Crate Training

Now this could be the best thing you ever did for your new puppy! It’s terrific for house training and separation anxiety prevention.

Setting up the crate

Buy a crate and section it off so your puppy only has enough room to lie down. Usually your local pet store will have suitable crates or even have a look online. It is more suitable to get a wire or plastic crate that your puppy cannot chew. Some crates come with dividers that you can expand as the puppy grows. Dogs will not soil where they sleep so ensure they only have enough space to lie down and sleep.

Where do I put the crate?

Place the crate somewhere in the house where you are happy for it to stay long term. The crate will now become your puppy’s second little home. It’s their ‘safe haven’ and should be a place they enjoy. Never use the crate as a ‘naughty spot’ or ‘time out zone’.

Getting your puppy used to the crate

Depending on how your puppy tolerates the crate will determine how easy it is to get them used to it. Using positive reinforcement in the crate will encourage them to enjoy it. Place toys, treats and food in the crate and always vary the length of time spent in the crate.

When you begin the crate training do not leave the puppy for more than 2-3 hours at a time. Remember little puppies have small bladders and will require toilet breaks. As they grow they will be able to last up to 8 hours in the crate.

What to do when my puppy barks and cries in the crate?

The number one rule is to not give your puppy attention whilst in the crate even if they are howling, barking or crying. If you do, this will only encourage the behaviour. (It can take a while before they settle, be persistent!!)

Bedtime crating

Put your puppy in the crate for bedtime making sure to take them out every 2-3 hours for toilet breaks. Your puppy may cry and bark keeping you up the first few nights but again be persistent! It will all pay off and over time your puppy will last a whole night asleep in the crate.

What happens if my puppy accidentally wets the bed?

Don’t make a fuss if they accidentally soil the crate. Just clean it up and continue the training. More importantly do not tell them off in the crate, the crate is a positive place and must remain that way even if a few mistakes are made.

Success story from a client that has crate trained

My dog Winston was crate trained from day one. We did our research and decided this was the best thing for us both. He cried for about 5 days and there were a few sleepless nights but as soon as we got to day 6 everything improved! Winston would sleep a full 8 hours in the crate without crying or wetting the bed. We couldn’t believe it!

He is now 1.5 years old and has no anxiety issues, doesn’t bark at all and is completely house trained! Now Winston won’t start eating his dinner until the crate door is shut. Best thing we ever did!

Aggressive dogs at the vet

Some dogs that visit the vet do not come bounding in with a wagging tail. Some present wary, scared and aggressive. There are many reasons as to why this may be, but it’s important to know that this behaviour is completely normal. People raise their voice in uncomfortable situations and communicate that they are not happy. Dogs unfortunately cannot communicate in that way, instead they may send off a variety of subtle signals that they are uncomfortable.

Dogs should engage in socialisation and exposure to other dogs, animals, people and environments from a young age. This helps them to become desensitised to the world around them. However, some dogs miss this crucial time of socialisation and may develop into a dog that is more fearful and wary than others.

Subtle signals include:

  • Cowering
  • Licking lips
  • Yawning
  • Tense and stiff
  • Turning their head
  • Tucking their tail between their legs
  • Rolling onto their back
  • Running away
  • Anxious appearance

When these signs go unnoticed, a dog’s aggression or fear can escalate into heightened aggressive behaviours, which include:

  • Snarling
  • Snapping
  • Growling
  • Barking
  • Biting
  • Holding their tail up
  • Tense and stiff

Look at it from a dogs perspective

Think of it from a dog’s point of view: a scary vet or vet nurse approaches them, someone they have never met before, nor established a relationship with. They are poked and prodded, restrained and palpated and have no understanding of what’s next. There are strange objects all around them, often multiple nurses and vets and an array of strange smells. In some cases the owner can increase the level of fear due to their own concerns for their dog. Dogs read their owner’s emotions very well and often this is just enough to set them off. Always try to remain calm for your pet rather than projecting unnecessary anxiety

Pain induced aggression

Dogs that are unwell or injured can be very reactive to noise and touch due to how terrible they are feeling. If this is the case, this behaviour is completely normal and your vet will work fast to relieve their discomfort.

