Dog trains man

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kibble quest

A quest for kibble? Yes. Kibble. Dog food conveniently delivered in a large bag. What about home cooked or going raw? It crossed my mind. But I have to admit that home cooked dog food in my case is wishful thinking. Feeding raw has my interest and I will keep my eyes and ears open on how it will develop further. But for now it is kibble. Because it is convenient. But how to find a quality that ensures a long and healthy life for my dogs. Surely that must be possible?

I chew this during your quest
Inconvenient doubts

The products we have been using so far were brought to us by the sponsored recommendations from the breeder (Techni-call), the dog training school (Olivers) and our vetenerian (Hill's Science Plan). My own clumsy attempts to find higher quality dog food lead me to Regal Pet Foods and CANIDAE.

Kenzo, our dog, thrived on all of the brands we have used so far and had no health issues what so ever. But would it stay that way on the long run? The list with recalled kibble is staggering long. And why use money on a bag that mainly contained cheap fillers like corn and wheat but was marketed well for a high price, if a bag of quality food could be attainable for almost the same amount?

Welcome to the jungle

Finding better information on dog nutrition to sustain my kibble quest was not easy. I went to a seminar on dog nutrition, read a couple of books, and spent hours of reading and browsing on the Internet, if not days. Only to find out that it would take a PhD. degree, preferably in nutrition, to be able to call myself capable of making a good choice. Suppliers are just to sophisticated in their marketing. As an example try to Google "corn in dog food". You will find as many experts arguing in favor of corn as you will find arguing against it.

I am not going to try to be another expert, you have to make up your own mind. If you go corn, or no corn. If you go organic or not. If you accept meat byproducts. Want fruits and vegetables in your dog food, and so on. That said, I hope you go no corn, organic, do not accept byproducts, want fruits and veggies. And while we are at it, lets add Omega3/6 fatty acids to that list. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

When it is time to find the kibble that meets you criteria you should try the Dog Food Rating Tool on the K9cuisine.com website. It was a big help to me.

How does it work

The Dog Food Rating Tool asks you 31 questions about the ingredients list of your dog food. It delivers a great recommendation of what could be improved, but also tells what was good about the ingredient list. Why certain questions are asked is explained along the way. Which helps to understand why a certain result is reached.

Here is an example of what the Dog Food Rating Tool told me about Orijen Adult, the brand I chose as the kibble we are going to use from now on:

Your score is: 109 out of 100

Grade: A+

Summary:

Fruits: The grade was raised because the food contains fruit. Higher quality foods are adding fruits to maximize nutrients not found in other complex carbohydrate ingredients. This is another distinguishing characteristic of super premium pet foods.

Vegetables: The grade was raised because the food contains vegetables. Vegetables are a great source of complex carbohydrates and are being added to higher quality super premium foods to improve specific nutritional values.

Fish Oil: The grade was raised because the food contains fish oil. Fish oils are excellent sources of Omega 3 fatty acids. They contain Omega 3 Fatty Acid. They are excellent sources of much needed Essential Fatty Acids (EFA).

Hormone-free and Antibiotic-free: The grade was raised because the meats are hormone and antibiotic free. Some manufacturers of super premium foods are certifying the meats to be hormone and antibiotic free. We believe this is a good practice and helps distinguish super premium brands.

Glucosamine and/or Chondroitin: The grade was raised because it contains glucosamine and/or chondroitin?. Glucosamine and chondroitin are supplements which improve a pet’s joint health. Some super premium foods are incorporating these supplements in their ingredients. At K9 Cuisine we favor foods that contain glucosamine and chondroitin.


Above is the result for Orijen Adult. I was in doubt on two of the questions. One was the "is the food baked or extruded?". Orijen Adult is steam cooked. Which is a fancy name for extruded. And a question if the food contained salt. Orijen Adult contains a little sea-salt, but would that count as salt? Also I misunderstood their claim to be "biological appropiate" to be organic. Which it is not. I run the Tool twice with different answers and it scored lower as a result, but still an A, instead of an A+.

If you are on a quest too, try the Dog Food Rating Tool, it is a great help. Kudos to the people of K9cuisine.com for bringing this tool. Anthony Holloway, CEO and founder, even answered my questions on Twitter and gave me some leads to quality dog foods that are exported to Europe. That made it much easier for me as not all brands are available outside the US.

But is it convenient?

The downside of my whole quest is that I did find quality, but found myself challenged on the convenience side. I learned that in Denmark, we are way behind the US on dog nutrition. Walking in a pet shop brings the usual brands: Hill's, Royal Canin and Eukanuba, together with one or two more obscure ones. But not necessarily of a better quality then the former mentioned.

