dogs in the stages of freeze, fiddle, fight or flight in their daily work. They focused their talk on reducing stress during vet visits. They say it’s accepted as normal that dogs are scared or even petrified to go to the vet but they believe it doesn’t need to be this way. “We’re fixing their bones but breaking their brains,” Amanda says.

Reducing stress during vet visits matters for three good reasons:

  • Welfare – negative impacts on the dog based on the cumulative effect from repeated bad experiences. They take a ‘trauma snapshot’ of everything in the room and will develop ‘new’ fears of e.g. stainless steel tables or the smell of cats. Some dogs that Heather and Amanda treat have suddenly become fearful of men after a visit to a male vet. They call it “white coat syndrome”.
  • Safety – dogs on an adrenalin rush can be pretty powerful. They can be aggressive to other dogs, vet staff or their owners. Sometimes even hurting themselves in their angst of ‘flight’ with reports of dogs jumping out of windows in fear.
  • Misdiagnosis – if you can’t examine an animal you can’t diagnose it. We want a vet to be able to touch it. Also, symptoms of fear can mask or mimic real symptoms e.g. panting can look like a respiratory disease or dilated pupils may indicate toxins. I know when I take my dog into the vet for a limp he’s suddenly bouncing around with adrenalin with no sign of pain anywhere.

Making happy photo memories instead

The Vet Behaviour Team gave some useful tips to help hardwire dogs that the vet is a good place to visit, regardless of them having to tolerate pain or being exposed to new sights, smells or surfaces. These include:

  • Feed them high quality treats (kibble isn’t going to cut it) while at the vet – chicken, cabanossi, cheese, bacon – whatever they love. They will then associate the vet hospital as the place where they get the best treats regardless of what’s happening to them there. Feed them in the waiting room, in the examination room or when the procedure is taking place, if they are able to eat.
  • Take them to the vet for “dummy visits” where they go in, say hello to the receptionists or vet nurses and get treats but don’t stay long or have anything done to them, so they build up a photo album of nice memories versus trauma snapshots at the vet.
  • If your dog is uncomfortable on the cold and slippery examination table, as the vet to assess them on the ground or your lap – wherever they are most relaxed.
  • Habituation to handling as a puppy – lots of massage, touching paws, ears etc. while feeding them treats. Works for older dogs too but take it slow.
  • Redirect their behaviour to something that is more rewarding. I get my dog Zac to do his tricks in the waiting room and give him lots of treats for those, rather than let him focus on what’s going on in there. Watch him ‘go up-pie’ onto the scale and sit for weighing like it’s a game where he gets treats. Nothing bad happening here!
  • Crate training – create a safe haven that travels with them.
  • Car rides – don’t make going to the vet the only time they go somewhere where they experience pain and stress. Take them to fun places.
  • Adaptil collars release a dog-appeasing pheromone that works well to reduce stress.
  • Thundershirt – a compressive jacket providing consistent pressure. However, can cause some dogs to freeze rather than pace or shake – make sure it’s not just changed how they show the stress.
  • Call ahead to your vet to see if the visit is necessary. Some vets do home visits.
  • Leave the animal in the car until your turn is called – no need to have them in the waiting room if it stresses them.
  • Let them take their favourite toy with them if it comforts them.
  • Use medication under guidance of your vet if necessary and give them a relaxant a few hours before you go the vet to take the edge off the experience for them (just like humans who are scared of flying do before getting on a plane).

The next Modern Pet Dog Seminar is all about having fun with your dog on 21 July. Email barbara@goodog.com.au to register or find out more.

It’s really okay – comfort your dog in a storm

Storm calm

The recent Modern Pet Dog seminar focused on all things summer. In this second installment of what was covered, we cover how to help dogs that have storm phobias and also dog park safety. Read the first installment about tick prevention and heat safety.

Keeping your dog safe when the sky becomes scary

Louise Colombari – Pittwater Animal Hospital said that scientists still aren’t sure why dogs are scared of storms – it could be the noise, lightning, the smell, a drop in barometric pressure or a combination of these elements. With their acute smell and hearing, it’s no surprise that dogs sometimes know that a storm is on its way, sometimes while the sun is still shining over your house.

