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Clicker Training Tips

 

There are many different positive reinforcement training methods available to both cat and dog owners. One of my favorite methods is clicker training, it is a good way to quickly train your pet with less treats than traditional training.

Clicker training is used by thousands of animal trainers to teach all types of animals. It can be used to teach dogs obedience, leash manners, agility and many other things. It can also be used to teach tricks and other positive behaviors to cats.

What is clicker training?

Clicker training is using a sound (generally a clicker) to positively reinforce your pet for a behavior he or she is doing. In clicker training, a click is used every time a good behavior happens and treats are given later (which means fewer treats).

 

Why should I clicker train my pet? 

Clicker training has a couple of cool benefits. Clicker training allows you to reward positive behavior more quickly than giving your pet a treat. Depending on your reaction time, you could be clicking 10-15 seconds after your pet does the positive behavior. Giving a treat to your pet generally takes a longer time, which may cause your pet to forget the positive behavior he or she did. This helps your pet learn what the behavior you want to see, and learn it more quickly.

Because you click for each behavior rather than give your pet a treat, you feed less treats per training session. This is really helpful if you are working with an overweight pet or do not want your pet to gain weight.

 

How do I get started clicker training? 

Clicker training is all about associating a sound with a reward, so start by picking a sound. Pick a sound that is easy to make and distinct (will not be heard outside of training). For example, it is not recommended you use a clap because your pet will hear clapping outside of the training session and may get confused. This is the reason many people use the clicker. It is a very distinct sound, and it may be quicker to make than any sound you can make on your own. Clickers are easy to find at pet stores and generally cost around $2.

 

Next get started with your first sessions of training. These sessions will be very treat heavy, so pick a treat that your dog likes. Because clicker training is all about associating a sound with a reward (like a treat) you will be clicking and giving your dog a treat per click. Start by getting your dog’s attention, and simply clicking the clicker. After each click, quickly give your dog a treat. Do this for a few 5-10 minute sessions. After a few sessions, start mixing in simple behaviors with clicking. For example, have your dog sit, then click and treat. Do this for a few sessions and slowly wean down to only treating for every 10 clicks. Be sure to give your pet some treats after each session to tell him that he did a good job.

Next move on to the first behavior you want to teach, do so slowly. Because your dog is new to training, still give treats pretty frequently during the sessions. If you are teaching a complicated behavior, like how to walk nicely on a leash, use multiple steps to teach this. For simple behaviors you can use one step. An example I am going to use is teaching a pet how to come. Have someone hold your pet at the other end of the room and use your come signal. Only when your pet comes to you, give a click and give a treat. Repeat this behavior, give a click and treat the second and third times. The next time your pet comes, give only a click. Repeat this for the remainder of your session, mixing in a few treats with clicks. At the end of the session give your pet treats to tell him he did a good job. At each training session, reduce the amount of treats given during the session to only treating at the end. Do this until your pet masters the behavior.

 

Clicker training is a great way to teach pets positive behaviors. Be sure to use treats your pet likes and keep training sessions short for success!

 

Fun Fall Games for Your Dog

 

Fall is an exciting of year for people and pets. It is also a great time of year to play with your pooch outside before it gets too cold outside. The following are fantastic fall games you can play with Fido this season.

Fun with pumpkins

Pumpkins are dog safe vegetables that you can have lots of fun with. There are many things you can do with pumpkins. One of my favorites is to clean the pumpkin out and put treats on the inside. I like to use precooked pieces of hot dog and put them inside the pumpkin. I recommend buying small pumpkin to use for this game. Here are directions:

  1. Clean the pumpkin out, removing all the seeds
  2. Cut multiple small holes in the pumpkin that are large enough for the treats to fit through
  3. Leave the top off and put your treats inside the pumpkin
  4. Give the pumpkin to your dog and watch him have fun

Tip: You may want to put peanut butter on the outside and inside of your pumpkin to get your dog interested.

