eileenanddogs

Month: November 2015

Webinar: Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Webinar: Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Has your dog been diagnosed with canine cognitive dysfunction?  Do you want tips about living with and caring for a frail or cognitively declining dog?

Join me in my webinar on canine cognitive dysfunction and dog dementia through the Pet Professional Guild on Monday, December 14, at 1:00 PM U.S. Eastern Standard Time.

Cricket-dementia-under-chair
My rat terrier Cricket standing with her head under a chair

I’ll be covering the definition and prevalence of the disease (much more prevalent than most of us knew!), common symptoms (including on video), the treatments that show promise, and questions to ask your vet. I’ll also discuss the commonalities with human Alzheimer’s, and most important, how to keep a dog with dementia safe and enriched. I’ll include the subjects of euthanasia and quality of life. Euthanasia seems to be an even more difficult decision for owners of dogs with dementia than with a dog with most other infirmities.

Even though the behavioral symptoms that arise with cognitive dysfunction mostly can’t be modified with training, I’ll talk about how trainers can help their clients with dogs afflicted with this condition.

There will be resources galore for further information including product descriptions, information about communities, and assessment and decision-making tools. Plus, the webinar will be recorded, and all participants will receive the URL for access. This is a great option if you can’t come at the scheduled time.

Cricket-and-Eileen-outside-keep
Cricket with advanced cognitive dysfunction late in her life

Hope to see you there!

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction: What Dog Trainers and Owners Need to Know

This webinar covers general information from dog owner and trainer’s point of view. It should not take the place of a vet visit. If your older dog is exhibiting symptoms, please make a vet appointment now.

Clara Says, “I Love New Stuff!”

Clara Says, “I Love New Stuff!”

Three dogs on rug
The rug is the cool new hangout. Thanks, Summer, for pulling the quilt askew for the photo!

I made the video featured in this post for the sole purpose of recording how cute Clara is when I bring something new into the house. She is thrilled with novelty. But as usual, there was more to observe.

I bought a small rug to put in the den so the dogs don’t always have to be either on the concrete or on their individual mats, which are strong cues for certain behaviors. I wanted a little training space that had a better surface. (The last time I bought a rug was in 2011. Less than a month later I got an unexpected puppy, so that rug didn’t last very long. I must admit I hope that doesn’t happen again!)

Here’s a short summary of the dogs’ responses when I brought in the new rug and unwrapped it.

Clara

Clara lived up to my expectations. She was utterly delighted and charming. She nudged and bounced at me in her excitement and her tail never stopped as she checked things out thoroughly and attended my progress. Even though new people will never be her favorite thing, new anything else…you bet! In my book about living with a dog with dementia, I mention the enrichment possibilities of letting a dog sniff things you bring into the house. Clara is the one who taught me this, since she’s so obvious about it, but all my dogs enjoy it in their ways.

Summer

Summer was perfectly herself. The main issue for her wasn’t the new rug. It was the other dogs’ response to it. She dislikes any kind of high-energy behavior from them. She was content though to watch from her perch, removed from the fuss. Once the rug was down and the other dogs calmer, she happily jumped down and got on it.

Zani

Now this is interesting. Watch Zani in the movie and try to assess her attitude. Is she nervous? Scared? Her tail is down most of the time, at times almost pressed between her legs. Something I have learned over time is that Zani’s tail hangs low, and sometimes presses down, at times when it doesn’t necessarily indicate anxiety. Most stills of Zani I could take from this video would include body language that we associate with an unhappy dog. But Zani is interested and is not poised for flight. She moves around normally. The only part where I see her a bit worried is a momentary flinch around 1:09 when I lift the cardboard tube out of the rug.

I was first clued into this interesting behavior from Zani a few years back when someone posted in response to my Beginner Kongs movie. He said Zani was not a good example of a dog enjoying a food toy because she looked scared. It’s right at the beginning of that movie in case you want to check it out. He had a point–she is not the typical picture of enjoyment. At the time I theorized that hers was an anxious response to the camera. Only over time have I observed that she tucks her tail in several situations where she is not upset. These include while manipulating a food toy, when digging–a favorite activity–and frequently when exploring and sniffing. I have videos of these and one day will make a compilation. My working hypothesis is that it indicates a certain type of concentration. Just another step in my ongoing project of reading dogs better.