When dogs get scared, they want to take action about it to feel less scared. This may create the vicious circle of storm phobias where because a storm frightened them before, they’ve created an association between the noise and light with being scared and every time a storm rolls through this is reinforced.

Some of the typical signs of fear in dogs as they try to take action includes pacing, panting, trembling, hiding, salivation, chewing things, excessive vocalization such as crying or howling, self-inflected trauma or faecal and urinary incontinence. Poor babies, it must be terrible to feel that scared!

Louise’s key message was: it’s okay to comfort your dog during a storm. There is nothing you are going to do to reinforce the fear. Stroke them, talk to them, do what you have to do to make them feel safe and calmer. Other handy tips are:

  • Provide them with a safe place to hide. Let them choose where they feel the most safe.
  • Block the lightning flashes by turning on the lights and drawing the curtains or blinds.
  • Use soothing music to muffle the storm noise.
  • Play a game to distract them, give them a bone to chew, or feed them their favourite food if they are able to eat so they associate the storm with a positive experience.
  • A lot of dogs benefit from wearing a Thunder Shirt which provides soothing acupressure.
  • Turn on an Adaptil collar, spray or room diffuser which emits calming synthetic pheromones.
  • Homeopathic drops such as Rescue Remedy may also work.
  • In cases where the phobia is severe, speak to your vet about prescribing doggy ‘happy pills’ for their anxiety to help them through.

Dogs don’t have to go to the dog park to have fun

Barbara Hodel of Goodog Positive Dog Training has a theory that of the dogs she sees in dog parks, 50% are clearly communicating “get me out”, 20% are just coping and only 30% truly enjoy going. And while dog parks are a relatively new concept – starting in California less than 40 years ago, owners love them but don’t trainers don’t. Why not?

Barbara believes that dog parks are an artificial set up. We expose our pets to strangers and expect them to play nicely, while in reality dogs usually have a small group of friends they like. While dog parks do offer some benefits – such as being the only place where dogs are legally allowed to run off leash and providing an opportunity for socialisation, the risks far outweigh these.

Cons include:

  • Risk of exposure to disease i.e. unvaccinated dogs
  • Dog owners who have different ideas about appropriate dog socialisation to you
  • High energy and arousal levels meaning some dogs are simply out of control
  • Misunderstood boy language
  • Lack of supervision
  • Accidents can happen
  • A lot of people think bullying is play

Dogs who absolutely shouldn’t go to the park are females in season, males which aren’t neutered (especially once they’re older than 5-6 months) as they are more likely to get picked on, unvaccinated dogs, puppies, bullies or fearful and anxious dogs.

If you still want to go – make sure your dog which is older than 9-10 months old is fully vaccinated and has attended a good puppy pre-school where they’ve been exposed to lots of positive interaction with other dogs. They need to have a reliable recall and show emotional resilience – be able to recover when things go wrong. Watch them closely – bullying (by them or of them) is not okay and watch for loose body language, good play etiquette that ebbs and flows in terms of who is chasing who, play bows etc. Else it’s just harassment!

Watch out for dog owners who may think the dog park is an appropriate place to rehabilitate their dogs who have not been socialised appropriately or have resource guarding issues of their toys by exposing them to as many others as possible without boundaries or barriers. It is not and can be dangerous for your dog. Get them out of there if you have any doubts.

Playing in your back yard, learning tricks or going on interesting walks are suitable substitutes for dogs who aren’t suited to dog parks – they will be better off by not going at all. There’s lots of fun to be had in a variety of other ways.

To keep in touch with upcoming Modern Pet Dog seminars follow us on Facebook.

How to stay cool with your hot dog

hog dog

Very aptly, the theme of the Modern Pet Dog seminar held last night ahead of today’s roasting 41 degrees in Sydney, was all about summer time. This first installment about the topics covered will focus on paralysis ticks – symptoms and prevention of those poison-packed pests and how to have fun in the sun while staying cool.