Fun fact: Pumpkin puree (100% pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling) is a great treat for dogs. Just do not feed too much as it can act as a laxative.

Leaf pile scavenger hunt

Many dogs enjoy jumping into leaf piles as much as we do, this game capitalizes on that fact. It also allows your dog to use his nose to find things and do some non-destructive digging. Before you begin the game check your leaf piles for critters (snakes and mice) and any sharp or dangerous items. You can make some bigger piles and some smaller ones to provide your dog with an easier option. This game only works with dry leaves. Here are the directions:

  1. Rake your leaves into a pile
  2. Hide a favorite toy or some treats in the pile
  3. Let your dog outside to find his toy or treat in the pile

You can incorporate more than one leaf pile once your dog gets the hang of it.

As an alternative you could make the piles and play fetch with your dog, throwing the ball into the piles.

These games should make fall a fun time for you and your dog. Be sure to provide adequate water, even in the cooler weather, and read your dogs body language to see when he is done playing.

Does My Dog Lick Excessively?

 

Do you ever catch your pooch in the act of licking his feet, forearms, or other extremity so ferociously you think to yourself, “wow, that must really feel good”? While his licking may seem a non-issue, and one that provides him joy, that doesn’t mean it might not be his response to an underlying issue if they lick excessively.

Canine acral lick dermatitis (ALD) – also known as lick granulomas – is a lesion to the skin caused by chronic licking, resulting in skin inflammation. Over time, the skin thickens and the area can’t heal because they lick excessively. The licking and the inflammation cause itching, which causes your dog to lick even more, creating a vicious cycle of itching, licking, inflammation, and the inability to heal.

ALD can also result in secondary issues including bacterial infection, ruptured hair follicles and ruptured sweat glands. These issues just add fuel to the cycle, making the itching even worse which increases your dog’s need to lick.

The most common location for ALD is on the front side of a front leg between the elbow joint and paw, though they are often found on the ankle and between the toes. The condition is most often seen in middle-aged, large-breed dogs. Many veterinarians believe itchy skin triggers the excessive licking, although it is thought it can also be set off by a painful condition, such as trauma to the leg, a fracture, post-surgical discomfort, arthritis, or nerve damage. A fungal or bacterial infection, as well as skin mites, can also trigger itching in your pooch.

Not only is ALD rooted in health conditions, incessant licking is also a common obsessive-compulsive disorder in dogs – yes, dogs can have OCD, too! Rover’s licking may trigger the release of endorphins (a chemical in the brain that leads to feelings of happiness) and once he learns licking brings about a pleasant feeling, he’ll likely continue to do it. As well, psychological factors such as boredom, stress and separation anxiety can result in excessive licking. To best determine how to treat the issue, it is important to determine the cause.

If you suspect your pooch has an ALD lesion, there will typically be a raised area of ulceration, hair loss, and thickened skin around the lesion. Your veterinarian should first rule out any potential allergies first, as a dog with recurrent skin or ear infections, hot spots, or itching in other areas may have an allergic condition that needs treatment. Several tests are needed to diagnose ALD, including skin scrapings and fungal cultures, and to look for infection.

If it is determined that your pooch is indeed suffering from ALD, once treated effectively, you’ll likely need to address any psychological or emotional factors that may have contributed to your pet’s obsessive licking. Try to refocus his energy with frequent walks, playtime, and other methods of physical activity. Make sure you and everyone in your family pays extra attention to Rover, stimulating his brain and keeping him happy and secure.

The best way to prevent ALD is to talk to your vet as soon as you notice you dog start to lick excessively. Make a habit of running your hands over Rover regularly to check for damp fur or sensitivity. If you notice him licking a particular spot but there’s no injury to the skin, wrap the area with an Ace bandage to discourage further licking. Anything you can do to prevent Rover from self-injury will be extremely beneficial.

While we associate licking with a dog’s natural instinct, sometimes it can serve as a sign of an underlying issue and, when done excessively, should never be ignored.

