Make your next holiday a doggyday

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

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.