Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Your Pets

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Your Pets

The entire world is facing a pandemic with COVID-19. As countries around the world begin to shut down and call for quarantines, social distancing, panic is expected – it’s hard not to. Like many of the other viruses we have seen spread, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was originally an animal virus that mutated to jump from animal to human. And then, very quickly, mutated again to be passed from human to human.

Due to this, it’s easy to see why some people have panicked, abandoning pets out of fears of them transmitting the COVID-19 virus. However, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization maintains that there is no evidence that any pet – including dogs and cats – can transmit COVID-19.

THIS IS DESPITE THE REPORTS THAT A DOG DIED OF COVID-19 IN CHINA ON MARCH 16.

The dog’s owner had COVID-19 (she has recovered and is home). The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) in Hong Kong said the dog tested a WEAK POSTIVE from swabs of its nose and mouth (meaning low quantities of the virus were found) for COVID-19 on February 26. The dog was taken from its owner and put in quarantine. It was tested five more times after that and came up negative each time.

After the standard 14 days, the dog was returned to the owner because it was testing negative. The dog passed away two days after being returned home.

The dog was a Pomeranian that was 17-years-old. Authorities said there is no evidence the dog died from COVID-19. There have also been reports the dog had prior illnesses before the positive test – not to mention 17 is old for a Pomeranian. The owner declined an autopsy.

From the World Health Organization:

While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly. WHO continues to monitor the latest research on this and other COVID-19 topics and will update as new findings are available.

World Small Animal Veterinary Association is advising people to continue to wash their hands when interacting with pets (of course this should be common hygiene practice anyway).

COVID-19 Preparedness Planning For Those With Pets

All over the world shortages in stores are being seen as people beginning to stockpile. While out shopping, do not forget about your animals at home, they should be part of your planning.

Be sure to have enough non-perishable food on hand for a few weeks, in case you get quarantined. If you happen to own animals beside dogs that need fresh food, like rabbits for example, some are planting gardens (even a windowsill can provide space enough for some herbs and veggies) to feed small pets.

In addition to food, you should treat this as any other debacle, and have the following items in place:

  • In the event you are hospitalized, be sure to have someone lined up to take care of your pets while you are gone.
  • Make sure all tags and microchips are current on your pets, in the event they are separated from you.
  • Make sure your pets are up-to-date on vaccines.
  • Keep up your hygiene practices at home. The COVID-19 virus can live on surfaces, including your pets’ fur, so keep doing your duty by washing your hands and cleaning surfaces regularly.

Finally, hug your pets! They are the best therapy and, for people stuck at home, they may be their only company for many weeks. We will get through this together stay safe!

Why Does My Dog Stare at Me?

Why Does My Dog Stare at Me?

When you were younger did you ever call out to your Mum because your sibling wouldn’t stop staring at you? Staring makes most of us uncomfortable, so you might be a bit creeped out if you notice your dog has taken to staring at you lately. It may make you start wondering what he is thinking behind those big eyes and if it’s good or bad – could he be plotting against you? (Probably not, after all he isn’t a cat!) But there is a reason behind that stare…

Stare VERSUS Slow Blink

First, you need determine, is my dog really staring? Chances are you are not staring back at your dog while he is creeping you out, so it may be that he is not really staring but is rather “slow blinking.” A dog’s body language includes the use of his eyes – not just where they are looking, but how they are looking. A dog who is slow blinking – blinking the eye lids slower with longer time in between blinks – is conveying relaxation and that they are not a threat. So, your dog may not be staring at you, he may just be relaxed and happy and letting you know!

IF YOUR DOG IS TRULY STARING…

That being said, dogs do stare. And it is vitally important to understand the difference between their stares.

Is he HARD STARING?

If your dog (or any dog!) is giving a hard stare (also known as a hard eye), you should stop what you are doing and assess the situation – DO NOT approach the dog! In dog body language, a hard stare is a sign that the dog is agitated and wants whatever it’s staring at to back off. Reactivity – including lunging, barking and biting – can follow a hard stare if it’s ignored. If you see a dog with hard eyes at the dog park or while on a walk, it’s time to disengage and not continue approaching, for the safety of every being involved.

But Chances Are, Your Dog Is Not “Hard Staring” at You … so what is he doing?

Learned Behaviour

Since staring is not a nice thing in a dog’s normal language – chances are your dog staring at you is a LEARNED behaviour. Yup! We impolite humans tend to stare at dogs’ faces A LOT. Especially overly cute dogs or ones with unique features such as a blue eye or speckled markings.