 

Link to the video for email subscribers. 

I would love to know if any of the rest of you observe anything similar to Zani’s behavior in your dogs. In the meantime, enjoy watching Clara!

Related Resource

Dog Body Language Posts and Videos

 

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

Copyright Eileen Anderson 2o15

How I Work With Deaf Dogs (Guest Post by Blanche Axton)

How I Work With Deaf Dogs (Guest Post by Blanche Axton)

Blanche Axton describes her common-sense approach to training deaf dogs and why she doesn’t use vibration collars.

white bulldog
Spanky was a foster for Speaking of Dogs (see URL in bio below). He had been left in a shelter and was young–a couple of years old. He had clearly been pretty humanely handled. Likely deaf from birth, he was a smart and eager boy.

I grew up with deaf dogs and have fostered many. While I haven’t always had a deaf dog in my home, I’ve had quite a few over the years and consider myself pretty good with them. I’m no expert, but I’m not a rank amateur either. So here are some of my thoughts on working with deaf dogs and why I don’t use vibration collars.

Why No Vibration Collars?

  • First, I’ve never seen the need. This is, far and away, the biggest reason I don’t use them. I haven’t needed to. They didn’t exist when I had my first deaf dog so we had to use other methods.
  • I see too many dogs for whom the vibration is an aversive. Let’s be clear, I know they can be used well and conditioned appropriately, but it’s not an easy skill to acquire, requires a fair bit of knowledge about how dogs make associations (often ones we didn’t intend) and requires very good timing.
  • I read more and more that “deaf dogs must be trained to be safe off-leash and have 100% recall.” I have two issues with that. One, even my sighted and hearing dogs are NEVER off leash where they could get away from me and be lost; and two, no dog has 100% recall. It’s a lofty goal and one I strive for, but all dogs have 100% recall until they don’t….and that’s usually a tragedy.
  • I mostly have had small dogs and most vibration collars are bulky and awkward (at least they were the last time I looked at them). And they have to fit tightly…..and I don’t like tight collars on my dogs. I like to condition dogs to having my hands in and around their collars and I don’t want anything to interfere with that….so I haven’t used anything on their necks that could ever be a negative for them.

What To Do Instead?

Annabelle came as a foster for Pugalug Pug Rescue. She was 14 and a half. Family had had her for her whole life but the owners were older. One had passed away and the other was going into a retirement home and she couldn't go. She was likely deaf from age.
Annabelle came as a foster for Pugalug Pug Rescue. She was 14 and a half. The family had had her for her whole life but were older folks. One had passed away and the other was going into a retirement home and she couldn’t go. She was likely deaf from age.

So….what do I do about deaf dogs? I mostly train them the same way I train my hearing dogs….lots and lots and lots of working on “watch me” and “touch”. I mark and reward HEAVILY for offered check-ins. My marker for deaf dogs is a thumbs up. I also train for check-ins.

I train “touch” early and often….and my hand down, palm out, is the signal for touch and often becomes my recall signal…for hearing and deaf alike. Hand goes down, palm out and the dog comes and touches….and I mark and reward. I mark as the dog moves towards me so they begin to associate the movement to me as the ‘right’ thing to do and I pay heavily when they get to me. I also make sure I have hold of their collar before I reinforce so we don’t get dine and dash—another reason I avoid using collars that could impact negatively on the dog’s perception of my hands near their collar or the collar.

Deaf dogs are never off leash in any unfenced area. If we are in an open area, then they are on a long line. Hopefully, I have worked enough on voluntary check-ins that I can get one offered and I can mark and pay it. I also use a very minor (think light pull and release) leash tug as a distance signal to look back at me. I do this so the dog isn’t startled, and I make sure we have some history with gentle leash pressure being a signal to turn back to me. BUT that follows weeks and weeks of working on offered check-ins.

shih tzu
Theo also ended up at the shelter and also was a foster for Speaking of Dogs, but came to me at age 11 with a grade 5 heart murmur, deaf and only one eye. I adopted him since I knew his adoptability was low. Very sweet old shih tzu.