6 Common Myths About Your Dog

 

If you’re a pet parent to a canine, you’ve likely heard the old wives tales that have trickled down through the ages regarding our pooch’s health. Is your dog sick? “Check to see if his nose is dry!” Is Rover licking a wound? “Licking speeds up the healing process!” While there may be some truth behind statements like these, most are completely unfounded.

1. Dogs only eat grass when they’re sick.

While there is some truth to this claim, many scientists insist it’s normal for a dog to eat some grass from time to time as it’s in their genetics. There’s no need to worry if your dog enjoys a grass snack on occasion, however, if gulped down in large amounts it may indicate Rover has an upset stomach. If you find him chowing down on mouthfuls of grass and vomiting them up, it may be best to visit your vet.

2. Dogs eat non-food items because of a nutritional deficiency.

No one can say exactly why some dogs eat rocks, feces, lick carpet, and ingest things that are not meant to be ingested. Most vets believe dogs eat these things out of sheer boredom or as a method to gain attention. To prevent Rover from noshing on the non-edible, provide adequate exercise for him, along with ample outlets for his excess energy.

3. Garlic kills fleas.

Many pet parents claim garlic works to keep fleas at bay, but there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. While it is very possible that the smell acts as a deterrent, garlic does not kill them.

4. If Rover’s nose is warm, he is sick.

Not true! Your dog’s nose temperature cannot indicate illness or health. It also can’t verify whether or not Rover has a fever. The only way to accurately determine your dog’s temperature is by measuring it with a thermometer, with normal readings ranging between 101.5 to 102.5°F.

 

5. If your dog licks his wounds, it will help them heal faster.

Dogs naturally lick their wounds in an effort to clean them, but it actually slows down the healing process and can lead to serious infections. To prevent your pooch from licking his wound excessively, block access to the area with an Elizabethan collar (you know, the lampshade looking contraptions that go around Rover’s neck) or by applying a bandage. To aid in the healing process, clean the wound thoroughly and apply a dog-safe antiseptic.

6. Your pooch will let you know when he’s sick or in pain.

Definitely not true! In general, dogs are adept at hiding the signs that indicate they are sick or feeling pain. Behaviorists speculate this is instinctual, a behavior inherited from their ancestors who, in their drive to survive, hid any weakness. More often than not, by the time you notice your dog is sick, his condition has already progressed. Keep an eye on Rover’s typical behavior and make note of any differences you notice in the time he spends sleeping, if he’s slower in his movements (especially when getting up and lying down), if his appetite shrinks, if he seems more distant, or, on the contrary, becomes more clingy. It’s also a good idea to take a quick look at Rover’s poop every time he goes to identify any differences in its appearance.

 

It’s our mission as pet parents to provide the best possible care for our canine companions, and it can sometimes get confusing with the countless theories out there on dogs and their care. If you’re uncertain or just looking for advice, consult with Rover’s veterinarian.

Can a Pet Help with My Kid’s Autism?

 

One of my favorite parts of being a pet parent is the comfort I receive from my animals. Many people feel similarly, in fact animal assisted therapy has become significantly more common in the past five years.This positive effect is seen and well studied in children with autism.With the rate of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) among children increasing worldwide, it’s comforting to know your family’s fuzzy friend can be of service to your diagnosed child.

A recent Purdue University study monitored the impact of Guinea pigs in classrooms. The new study took it a step further and studied the impact of interacting animals with ASD children; they wanted to prove playing with Guinea pigs would reduce the children’s social stress. Study groups included a mix of “typical” kids and ASD kids and monitored their reactions to multiple conditions, both with and without the Guinea pigs. The researchers believed the ASD kids would show high levels of anxiety when the Guinea pigs were not included in their activity, and they were right on! Activities that incorporated the pigs resulted in lower levels of stress and produced a remarkable calming effect.

Previous studies showed children with ASD demonstrated improved social skills after only a few months of interacting with Guinea pigs. And a separate study found the children talk, laugh and smile more and cry, whine and frown less in the presence of the playful pigs.