Some health conditions that can result in aggressive behaviours include cancer, neurological disease, and orthopaedic and soft tissue trauma. Geriatric patients may be more likely to exhibit aggressive behaviours due to an increase in senility, confusion and vision loss.

Maternal aggression

It is normal for female dogs to show aggression if they are protecting their puppies. Lactating or pregnant females that visit the vet will have protective and guarding behaviours, which are completely normal and expected.

Play aggression

On occasion there are dogs that we examine that just want to play and sometimes have a tendency to exhibit playful aggression. Although this is normal behaviour, it is inappropriate and training should be implemented to settle the behaviour and gain more control.

Treatment

It’s very important that a vet examines your dog before a behavioural trainer sees them for consultation. An underlying medical condition or injury could be the primary cause of your dog’s aggression in which a vet consultation would be the first place to start.

Behaviour Modification

Aggression cannot be cured but there are several ways of managing the behaviour and assisting with uncomfortable situations. A behaviour trainer will assist you and your dog to reduce the exposure to a potential stimulus. For example, a dog may show aggressive behaviours when walking past dogs on a lead at the park. To avoid this aggressive behaviour and the stimulus (the other dogs) steer clear of dog walks at the park until your dog’s behavioural issues are resolved.

Medication

Anxiety is a major contributing factor for aggressive behaviours in dogs. It is a neurological disorder that is often described as the apprehension of what is to come next. In some cases dogs are genetically predisposed to anxiety and others are related to their training and owner’s behaviours. For example, separation anxiety, where dogs struggle with being left alone or being removed from their owners, can often exacerbated by owners who reward or allow the behaviours from an early age. Crate training is a great example of a way of instilling independence in your dog and preventing the need for constant attachment to their owner.

Restraint

If you know that your pet becomes aggressive at the vet it might be worth purchasing a soft muzzle. Muzzles are soft and dogs can breathe easily with them on. If a muzzle is put on before your dog enters the building it can minimise the amount of handling and restraint that is required by the vet or nurse.

Stress and anxiety in dogs is dramatically reduced when we are less invasive in our handling and restraining techniques. It is also completely acceptable to not own a muzzle, we always have plenty available to use.

Punishment

Dogs should never be punished for aggressive behaviour. Punishment can increase fear and this in turn may worsen aggressive behaviours. Dogs are not human and do not understand right and wrong. More importantly it is damaging to the relationship between dog and owner. If your dog has behavioural issues that you are finding difficult to resolve, please seek professional advice. Punishment is a form of abuse and in no way will this fix the problem. A few minor changes can be all that’s required to help your dog overcome their fears and see the world as a less threatening place.

Need more help?

Our head nurse at our Jervis Bay Veterinary Clinic, Nicole Hollinger, is a Behaviour Trainer and she holds a ‘Canine Good Citizen’ certificate through Delta society. Nicole is our point of contact for any behavioural issues you may have regarding your dog. She also organises our puppy school classes. Please don’t hesitate to contact her at our Jervis Bay clinic, Nicole is always willing to help and has great advice for dogs and even cats!

Feeding a fussy eater

If you think your pet is becoming a fussy eater it is best you have them checked by a vet before trying different eating options and habits. Some pets may be suffering from dental issues which could make it painful to eat. If there are no medical issues associated with your pets fussy eating then you may need to consider the diet you are feeding them and use the following tips to help you.

Unfortunately many eating problems stem from when you first had them as a puppy or kitten. Putting consistent eating regimes in place from the beginning is essential. It can be said that many bad eating habits are caused by the pet owner. Remember our pets have different nutritional requirements to humans and some cannot survive on some of the eating practices that some humans follow.

You can read more here about what we would recommend feeding your new puppy or kitten.