For some young puppies, this staring is enough to create a reactive dog – which is why many trainers teach dogs to be okay with a human stare by teaching a “look at me” or “watch me” cue. This cue literally teaches your dog to stare at you and then get rewarded. So, your dog could be offering that behaviour in the hopes she will get something good.

Conditioned Behaviour

Even if you haven’t intentionally taught this cue, your dog could have learned staring gets him something he wants through conditioning. Whenever we give our dogs a cue, we generally stare at them – whether it’s a sit, down or heel, which is then rewarded. In this case, staring becomes a precursor – something happens before you ask them to do something that gets them a reward. Again, a dog may sit and stare at you hoping you will give him a cue so he can earn a reward.

Your dog could have been conditioned to stare during his normal day to day life as well, no training required. Maybe you look at your dog in the face as you feed him each meal, or when you give into her begging and feed her a treat from your plate. Dogs are masters of body language and quickly pick up what works to get them what they want – if staring has earned them rewards, they are going to keep using it!

And, being intelligent creatures, dogs quickly learn to adapt that new language. So now he starts to stare at you if he wants anything, not just a reward. Maybe his water dish is empty or it’s time to go outside for a potty break. Maybe she is hoping for a belly scratch.

So basically, you are the annoying sibling that stared all the time until your dog, instead of calling for mum, figured out how to use staring to his advantage. Which shows you just how smart and adaptable they are at living with us. So next time your dog stares, just know you aren’t going crazy, he really is trying to tell you something…figuring out what, however, may be the trick.

 

How to Teach Your Dog to Load in the Car

How to Teach Your Dog to Load in the Car

If you have a little dog, this may not be as big of a deal, but anyone with a larger dog that just won’t jump in the car knows the struggle is real. Or maybe your Great Dane puppy is easy to hoist up…now. But wait a few months. Having a dog that willingly gets into the car on a cue makes getting ready to leave a breeze. It’s also helpful if your arms are full of other things, no matter your dog’s size.

BEFORE YOU START TRAINING THIS – YOU MUST ELIMINATE THESE CAUSES FIRST

Some dogs are not willing to get into the car because they are fearful of it – they may even get car sick, which means your car has a negative association. If that is the case, check out this blog on helping your dog get used to the car and getting over car sickness first.

The other thing could be pain. Especially if you have an older dog, they may not want to jump in your car because it hurts them physically. They could have a leg injury, a bad back or arthritis causing their hesitancy. If there is any reason to suspect a medical reason, have your dog checked by your vet first before proceeding with training.

If you have cleared these reasons, then it’s time to train!

There are a few ways we can go about teaching your dog to “load” on cue. You could stand by your car door and hope that he will offer to jump inside, and then reward. Or you can reward for each step toward the car your dog takes (called shaping). But if your dog has no interest in the car at all, these can take a while.

It’s easiest to use luring. To lure, you are going to use a piece of your dog’s kibble or a healthy treat. Hold the food very close to your dog’s nose and move it the direction you want to go (in this case, toward the car). When he takes a step, give him the food and praise him.

At the beginning, start close to the car, otherwise it might take you half an hour just to get to the car! Start far enough away that your dog has room to manoeuver his paws to jump or step up into the car, but not more than a couple steps away.

If your dog has never lured before, you will want to start by rewarding for every step at first. If your dog has, you may be able to have him take two or three before you reward. Just remember you always want to reward before your dog disengages, better to reward too often at first, then to lose your dog’s interest and have them turn away. (If that happens, go back to where you started with your dog and try again, rewarding sooner.)

Don’t move the lure so fast that your hand ends up ahead of the dog’s nose – most dog’s will stop following the lure if it gets too far out.

MY DOG WON’T FOLLOW THE LURE: If that happens, it may be that your treat is not high value enough, try something else. Or, it could be your dog is more fearful of the car than you thought, in which case you may need to revisit desensitization first (see above link to the other blog post!). Have a toy dog instead of a foot dog? You can easily use a toy as a lure as well!

Once you have lured your dog into the vehicle, big party! Give her lots of praise and a treat or the toy…you can even play a small game of tug or fetch in the car, to make that space a fun space.

Then, reset. This time, try increasing the number of steps your dog takes towards the car before getting the lure. The point is to try and get rid of the treat/toy lure as quickly as possible, so your dog is just following your empty hand to the car.

TIP: IF you use the lure too many times, it can be hard to get rid of it. Only have your dog lure a few times before “testing” to see if he will get in the car without it.

If he jumps in, give him a reward.

If he won’t jump in, use the lure couple more times and try again.

Repeat this process until your dog is only getting reward when they are following your empty hand all the way into the vehicle.

Then, you will gradually move your hand away from your dog’s face, so you can simply point, and your dog will load into the car.