The brands that deliver quality are usually from the US and Canada and are hard to get. They don't run all the products from a brand, but only one or two. With Regal Pet Foods I ran into a delivery problem. With CANIDAE I couldn't get a bag that hadn't passed the expiration date. For Orijen I found only 3 shops (thankfully with Internet shops) that carried the brand.

I guess that on my quest I found a business opportunity too, that would just need some good marketing ... ahum.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Shiloh is ready for you

This week is Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week, raising awareness of the wonderful pets who too often get overlooked. Pets like Shiloh. Spending over a year in foster, she has more then earned our attention.


Shiloh is a sweet 2-year old girl and has spend most of her life in a rescue and in foster. She is a real family dog and just gets along well with everybody. The people of the rescue where she resides say she is one of the most affectionate dogs they ever had. Her favorite past time is to give hugs and kisses. She has no issues with other dogs and is very playful.

Harry Potter

So why on earth is she not getting adopted? Well, first of all, she is from the Hovawart breed, a very unknown breed in the US. Which makes people reluctant. "A Hova...what? Is that from a Harry Potter movie?". But Hovawarts are absolutely great dogs. I have two of them. They are devoted to their family. They make excellent watchdogs. And unlike other watchdog breeds they will accept someone when you say the person is fine. They are from origin working dogs and they excel at anything in training or sport you would like to do with them. They will love it. And so will you.

Shiloh is 2000 years old

If it is not the breed, could it be the name? Shiloh is a beautiful name, but can carry the wrong message for some. Being named after the religious capital of Israel in Biblical times, the place where Mozes took the Ark, might seem like a heavy burden to carry for some. Or more "recently": one of the Civil War battles was fought at Shiloh, Pittsburgh. You might want to give her another name, I am sure Shiloh will like it just as much if not more.


Special care

When it is not the breed or the name, it must be that little extra care she needs. Shiloh has had health issues she is currently recuperating from. At a young age she was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. The people of the rescue project HALO have taken excellent care of her. Shiloh has been operated on both hips and is in the process of recuperating from the surgery on the last hip. Her future shines bright. It will ask from you as a owner to take some special care of her as her muscle build-up still needs to improve. But imagine how this will deepen your relation even more. And the love she will give you. One of my own adopted Hovawarts, Viva, also had health issues. All the love I have given by caring for her, she gave back tenfold.

Meet Shiloh

Could Shiloh and you be meant for each other? Go over and meet her, talk with the people of project HALO. Shiloh is more then ready for you!

If you are interested in adopting Shiloh please visit http://www.projecthalo.net/ to fill out an application or contact Rhonda at projhalo@bellsouth.net for more information.

You can also ask me, I can forward any questions you might have, or answer anything you would like to know about Hovawarts.


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Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week is organized by Petfinder and the people of Blogpaws. More info you can find here and here.

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Links:
Shiloh on petfinder
project HALO
More stories about Shiloh:
Meet Shiloh, Hovawart in need of help
Blog the change for Shiloh the Hovawart
Shiloh Is Headed For A Second Hip Surgery And Hopes To Find A Forever Home

Update January 2012: Shiloh adopted after 2 years

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Viva into BAT

We were warned by the local shelter about Viva. She doesn't "like" other dogs. Reason unknown. We let Viva meet Kenzo, our other Hovawart, under supervision of a dog trainer of the shelter. This turned out very well, so how bad could it be?

Viva watching dogs in distance on beach

During the first time we spent together with Viva, she told me which dogs she didn't like. Any dog that is not immediately sending her calming or playing signals, is met with reactive behavior. She did well with dogs that had great social skills, explaining why she accepted Kenzo. We were able to make some more friends that way. But overall she launched at them, growling and showing her bare teeth.

Way over my head

I must admit this was going way over my dog skills. I started getting advice and read a lot of blogs and books what to do in such a case. This quickly got us started with a counter conditioning and desensitizing approach. Exposing Viva to low levels of fear (other dogs far, far away) and giving her treats, learning her a positive association: dog means treat.

Good timing is of the essence her. Maybe it was just too difficult for me, but I was only allowed to do this on very long distances to other dogs. Over the period of at least two months we couldn't come an inch closer. The last thing that had Viva's interest when a dog appeared at the horizon, was a treat. She could only stand stiff, stare at the dog, and when it came over the threshold, she launched. We had to find another approach.

BAT to the rescue

I did hear about Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) before but it never became clear to me what it entailed, until Edie Jarolim started a series about BAT on her blog Will my dog hate me? together with Irith Bloom, a BAT expert and owner of The Sophisticated Dog, a pet training company.

What would Viva really want when she sees another dog but still well within her comfort zone? A treat? Or walk away? She would definitely want to walk away. BAT addresses this and let the reward be what the dog wants in the first place. Doing BAT in Viva's case would mean as soon as I see her displaying calming signals, the reward is to walk away, not a treat.