Tips to help those fussy eaters

  • Try feeding them from your hand, this may encourage them to continue eating from their bowl
  • Warm their food. The warmth can improve the aroma and patability of the food
  • Try a different diet
  • Sit with your pet while they eat, this can help them relax and feel comfortable
  • Make sure there being fed in an environment they feel safe and comfortable in
  • Add home cooked food to enhance the flavour (this could include chicken breast)
  • If they eat mainly dry biscuits try adding warm water to soften them
  • If there are more pets in the household separate them, there may be issues with them eating together
  • Feed small regular meals

How to avoid fussy eaters

From the day that you take on a new pet they are learning. It’s important to feed them a balanced diet. Try to avoid table scraps as it doesn’t not provide consistency or correct eating habits. Remember a growing puppy needs more than just table scraps. Many cat owners choose a single food as their primary diet such as (kangaroo meat, chicken or tuna). Feeding them only type of food source can lead to many nutritional deficiencies and make it difficult introducing a balanced diet, cats can be very stuck in their ways.

Older Pets

Some of the older and aged pets could be suffering from medical issues that decrease appetite. Dental health is a common issue that causes our pet pain while eating. As pets age they lose their sense of smell and taste so ‘vamping’ up their diet may be a good idea. Even those pets that have gone blind or partially blind can only rely on smell. Choosing a highly palatable and digestible diet is ideal.

No Luck? Your pet is still being fussy?

Come in and see us and any one of our trained professionals will be able to help you.

Why does my dog eat grass?

Many clients ask us why is their dog eating grass like a cow? Well, we can tell you they aren’t morphing into a cow. There are many reasons why dogs eat grass, and unfortunately it is still a poorly understood topic amongst veterinarians.

Sickness

A common thought is that your dog is eating grass because they are sick or feeling nauseous. Some dogs vomit after they have consumed grass, which can indicate they are trying to “feel better”. If vomiting persists after eating grass we highly recommend your take them to the vet to diagnose what is causing them to vomit in the first place.

Behaviour

Many dogs simply eat grass out due to habit or boredom, anxiety or they simply enjoy the taste. It may be that your dog is not getting enough exercise therefore engaging them in more fun activities may help. Give them plenty of toys to play with and engage in regular play with them. If you need some help with anxiety or any other behavioural issues, contact Nicole our behavioural trainer at our Jervis Bay Clinic, she will be able to assist you with any of these issues.

Nutritional Deficiency

Some dogs that are fed a low fibre diet will often eat grass. Domesticated dogs not only need meat but vegetables and fibre. So try changing their diet, our nurses can help you find a dog food that is best suited to your dog.

Noise Phobias – Thunderstorms and Helicopters

It can be stressful when you own a pet that is frightened of loud noises and in some households the whole house is literally turned upside down because of it. Pets that are frightened of noise tend to freeze, hide and some try to escape, often hurting themselves and their environment.

There are many stories of pets destroying fences, doors and carpets due to a fear of loud noises, such as thunderstorms or passing helicopters. As we all know the navy base Albatross is close by, which is why the amount of helicopter flybys is more frequent than other areas.

Why is my pet so worried?

Some pets naturally have higher levels of anxiety than others. Often pets that have not been adequately socialised, exposed to loud noises and given some form of training in their younger years are more likely to develop anxiety and fear around loud noises.

Can we make the anxiety worse?

We can definitely contribute to and worsen a pet’s anxiety. It’s only natural for us to want to comfort our pets when they are scared but it’s important to not overdo it. Hugging or repetitively petting a frightened animal can give mixed messages: rather than making them feel relaxed they are more likely to assume you are scared too and become frightened. Keeping this in mind, it’s still ok to allow your pet to follow you around the house. Leaving them indoors is better than outdoors.

What can be done to help my frightened pet?

A few simple tips can be used to reduce anxiety. These tips include playing calm music before and during a thunderstorm or in the event of loud noises. Ideally it’s best to keep your pet inside with you, they will be less likely to hurt themselves or escape if you are close by. Providing them with toys and treats can be a great distraction.

Products to help with Anxiety

Over-the-counter products like Adaptil and Thundershirts can also help. Adaptil is a synthetic pheromone which comes in three forms: a spray, collar and diffuser (plugged into the wall powerpoint). The synthetic pheromone is a replica of the comforting pheromone that a mother dog releases to reassure her puppies. It can be a good idea to try this before resorting to medications. Talk to your vet or veterinary nurse about which form of Adaptil would best suit your dog.