Any animal can have positive emotional affects on you and your child, but furry animals tend to work best.

If you are the parent of an ASD child as well as a furry one, be sure to give the furry one an extra treat and a nice cuddle as a “thank you” for his fortuitous friendship.

How to Find the Best Price for Pet Medications

 

Owning a pet is a rewarding but costly commitment. Veterinary care can be expensive and the medications used for treatments can really add up. In most cases buying the medication directly from your vet (if they carry it) is the most expensive option. However there are some good options to cut pet medication costs while getting the same quality medication.These options include human pharmacies, online pharmacies and compounding pharmacies.  Check out these tips on how to find the best price for pet medications.

Human Pharmacies 

Many pet medications are human medications in different doses. I have had good luck with the King Soopers pharmacy, Walmart pharmacy and Costco pharmacy for pet medications. As a bonus Costco pharmacies usually carry pet specific medications like Frontline and Heartguard. When trying to find a medication at a human pharmacy make sure that they can give you a dose small enough for your pet. Check out GoodRx( http://www.goodrx.com/), this is a site that compares prices of a certian medication at pharmaices in your area.

Pros:

  • Prescriptions can be filled the same day (usually)
  • They are generally cheaper than the vet’s office
  • Some have membership deals

Cons:

  • The dose you need may not be available
  • Only human medications are carried

 

Online Pet Pharmacies 

There are over 20 online pet pharmacies that you can order from today, but not all are safe. Many of these fake or non-accredited pharmacies will provide expired medication, incorrect doses or the incorrect medication. These can all have negative consequences on your pet’s health. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has a list of certified and trusted online pharmacies to use (http://www.awarerx.org/get-informed/safe-acquisition/recommended-vet-vipps-online-pharmacies). Most of the time your vet will have you fill out a liability form before they will send prescriptions to an online pharmacy. This works if you have a pet with a chronic condition (like hypothyroidism) and are good at planning ahead.

Pros:

  • Usually the cheapest option
  • Medication is made specifically for pets

Cons:

  • Medication needs to be shipped after it is ordered ( there is a delay)
  • Requires planning ahead
  • Temperature sensitive medications could go bad in the mail

 

Compounding 

Compounding is done at special pharmacies called compounding pharmacies. They create medications at specific doses and in specific mediums. Many pet parents need drugs compounded when the dose they need is smaller than what is commonly offered.

Pros:

  • Specific dose to what your pet needs
  • More limited ingredients

Cons:

  • More expensive
  • Compounding pharmacies can be hard to find

Finding inexpensive, effective and safe pet medications can be a challenge, but with the help of these tips it should be a breeze. Once you have gotten the medication you get to move on to the fun part, administering the medication to your pet. Don’t worry though, your Sidehill Sitter is a pro at giving medication to pets!

 

10 Plants to Avoid With Your Pets

 

Many people have homes filled with plants toxic to dogs and cats.  Because these plants commonly sold at the garden center, they are assumed to be safe. Many people never have an issue with a toxic plant and their pets. These issues tend to occur if the animal is bored or stressed and finds the plants to chew on. Here is a list of ten plants to avoid with your pets, or put out of reach of your pet.

  1. Aloe: aloe and its sap are both toxic to dogs and cats
  2. Lilies: they are very toxic even in small doses and can cause kidney problems
  3. Marijuana: this is pretty intuitive but Colorado has seen a rise in marijuana related pet poisoning in the recent years
  4. Amaryllis: ingestion can cause vomiting,GI distress and tremors
  5. Sago Plant: all parts of the prickly tree are poisonous but the seeds are the most toxic
  6. Tulip: the bulb is the most toxic portion of the plant, this poison can cause cardiac issues
  7. English Ivy: all parts of this plant are poisonous, and can cause GI issues
  8. Pathos: this common houseplant causes swelling on the mouth and tongue
  9. Chrysanthemum: these pretty flowers can skin issues if your pet comes in contact with it and its sap, and can cause vomiting if eaten
  10. Fruit trees: some part of the fruit tree can harm your pet (this includes citrus, apple seeds, and grapes)

 

What to do if you suspect poisoning?