Our first BAT setup

Inspired by the notion that in theory this could work for Viva we did a BAT training setup the next week, while we were on vacation. Just along our summer rental, only a few feet away, there was a path that lead to a small center inside the park/resort. A lot of people and dogs came by on this path. Every time a dog emerged, I marked it, took Viva inside, and gave her a treat. We closed some curtains so she could not see the dogs at all anymore. I repeated this for two days. On day two she was clearly more relaxed and even lied down (although her facial expression was still slightly tensed when looking at the path, see photo below). From the second day I even noticed her making some lip licking calming signals when she saw a dog approaching on the path.


New setup needed

We repeated this training after we came home in different types of setups. And I was starting to see more stable behavior of Viva with calming signals. Along the road she started to change her behavior again. With some dogs approaching, she started to lay down, and didn't want to move away but meet the other dog! I had to find a new setup now, as I couldn't let her drag me towards the dog on a tight leash. But me pulling the leash trying to come away could also give her a backlash.

The new setup we choose was doing BAT on the beach. Here I would have ample opportunity to see other dogs coming. We could retreat behind a beachclub if necessary. And I put Viva on a long line instead of a normal leash. That way I prevent leash pulling but could control her if she would want to get to close. We did our BAT training. When she was lying down, I let her have her way and come closer to the other dog. She did great. Never went all the way to greet, but moved up to a distance of around 30-40 meters. When she stopped I made a recall and she came back, happy and excited. I never had to grab the long line. I played with her and praised her, getting her focus away of the other dog. Which was then allowed to pass. On a safe distance.

BAT continues

Viva is clearly improving her social skills. My guess is it will still be some time before we can relax on our walks, and I am speculating on what our next step in BAT will be. I guess Viva will show me. Thats also so great about BAT, you just have to do what your dog would really want at the moment, basically. Also other people in our dog training school are interested in BAT hearing Viva's story. It would be great if somebody could join us in making proper BAT setups.

Don't worry ! Kenzo (left) and Viva (right) playing, not fighting

If you think BAT is something for you and your dog, please follow the advice in the links below. With BAT, setup is key, and the above examples of Viva are far from ideal BAT training. It is just what I was able to do with the opportunities at hand. Here are some great resources on BAT and other methods on working with fearful dogs:

Ahisma dog training, by Grisha Stewart, founder of BAT
The Sophisticated Dog
Series on BAT, by Edie Jarolim
Fearful dogs

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pedigree Adoption Drive & Hope returns to Denmark

My message is simple. When you "Like" the PEDIGREE Adoption Drive on Facebook, a bowl of food is donated to a shelter dog. Did you do it? Please do, you can read my blog later. So far, more then 1,100,000 bowls have been donated. Lets add some more.

When you not only "Like" them but also blog about the PEDIGREE Adoption Drive on Facebook , PEDIGREE will donate a 20 pound bag of their new Healthy Longevity Food for Dogs to shelters for each blog that writes about them. Join us when you have a blog, read on Boulder Dog's blog how to do it.

The PEDIGREE Adoption Drive is a great initiative by the PEDIGREE Foundation and I thought I take it up with my local shelter why Denmark is not in the loop here. Or are we? I was lucky. The shelter run an open house event today, there should be a at least some I could discuss this with further.


A lot of people where present on the event, and as I arrived, somebody was making a speech to the assembled crowd. He was talking about animal welfare and being the change. About our personal responsibility to become that change. Coming closer I suddenly recognized who he was. It was Christian H. Hansen. He was a member of parliament and left his political party and his seat in the House after disagreeing with his party's support for the new Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) in Denmark. As it became clear to me during his speech, he has now founded a new political party, the Focus party. Their goal being animal welfare and bringing balance between human kind and the way in which we use natural resources. And more pratically, end the BSL in Denmark.

How great to find a voice against the BSL madness in Denmark. I gave him my support and signed the petition. They will need 20,000 signatures to be able to erect an official political party in Denmark. Unfortunately I cannot vote, because I am not a native Dane, but I will make sure to carry his message on and help where I can. If you are a Dane, or live in Denmark, here is how you can help.

What a great day, starting with the PEDIGREE Adoption Drive, visiting the shelter's open house and finding out there is a voice to get rid of the BSL. Hope has returned to Denmark.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

BSL up close and personal

The new Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) is now effective in Denmark for 3 months. Earlier I wrote about the crazy situations that came about, soon after BSL was put in effect: How BSL can bring a whole country into madness. Shelters were overrun, Vets refused to euthanize dogs, politicians calling for "do-it-yourself" euthanization of banned breeds. And things have only gotten worse since.

Look-a-likes

The police found a litter of dogs, that looked a lot like one of the 13 banned breeds. The owner couldn't prove what breed, or mix of breeds, her litter was made of. The new legislation allows euthanization of any dog born after July 1, of which there is a suspicion it belongs to (a mix of) the 13 banned breeds. The police therefore confiscated all dogs in this case, and had them euthanized. The owner (breeder?) goes free.