Another terrific and popular product is the Thundershirt. It is a firm fitting jacket that works by applying constant pressure, similar to swaddling a baby. This constant pressure provides a feeling of comfort for your dog.

Medications

In extreme cases or when all else fails prescription medications can be used with consultation from a veterinarian. When considering medicating a patient, an overall health check is a must. Sometimes blood or urine tests may be recommended to ensure it is safe to use these medications on an ongoing basis.

It’s almost impossible to know when a helicopter is going to fly by but in other scenarios when you can predict loud noises (like an approaching thunderstorm or fireworks) it will help to be prepared and have the above tips in place.

If your pet is scared of noises and you are having extreme difficulties helping them cope it might be worth having a consultation with your vet to discuss the use of medications. You can also contact our nurse Nicole at our Jervis Bay Veterinary Clinic. She is Delta Society Dog Trainer with a special interest in behavioural problems and may be able to assist you more specifically with training techniques.

Adaptil – Stress and Anxiety

What is Adaptil and what are pheromones?

Adaptil is a synthetic form of the appeasing pheromone (odourless scent) that a mother dog emits from the mammary area that provides a feeling of contentment, relaxation and reassurance to her puppies. This pheromone is associated with establishing the strong relationship between a mother and pup.

Pheromones are excreted from different parts of the dog’s body due to their purpose such as social, territorial, sexual, assurance, or fear pheromones. Dog pheromones are produced in the facial area, footpads, tail area, mammary glands, anus and urogenital region.

Adaptil comes in two forms, a diffuser and refill that you plug into the electrical socket of the wall and a collar that is worn around your dog’s neck. The diffuser remains on continuously emitting the pheromones throughout a room. The collar emits the pheromones when in close contact with the warmth of the dog’s skin.

When should you try Adaptil for your dog?

Adaptil can help support your dog in situations were they become stressed and anxious. The appeasing pheromone that Adaptil emits can help your dog relax and cope with activities and events that cause them stress. Some dogs exhibit signs of stress resulting in unwanted behaviours that as a pet owner can be difficult to manage. Behaviours like barking, shaking/trembling, excessive drooling and panting, excessive licking, cowering/hiding can be signs your dog is anxious and stressed.

These behaviours are often associated with travelling in the car, loud noises (thunderstorms and fireworks), vet visits and being left alone (separation anxiety).

Adaptil can also help with older dogs that are more prone to these symptoms due to early signs of canine dementia and senility.

Damage to your home

Damage to your home can also indicate that your dog is stressed, however may be a strong indication that your dog is not getting enough attention or exercise. A lack of play and activity can result in destructive behaviours, such as chewing and scratching.

It’s important to not associate these behaviours with stress, although a lack of exercise can cause stress in our dogs, it often can be preventable by exercising them regularly.

Who can I talk to about Adaptil?

If you are unsure if Adaptil would be effective for your dog, our staff will be able to assist your further and discuss your dogs behaviour in depth to ensure we help you find the best possible solution.

Chasing Tail

Its not unusual for dogs to start chasing their tail, but it can become an issue when it turns into a obsessive compulsive disorder and begins to effect their everyday life.

Physical activity

Some dogs may chase their tail from complete boredom and lack of exercise. They begin chasing their tail to exert energy. Different breeds require different amounts of physical activity, so make sure they get enough!

Age

Older dogs can develop the habit because of psychological changes. Puppies chasing their tail are considered harmless, most of the time they are just having some fun.

Medical issue or injury

Dogs that have anal glands impaction, fleas or skin irritation around the bottom area can begin tail chasing. These conditions can result in further treatment if not seen to early.

Can you eliminate tail chasing?

Puppies that chase their tail usually stop as they get older. You can distract the behavior with toys such as a ball or Frisbee. Rewarding the behaviour with attention can only exacerbate the habit, ideally its best to ignore them.

Older dogs that are suffering from psychological changes would benefit from a visit to the Veterinarian to eliminate any more serious problems.

Disorientation and changing sleep patterns

If your dog is older and you are noticing a change in behaviour, such as pacing around the house, barking for no reason, staring, or a change in sleeping patterns, it could be a sign of dementia.

Learn more about Canine Dementia.

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