Most toxic plants cause gastrointestinal issues when ingested. Be on the look out for any vomiting, diarrhea or not wanting to eat in your pet. Also check to see if your pet has chewed the plant or there is other evidence your pet got into the plant.

The ASPCA has a free pet poison control line.This line is open 24/7 and can advise on any type of poison. They will generally direct you to the vet once you figure out if what your pet ate is poisonous. Get to the vet as quickly as possible.

Poison control line (888) 426-4435 

What can I do to prevent pet poisoning? 

The best thing you can do is be aware. Be on the look out for signs your pet is interested in the plant, like sniffing and licking it. Also be aware of your pet’s mood. Many poisoning issues occur when your pet is bored or stressed.

If you have a particularly adventurous pet who likes to eat new things, try to avoid these plants in general.Choose plants that are pet safe, like most mint plants.

 

Pet poisoning turns fatally when treatment is not received quickly. Unfortunately it takes many owners too long to notice the symptoms and suspect poisoning, so it is too late by the time they seek treatment for their pet. Always be aware of the poison risks in your house and look for signs of plant ingestion if your animal is acting odd.

Homemade Dog Treats Recipe

 

Most dogs love treats, but if you have a picky dog finding the right treat can be a challenge. This recipe is for some delicious homemade dog treats. You can make this recipe as is, or add in flavors your dog likes.

So here is the basic recipe.

Ingredients:

  • Water or Milk
  • Peanut butter
  • Baking powder
  • Flour

* Make sure the peanut butter is dog safe ( does not contain xylitol)

*For a lower fat option use water or skim milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and grease a baking sheet
  2. Mix 1 cup liquid and 1 cup peanut butter in a bowl until it is well combined
  3. In another bowl mix a tablespoon of baking powder with 2 cups of flour
  4. Add the powder to the liquid mix, and mix it together
  5. Take a tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball
  6. Place the dough ball on the baking sheet
  7. Bake the treats for 10-15 minutes

So this is the basic recipe but you can add things in to vary the treats and to suite your dog’s taste

Possible add ins:

  • Herbs (mint, parsley,rosemary, oregano)
  • Veggies (carrots,broccoli,green beans, peas)
  • Fruit (blueberries, banana, apple)
  • Pre-cooked meat (hot dog bits, chicken shreds)

For add ins, cut them so that each piece is less than a 1/4 inch in length

*Add ins should all be dog safe foods

Try lots of variations on this recipe to find the one that your dog likes best.With a few add ins and some experimentation, these homemade dog treats should suite the even the most discerning canine palette.

 

Pupsicles: Cool Dog Treat Recipes

When the warm weather is here it is a challenge to find fun activities for you and your dogs while staying cool. So what can you do to help cool your pup down and keep him entertained? Make him a Pupsicle of course!

What is a Pupsicle?

A Pupsicle is a popsicle made specifically for your dog. It has a dog friendly ingredients, and you can make it at home. There is no need to spend a bunch of money, just use items you already have at home and have fun experimenting!

1. Pick Out Your Container

Your container can be anything that fits in your freezer. You can use a cup, a bowl, or popsicle mold. It will be easier to take your Pupsicle out if the inside of the container is smooth. Ideally this will be multiple small containers so you can make a bunch of Pupsicles all at one time!

2. Add Your Base

This is the liquid part of the Pupsicle and medium that you will be freezing all the other bits in. This can be any dog friendly liquid.

Some liquids you can use as a base:

  • Water
  • Dog safe chicken or beef stock
  • Milk (some dogs are sensitive to milk so be careful)

Fill your container 2/3 of the way with base.

3. Add Your Bits

Your “bits” are the pieces of food you add to the Pupsicle. Bits can be anything your dog likes to eat, just make sure it is dog friendly food. The best bits are ones that will not break apart in water.