ADDING THE CRATE

We firmly believe your dog is safest when he is confined to a crate in the vehicle, and crash tests back that up. So, once your dog is loading into the car, you can add going into this crate as part of the cue. To do this, use the luring method again to lure your dog into the crate. Once he goes into the crate just by pointing, start back outside the vehicle, and point. If your dog goes all the way into his crate, big praise party! If he doesn’t point again (do not reward until his is in the crate).

At this phase, you can add a verbal cue by saying a word such as Load, Car, Up, whatever you wish, right before you signal with your hand. Eventually, your dog will start to respond to the verbal before you signal with your hand, that’s when you know he has the verbal down.

Follow these steps, and you will have a self-loading dog that will make car trips a whole lot easier.

Is the Golden Retriever the Dog for You?

Is the Golden Retriever the Dog for You?

A soft golden coat, liquid brown eyes and a merry tail are the attributes of the Golden Retriever. From search and rescue and guide dog work to household pet and hunting partner, the Golden Retriever does it all, well. It’s shouldn’t be a surprise they are among the top ten most popular breeds in Australia, with many making this loveable beauty part of their family. But is the Golden Retriever the dog for you?

Breed History

Compared to some breeds, the Golden Retriever is relatively new. The breed was developed by Lord Tweedmouth, a Scottish Lord, in the 1860s. He created the breed by mating an unregistered yellow Flat Coat Retriever with a Tweed Water Spaniel (now extinct). Future outcrossing included Tweed Water Spaniels and black Flat Coated Retrievers. Some also say that he used Irish Setters and Bloodhounds in the mix.

By 1908, the breed had come under the public eye and started to gain popularity when a Lord Harcourt showed his Golden Retrievers at the Kennel Club Show in the United Kingdom. From there, popularity spread, with the breed taking off in the United States in the 1970s, when President Gerald Ford brought his First Dog, a Golden Retriever named Liberty, to the White House.

The breeds popularity in Australia has resulted in six state breed clubs, as well as the National Golden Retriever Council. A larger breed of dog, the modern Golden Retriever stands 51-56cm (females) and 56-61cm (males) and weighs 24-30kg and 30-35kg, respectively.

Temperament

A “kindly expression” is part of the standard of this lovely breed, who has a golden personality to go along with that golden coat. The Golden Retriever is known for a kind, pleasing temperament that makes him the perfect choice for therapy and guide dog work. Although a larger breed, they do well with children as long as they have been taught manners (remember, a big dog can accidentally knock over a small child, with no malice involved).

Energy Level

Though it may be easy to forget based on appearance, the Golden Retriever IS a hunting breed. They were bred for a job – to retrieve game from the moors of Scotland – and to do that job well. Although decades have passed, the breed still retains a strong work ethic and retrieving instinct. This is great if you are looking for a hunting partner. If you are looking for a family pet, it’s something to keep in mind. Their drive and instinct need an outlet. They are a high energy breed! To be a good house mate, Goldens need DAILY exercise, whether it’s a jog, a good game of fetch, agility, etc. Many a bored Golden have become destructive chewers, barkers, and diggers!

Space Needed

Being a large breed, give it some thought if you think your flat has enough room for a Golden Retriever to move around without issue. That long tail can cause a lot of destruction as it waves exuberantly!

More than that, having a backyard with room to make sure your Golden is getting his daily exercise can make your life easy, but is not necessary if you commit to exercising him outside the house each day. Goldens are definitely family-orientated and love to snuggle up on the couch after a day’s run or agility practice.

Common Health Problems

A fairly healthy breed, the Golden Retriever does have some genetic disorders you should be aware of when selecting a puppy. Any respectable breeder should do health testing and screening, to help ensure your dog has a long and healthy life. Hip and elbow dysplasia are two of the biggest concerns in the breed. Any breeding animals should be tested for both. Also, due to this, owners should take care that their young, growing puppies do not do anything to strenuous, that could cause undue stress on these joints before they are fully developed. Also keeping them nice and lean while growing helps growing joints stay nice and tight.

Golden Retrievers can also suffer from several genetic eye problems, including Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Hereditary Cataracts, which affect eye sight, and Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia and Post Polar Cataract, which do not. Breeders in Australia are expected to screen their dogs annually for these conditions.

Hereditary heart disease is another concern, and again, it’s the responsibility of the breeders to not breed any dog with a heart condition that could be passed on the offspring. Golden Retrievers have more cases of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) than most other breeds – this may be due to their being predisposed to taurine deficiency, research has not been conclusive on this.