Blood sucking and deadly

Dr Bryn Lynar, a vet from Pittwater Animal Hospital, took attendees through the four life stages of the Paralysis Tick. Both adults and nymphs (baby ticks) feed on mammal blood – typically bandicoots, possums, wallabies and unfortunately the dogs, cats and humans they also come in contact with. Scarily, a mature female tick can lay 1000 eggs at a time. That’s a lot of baby blood suckers!

These tiny pestilences are highly adapted at finding an unwilling blood donor – able to smell carbon dioxide on the breath of animals, then climb on for a ride as they brush past vegetation and possess a highly specialised tool in their head with which to bore into the skin and attach for a feed.

The toxins they inject through their saliva are deadly – even the baby ticks can paralyse an animal. Symptoms take 2-7 days to develop as they slowly inject more poison which interrupts the function of the junction between the nerves and muscle – therefore causing gradual paralysis.

There are four stages of tick poisoning, increasing in severity and leading to death:

  • Stage 1 – Mild wobbly legs, panting, voice change, vomiting – make sure you’re looking out for the symptoms
  • Stage 2 – Very wobbly legs, increased panting and deep breathing, reduced gag reflex
  • Stage 3 – Sitting or lying or cannot stand on legs. Grunting to breathe. Loss of gag reflex and ability to regulate temparture.
  • Stage 4 – Lying on side, unable to lift head or sit upright, slow breathing, blue discolouration of the skin.

We were shown photos and videos of very sick dogs being given intravenous drips (antibiotics, fluids, anti-serum), oxygen or even on a ventilator. Prevention definitely pays – keeping a dog on a ventilator (stage 4) can cost up to $2000 a night for a minimum of 4 nights and some dogs may be left with permanent heart problems after even a more mild episode.

Bryn then ran through a variety of methods to prevent ticks including:

  • Daily tick checks – if you miss the tick on day 1 you can find it on day 2 (I personally check my dog twice a day in summer). Start at the head and work backwards – checking mouth, eyes, head, neck, ears (including inside), whole body, genitals and also between the toes.
  • Keeping long-haired breeds clipped short to make it easier to find ticks.
  • Don’t go bush walking if you can avoid it – and especially not after rain.
  • Remove the tick with a tick hook as soon as you find it (get one from your petshop or vet) and take your dog to the vet if they have any of the stage 1-2 symptoms as the toxicity will get worse as the poison spreads through their system.
  • There are a variety of chemically-based tick prevention tablets, collars and wipe-on products available which can be used in combination – speak to your vet if you are unsure what to use. Readers of this blog will know that I’m personally a fan of more natural approaches and which I’ve had success with (Pet Protector disc and cedar oil spray – Scalibor collar at a push) but it does also require high vigilance.

Hot dogs and cool fun

Maxine Fernandez from Canine Kindergarten then focused on the fun side of summer and doing it safely. It’s really important to consider the dog’s wellbeing such as providing adequate access to water, shade and ventilation, and no excessive exercise on hot days as heat stroke can kill them. Dogs at high risk include obese dogs, squish- nosed breeds such as bulldogs or pugs, those with thick or long coats, those with heart disease, or very young or old dogs.

Maxine’s top tips for safe summer fun were:

  • Freezing Kongs with their favourite food or making doggy popsicles
  • Wading pools to splash around in or lie in
  • Play time with sprinklers and hoses
  • Be aware of signs of heat stroke include heavy panting, drooling, distressed breathing, dizziness, staggering, very red or pale gums. First aid includes covering them with a damp towel or spraying tepid (not freezing) water on them and put them in front of a fan (no ice or iced water) and see a vet.
  • If possible if it’s cooler inside bring them in
  • Don’t leave them in a car even with the windows down
  • Avoid hot sand, concrete or asphalt as their pads can get burnt. Apply sunscreen to dogs with lighter, exposed skin such as on their noses.

See how Sydney’s furry and feathered residents kept cool in the heat wave today.

Next time we’ll cover storm phobias and dog parks (to go or not).