One of the biggest issues I see with deaf dogs is an exaggerated startle response so I strive to counter condition anything that is already startling (waking a dog up, suddenly showing up by them, some kinds of touches, etc) and I strive NOT to add anything that will cause a startle response. I move slowly and deliberately both literally and figuratively with deaf dogs. I want my movements and my actions to be, if not predictable, interesting and non-threatening. While I think working remotely can work and can be done effectively, I prefer not to do this….I prefer a more hands-on approach. My hands are the delivery method of all things good. They signal food, play, toys, fun.

I’ve never entirely understood why training deaf dogs has been seen as some uniquely difficult or complex skill. It really is no different from training a hearing dog with hand signals. I start all my dogs, hearing or not, with hand signals. And I’m already very quiet with my dogs when we are training (you wouldn’t know that watching any videos I post, but without a camera on me, I’m very quiet). Can you mess up training a deaf dog? Sure. Can it have bigger fallout than with a hearing dog? Probably. But it’s not necessarily a hard thing to do. It requires thought, attention to detail and a knowledge of body language, how dogs learn and striving for positive associations, but that’s pretty much my goal and method with any dog in my care.

About Blanche

Blanche Axton has been involved with dogs her whole life–from the Dalmatians her family raised and showed to working with canine rescue as an adult. Over the years, she has trained some of her dogs in agility, tracking, herding and therapy work. She volunteered as a therapy dog evaluator with Therapeutic Paws of Canada for several years. Blanche currently coordinates Pugalug Pug Rescue, fosters pugs and sits on the Board of Directors. She also fosters for an all breed rescue called Speaking of Dogs. She teaches Basic Obedience, Leash skills, Recall and Recreational Agility at DogGone Right. She is an advocate for appropriate nutrition for dogs, positive focused training and the importance of understanding canine behaviour and communication. She currently shares her home with pugs, a Japanese chin and one ginger cat.

Photo credits:

  • Spanky the bulldog–Blanche Axton
  • Theo the shih tzu–Tanya MacAusland Amyote
  • Annabelle the pug: Jess Albrecht of Wags to Wishes Photography

Thanks Blanche! –Eileen

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Ebook Available!

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Ebook Available!

My ebook on canine cognitive dysfunction and dementia is now available on Amazon Kindle.

3/22/16: It is now also out in paperback. The link below will take you to both versions.

Click the photo or the link below to preview and purchase the book!

Remember Me 3d

Remember Me? Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

List price is $9.99 for the Kindle version and $15.99 for the paperback.

I hope some of you will review the book on Amazon, especially if you like it! (Hey, I’m human.) But as with my blog posts, I’ll respond to suggestions and constructive criticism. One great thing about an ebook is that you can update it. I’m already planning the next release!

And yes, it will be available later in other formats. I’m taking it step by step.

Feel free to share this post and the ebook info far and wide.

Thank you so much to all the people who have helped and encouraged me with this project, and all my blog readers. You helped me believe I could actually do this.

Dogs Get Classical Conditioning to the Vacuum

Dogs Get Classical Conditioning to the Vacuum

Dogs and vacuum

Here’s a little video I made of my dogs’ response to the vacuum cleaner. Hurray for classical conditioning! As soon as any dog comes into my home, I start pairing any potentially scary sounds of human life with great stuff. Two of my dogs weren’t scared of the vacuum in the first place, and taking this action greatly decreased the chance that they ever will be. (Sound sensitivity can appear as dogs mature.)

Zani, my smallest dog, is potentially sensitive to quite a few noises, but we have turned her attitude around on most of them with desensitization and counterconditioning. It worked great with the vacuum.

Vacuums can be a double whammy for some dogs, who are also sensitive to the motion. You can work on that separately if that is the case.

I joke about my dogs getting underfoot in the video. If that were a problem, I could convert the sound of the vacuum cleaner (since they all think it’s a good thing already) to being a cue to go on their mats, or I could just verbally cue them to do so when necessary.

For a more extensive coverage of the process of desensitization and counterconditioning you can look at Stinky Stuff on My Back! DS/CC for Flea Treatment. You can also check out my page on desensitization/counterconditioning resources, and also my Pinterest board that has carefully vetted videos of the processes and results of DS/CC.

Copyright 2015 Eileen Anderson

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