Who should wear a muzzle

People don't muzzle their banned dogs, which is a requirement in the new law. A political party suggested to force dog owner's to use the muzzle on punishment of euthanization. This is the same political party that called people to euthanize their dogs "do-it-yourself" style in answer to the vets refusal of euthanizing perfectly healthy dogs. And it is not your ordinary party, they are part of the coalition that governs the country. It doesn't look like their wishes will be fulfilled, but again they manage to sustain the witch hunt that has been created.

Up close and personal

My stepson owned two dogs. Ronja, a Dogo Argentino, and Freja, an American bulldog/staffordshire mix. They both belonged to the banned breeds.

Freja (left) and Ronja (right) in happier days

Unfortunately, during the period in which he had Freja and Ronja, the time available he could spent with them decreased drastically. The under-stimulation soon created problems which only got worse over time. Against better knowledge that re-homing was the best for his dogs, he helt on to them. Love blinds. But after several biting incidents, they also started biting him.

They payed the ultimate price. Euthanization. BSL forbids re-homing or adoption of banned breeds.

Freja and Ronja, may you rest in peace. You will be missed. I am so sorry you had to pay the price for humanity's mistakes.


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Links to newspaper articles describing the above, in Danish:
11 puppies on death row
Danish party suggests euthanization when not wearing muzzle

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Viva showing remarkable improvement in health

I admit. I am a very happy person. Although we knew Viva was neglected and in poor condition, it was still a shock to discover her many health issues. Now, five months after we adopted her, we can see how much she improved. It is so much more then we could have hoped for.

Viva the Hovawart

A small recap of her issues: Viva has spondylosis, a form of osteoarthritis, food- and dust mite allergies, and was overweight.

The easy part was the overweight. Viva is now on 86 lbs. Perfect for her size and body structure. She lost 14 lbs with a strict diet balancing everything from her meals as well as her treats and a daily exercise program. She must enjoy not having to drag along all those extra pounds on her already sore back.

Spondylosis

The gravest of her conditions gave us a lot of worries. Spondylosis cannot be cured. It leads to pain, stiffness, lameness, restricted mobility and muscle weakness. Possibly also incontinence and an inability to coordinate placement of the feet. Dawgblogger wrote a very informative article about the disease: The Many Faces Of Arthritis: Viva Has Spondylosis.

Viva having acupuncture
We were so fortunate to find an excellent vet that studied Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM). She suggested a treatment based on acupuncture, physical therapy, and a food supplement consisting of glucosamine, organic anti-inflammatories and Omega 3/6.

The acupuncture had an immediate effect. And after a month also the physical therapy and the glucosamine supplement started to pay of. Viva is today clearly in less pain. She enjoys long walks and playtime with Kenzo. And she likes playing rough. Where at first she sometimes whined and squealed because of (the anticipation of) pain, it is now Viva that initiates playtime and wrestling is her favorite. Her back is more agile. Where it first only moved up/down when she walked, it is now noticeably also moving left/right. This means she has become able to use the spine in her back!

Our daily work out (Viva is the darker Hovawart)

See also
this video that show progress in her muscle build-up after one month of training.

We could have done better though, as Viva's muscles are not strong enough yet. A daily work out is limited in its progress. When Viva becomes tired on the walk she adjusts her level of activity, meaning progress is slow.

We did join an underwater treadmill program, but were not able to carry that through on a regular weekly basis. Viva stepped into something sharp and hurt her paw. Twice. Meaning a set back in the training program as we had to start over. But hey, it is great there is still room for improvement.

Allergies

To treat her allergies Viva is only getting low-allergy kibble and for her dust mite allergy we administer monthly shots of an allergy vaccine that is specifically developed for her. We also bath her regularly with a special dermatological shampoo.

Although progress was slow the allergies bother her a lot less. From a state of obvious discomfort, reddish skin, biting, itching and almost inflamed paws she now only has slightly reddish paws left. Biting and itching only returns incidentally and not so intense as before.

The vaccine is first fully active after nine months and we therefore still expect to make more progress. Her skin has such a beautiful pink color and the dandruff has disappeared.

The years to come

Today we visited the vet for her regular acupuncture treatment. She was very pleased to see Viva. The stiffness in her back is completely gone. Her muscles are not tensed anymore. We can stop now with the regular acupuncture appointments and just see when we would need it again might the pain return. The vet added that she was especially happy with Viva's progress, and that she has a completely different aura now. Viva is one of her patients that made the most remarkable progress.

What will happen in the years to come we don't know. But we are so hopeful for Viva's future. We cannot win the battle with her spondylosis. But we can enjoy each day we are allowed to spend with her. In good health.

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