They also are known to have epilepsy and it is strongly thought to be hereditary in Goldens, so ask any potential breeder if their lines have it. Ichthyosis, excessive flaking skin, is also a hereditary condition that can be avoided by not getting a puppy from a breeder that has dogs with it.

Ectopic Ureters (wet puppy syndrome), where the ureter does not enter the bladder in the correct position, is also something that Golden Retrievers can have. Unfortunately, as of now, they have not identified if this is hereditary or how to screen for it.

Like many other breeds, cancer is a concern. In fact, according to the National Golden Retriever Council Australia, a study showed that 60 percent of American Golden Retrievers were lost to it. However, research has showed that this may be due to a fairly recent gene mutation in their lines. While you can’t completely safeguard against cancer, ensuring your puppy is coming from healthy, tested stock may reduce the chance.

Training

Golden Retrievers are biddable and easy to train. Being bred for a job, they enjoy working with people and training is fun for them! They excel at almost any sport – from agility and dock diving to hunting and obedience. Even if you just want a well-mannered family dog, putting in the work to socialize and train your young Golden will reward with you many golden years of good behavior. While they are generally a friendly breed, you will still want to socialize them with people of all types, especially children due to their size, and any animals you want them to live with. Remember, they are a hunting breed and may have the instinct to chase or bark at small animals.

Feeding Recommendation

We recommend feeding your Golden Retriever puppy Stay Loyal Large Breed Puppy through nine months of age, for slow steady growth. And keeping them nice and lean. After that, switch to Stay Loyal Adult Chicken, Lamb, & Fish.

The Golden Retriever is a friendly, sweet-natured and intelligent dog that loves to be part of the family. Given the right amount of exercise and some training, they can make a splendid addition to any home. Ask yourself if you have the time and energy for daily exercise (it’s good for you too!) and enough time to train. If so, adding a Golden Retriever to your home might be just the right fit.

Safe Edible Chews for Puppies

Safe Edible Chews for Puppies

Regardless of the breed of your new puppy, one thing is for sure – it’s going to chew. Puppies use their mouths to learn about their world, starting from when they are born and their eyes are not yet open. They use their mouths in the same way a toddler uses his hands: to explore. As they get older, the urge to chew comes from teething – first as the baby teeth come in and then again when they lose them and get their adult teeth. So how do you save your belongings and yourself from those razor-sharp puppy teeth? Do so by making sure your puppy has appropriate chews to gnaw on!

Commercial Chews

Let’s start with commercial, store bought chews. Pet stores are full of things for your dog to chew on – from “dental sticks” to rawhide chews and even vegetarian options like dehydrated sweet potato. So, what’s a safe chew for a puppy?

Don’t feed rawhide. To any dog, any age. You can just skip right by all those “treats.” Rawhide is extremely hard for your dog to digest. Dogs also tend to break of large chunks, which pose choking and blockage risks.

After you have eliminated the “obvious” bad chews, it’s important to read the labels. Many commercial chews actually say they are not for dogs under 6 months or so. For example, Greenies, a very popular chew, says they are not suitable for dogs less than 6 months. WHIMZEES, an all-natural and grain-free chew, says they are not suitable for dogs under 9 months of age!

Puppies get their puppy teeth at around 4 weeks. These teeth then begin to fall out around 14-30 weeks (approximately 3.5 to 7.5 months old) and are replaced by adult teeth. This means that commercially made chews will be no help to you during your puppy’s strongest chewing phase!

So, what store-bought chews are safe?

Manufactured treats such as dehydrated sweet potato or salmon skin, however, are fine to give a teething puppy and are much safer than rawhide or other manufactured chews that are compressed into super hard bones. A puppy’s jaw is still developing during this period, and chews that are extremely hard (like the WHIMZEES and Greenies, or compressed bones and rawhide) can actually damage the formation of your puppy’s incoming adult teeth. They can also crack them as well!

So, if you want to buy treats, stick with the one ingredient dehydrated items. They are soft and don’t last as long, but still give your dog the chew they need, without any risks. For teething puppies, putting them in the freezer first can add some pain relief. Just remember to limit how many give you a small puppy, 1 to 2 a day is plenty.

Homemade Chews

Making chews for your dog is cheaper, you can cater to any allergies, and usually results in a safer product for your puppy.

You can save money by buying a dehydrator and making dehydrated sweet potato strips, salmon skin, even thin sliced chicken or beef. Again, freezing them afterward can help with a bit of pain relief on sore gums. Wrapping chicken around the sweet potato makes for a longer-lasting chew once it’s dehydrated.

Another option is to freeze a carrot (make sure the size fits your puppy – it should not be so small as to pose a choking hazard). For super tiny puppies, frozen whole green beans may be a good choice as well.