Some examples of bits:

  • Fruit: blueberries, apples,watermelon and other dog safe fruit
  • Vegetables: broccoli,carrots,peas and other dog safe veggies
  • Meat: (all meat should be pre-cooked) chicken chunks, hot dog pieces, pieces of wet dog food
  • Treats: use treats that are soft, so that they do not get soggy while they freeze

4. Pick Your Stick

The stick is the part of the pupsicle that sticks out of the container. You can use the stick to pull the frozen pupsicle out of the container. The stick should be rigid and fairly sturdy.

Some examples of a stick:

  • Long, chewable dog toy
  • Dog bone
  • Carrot, or other long veggie or fruit

Place your stick into the middle of your pupsicle.

5. Freeze and Remove

Put the container into the freezer. I know that this will be hard for you and your dog, but wait a few hours until the Pupsicle is frozen solid. To remove the Pupsicle from the container, grasp the stick and lightly pull while running the outside of the container under warm water.

6. Give Your Pup a Cool Treat and Enjoy!

While the Pupsicle melts, it’s going to make a big mess. Give the Pupsicle to your dog outside, or somewhere you don’t mind getting very wet. Always supervise your dog when you give him something new to try.

Pupsicles are a great way to cool your dog down and provide some fun for him! Have you made a Pupsicle for your dog? Show us pictures on social media and share the recipes with a friend!

 

 

4 Ways You Can Help Animals In Shelters

 

According to the ASPCA, there are about 7.6 million dogs and cats in United States shelters each year. As much as you and I may want to, we can’t take home 7.6 million dogs and cats. So what can you do to help animals in shelters and the community?

1.Walk

If you walk your dog(or any dog) frequently you can earn credits(which turn into monetary donations) for a local shelter of your choice using a smartphone app called “Walk for a Dog”. You can use this app to log miles walked with your pooch, and share it with other walkers to increase the amount of credit earned for your shelter.

Check out the website here: http://www.wooftrax.com/

2.Donate

In addition to monetary donations, shelters always need supplies like bleach, paper towels, and other odds and ends.Most shelters have a wish list on their website of items they need donated. I generally make these donations after I go shopping at big box stores(like Costco). I usually buy more paper towels than I can keep in my house, so I donate half to a local shelter.

The Fort Collins Cat Rescue also has a kibble supply program. This program gives food donated by local pet stores and individuals to low income pet owners in the community. The rescue takes donations of both kibble and wet dog and cat food. They will take partially opened bags in original packaging. This is a great use for the rest of that bag of food your kitty does not like. Call the Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Spay Neuter Clinic for more information.

Here are some wish lists for shelters in the Fort Collins area:

Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Spay Neuter Clinic: https://www.fccrsnc.org/Donate_MoneyandItems.php

Larimer Humane Society:http://www.larimerhumane.org/donate/wish-list

Animal House:http://www.animalhousehelp.org/wishlist.php

3. Shop for a cause

Amazon has a program called Amazonsmile, which donates 0.5% of your purchase for most items to a charitable organization of your choice. If you shop on amazon a lot that 0.5% of each purchase can really make a difference.

4. Projects at home

These are really fun projects and are great if you have a group of animal loving kids(or adults) to entertain. The United Way of Larimer County has directions for items you can make at home and donate to animal shelters. These projects are simple, low in cost and can make a big difference. Contact the shelter of your choice to see if they will take what you make or have similar projects.

Fleece dog toys:http://uwaylc.org/wp-content/uploads/wordpress/Service-to-go-Fleece-Rope-Dog-Toy.pdf

Cat Blankets:http://uwaylc.org/wp-content/uploads/wordpress/Service-to-go-Cat-Blankets.pdf

Kitty Forts:http://uwaylc.org/wp-content/uploads/wordpress/Service-to-go-Kitty-Forts.pdf

So, while we can’t take every animal in a shelter home, these activities are a great way to help. Also consider volunteering or fostering for a local shelter if you can. Small things make a big diffrence in the life of shelter pets.