And there are raw meaty bones. These are a personal choice, some people like them, some do not. Raw meaty bones are what wild “dogs” such as dingos and wolves would eat to satisfy their chew cravings. Raw bones are good because they are not so hard that they will cause problems with the incoming adult teeth, and the fleshy exterior and tendons can soothe gums while helping loosen stubborn baby teeth, especially the canines.

Just remember to keep size in perspective, both a bone too small and too big can be an issue. For really small puppies, a wing tip might be enough. Large dogs may need beef brisket or lamb necks instead of chicken bones, which could be too small and pose a choking hazard.

Safety First!

With any chew you give your puppy, remember there are hazards. Choking and blockage is always a risk – if you notice your dog is not chewing small bites, but swallowing big chunks, it’s time to take the item away and try something else. It’s best to not leave your puppy unattended with anything potentially hazardous, that includes chews. If you do suspect your puppy is having trouble and may be blocked or choking, rush to the vet immediately. While there are risks, thousands of puppies eat chews every day with no issue. So be smart, avoid the bad stuff and watch your puppy. Do this, and your entire household will survive the chewing phase of puppyhood.

How to Dog-Proof Your Christmas Tree

How to Dog-Proof Your Christmas Tree

For many households, the Christmas Tree is the focal point of the holiday decorations. But if you have a new puppy or a boisterous dog, you may be wondering if a Christmas tree can survive the season at your house. Rather than going without, here are some tips that can keep your dog safe while preserving your family’s beautiful tree.

Tip 1: A fake tree may be less inviting

Before bringing in the great outdoors, consider a fake tree. Real trees have a scent that is inviting to your dog, and it’s also a great potty spot to them. Your dog is not going to necessarily understand why he can pee on the tree in the yard, but not on the one in your living room. Fake trees do not smell as inviting and may drastically cut down your dog’s attraction to your Christmas tree.

Tip 2: Placement

Think about the area of the house your dog travels through least. Try to find a corner or area where your family can still enjoy it, but it’s not on your dog’s morning run on his way outside. This can help you avoid tree-dog collisions that never end well.

Tip 3: Choose ornaments carefully

Shatterproof, non-breakable ornaments are best for a Christmas tree in a pet home, especially if your dog is prone to zooming through your house, perhaps under the tree itself. Display glass ornaments on a holder on a shelf or on the table where your dog is less likely to get to them.

A lot of non-breakable ornaments are stuffed animals. If you have a stuffed-animal loving dog, you may want to skip putting those in your tree as well, unless your dog has learned to tell the difference between a stuffed toy he is given, and one that is placed out of reach. Some can, some can’t.

You also don’t want to use candy canes, popcorn strands, or other edibles that your dog may not be able to resist. No one wants to come home to a knocked-over tree and a dog that needs a vet visit because he ingested sugary candy canes and popcorn garlands – string and all!

Lastly, make sure nothing is poisonous on the tree. Popular holiday decorations can include ferns and palm leaves, which are often poisonous. Poinsettias are deadly, so you want to keep their flowers out of your tree – opt for fake instead.

Tip 4: Mind the cords

While your dog can be a menace to your tree, don’t forget that the cord can be a real hazard to dogs, especially chewers. To avoid electrocution, cover your tree’s light cord with something like a CritterCord, that is made to prevent your dog from being able to chew the cord. Unplug the cord when you are not home, to lower the risk of your dog getting electrocuted while you are gone.

Tip 5: Don’t leave your dog alone with the tree

This is especially important if you have a puppy: Don’t leave your dog unattended with your tree. If you are at all worried, she may get into it when you are not around, it’s best to shut that room off or crate your dog. That way, you can relax knowing your dog and your Christmas tree are safe.

Tip 6: Train them

If you want to be able to leave your dog with your tree safely, maybe even have some fragile ornaments on the tree, then you will want to spend some time working with your dog. You can use your “leave it” cue, if your dog has one. Anytime your dog looks or go towards the tree, say your cue and then reward them for leaving it. If your dog does not already have leave it on cue, you can start by just rewarding them when they look away or turn away from the tree, no cue needed. This teaches your dog that ignoring the Christmas tree gets them good things!

A last resort….

No one wants to do this, but if you have a particular chewy puppy (maybe it’s teething) or a really big dog whose manners are currently being worked on, you can put an ex-pen around your tree. This extra barrier could save the tree from your puppy or dog while they are learning self-control. You can add some pretty holiday fabric over it, so it looks less obtrusive. It’s not ideal, but it might be necessary temporarily if your dog has never experienced a tree.

These tips can help your whole family, dog included, have a happy and safe holiday season