Posts Tagged ‘Rescue’

Pet Fun Fest

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Pet Fun Fest was a great success!!! February 12th and 13th at Downsview Park was the place to be for dog lovers, and Helping Homeless Pets did a great job putting on a show filled with vendors, dock jumping, adoptathons and an attempt at the World’s longest and largest Sit/Stay. You can stay tuned to www.helpinghomelesspets.com for news about this year’s show, and other upcoming events. We are still running our show Contest to win a free Whole Dog Assessment with The Dog’s Assistant, and if you were there, visit us at www.thedogsassistant.ca/contact to enter your information and contest code!

I’d like to thank Danielle from Buzzdog Studios for donating some gorgeous photos to decorate our booth. Danielle does both human and canine photography all over southern Ontario, and you can check out her beautiful portfolio at www.buzzdogstudios.com. We received lots of compliments on her photos, and from watching her page on Facebook, I can assure you that she’ll capture some unique and natural shots of your dog!!

We were pleased to be help lots of dog owners with their questions about behaviour, nutrition and allergies. For those looking to reduce inflammation in their dog’s joints, improve skin quality and boost mental focus, we were selling Auum Omega 3 Seal Oil. Typically, I don’t sell product (though I have lots of recommendations when I work with my clients), but this is one I feel strongly enough about to sell. Even my Toby, who you may know from my blogs is loaded with allergies and needs special supplements to manage them, does very well on this oil. Feel free to contact me to learn more about it, or get in touch with Susan Schroeder at Lean on Me Nutrition to learn about ordering the product and the Auum line for humans. You can find Susan online at www.leanonmenutrition.com.

Over the last few months, I’ve been working hard on developing a new website for owners who want to either boost the effectiveness of kibble, or are looking for advice and recipes for home prepared dog food. I was pleased to announce at the show www.thedogskitchen.com, a free site that includes recipes, recipe exchanges and answers to all things dog nutrition. The Dog’s Assistant continues to provide private consults for diet design, balancing and of course our unique Allergy Assessment service. Many of the clients we saw at Pet Fun Fest had dogs with itchy paws, chronic ear infections and poor coat/skin, and found our suggestions for Probiotics (to control yeast in the paws and ears), Omega 3 Oil (including Seal Oil or Salmon Oil) and an easy switch from stainless steel bowls to ceramic bowls to be easy to implement and most importantly, a drug free solution to managing the symptoms of allergy.

We’re pleased to welcome many new clients to our services, and look forward to making the lives of their dogs easier, making for a happy relationship all around!!


Can you love your dog too much?

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Yes, quite frankly! Now, this is not like that scene in Cats and Dogs (Uma Thurman, Jeannane Garafalo) where the radio announcer (J. Garafalo) answers her listener’s question about kissing his cat and says “You can love your pet, just don’t LOVE your pet.” But it is about affection, in it’s vastly different forms, and the impact that can have on your dog. Dogs by nature are affectionate with one another and with humans, but usually not in an over the top, constant hugs and cuddles, feeding you cupcakes for breakfast kind of way. Some owners will tell you just a paw on their knee is the closest they’ll ever get to affection from their dog. But they recognize and appreciate that paw, and we move on. But what happens if we force that affection, or even worse, give nothing but affection? As much as we all want flowers from our husbands and to make love to our wives, if as couples all we ever did was touch, kiss and shower each other compliments, in the end we probably wouldn’t have a very healthy relationship. The same goes for our dogs, though it seems to be a lot harder to communicate that point to a person who looks at their dog and sees nothing but a cute and fluffy cuddle toy (which even the owners of Great Danes seem to do sometimes).

(As usual, I’ve changed the dog/owner name in the story to protect the privacy of my client). Ashley was a young lady who contacted me over the summer at her witt’s end with her dog, an American Bulldog named Mikey. Actually, it was her parents who were at their witt’s end, and she happened to believe that everything Mikey did was forgivable. Being in her early twenties, she was old enough to have sole custody of the dog, but shared a home with her parents and two other dogs. Upon arriving, I was quick to discover that the other two dogs were fairly well behaved, and that in fact the parents were firstly quite knowledgable about dogs and the boundaries we should set for them, and ultimately fed up not with Mikey’s shortcomings, but their daughter’s ignorance of them. They had given her an ultimatum – train the dog or give him up. Hence, I come into the picture. Within the first minute of entering the house, I could see their point. Mikey charged me at the front door, attacked me (well, attacked my handy canvas binder aka my secret protector against killer doggies), and once reigned in by Ashley, proceeded to lick her face for forgiveness. Shortly after we sat down, he walked into the kitchen and peed all over the floor. Can you say emotionally unstable? As the assessment went on, the dog spent the majority of his time with his upper body on top of Ashley as she cooed in his ear, petted him, and kissed his jowls. As nice as it is to see a dog in a loved home, it can be incredibly frustrating to see an anxiety disorder develop right before your eyes. If this were a podcast, I could more accurately describe how sweet and calm her voice was as she was asking Mikey to get off her lap. Shockingly, it took about 5 minutes to get him down only to have him jump right back up again, at which point she just giggled at him. My work begins! I gave her only two instructions that day – petting can only last for three seconds at a time, and he needs to sit for everything. No more long lavish rub downs, no more cuddles on the couch, no more ‘jumping up to kiss your face requests’ for food and attention. Polite, seated requests only, and minimal touch affection, at least for the foreseeable future.

This case reminds of a lot of fat dogs I see. Not overweight, not pudgy, downright fat. It irks me to no end to see a fat dog when these animals were built to be athletes, and when every single thing they eat is controlled by the owner. A dog gets fat (health conditions aside) because his owner feeds him too much of the wrong thing. Bottom line. But, in saying that, owners don’t feed chips and cake to their dogs to make them fat, they feed it to them because they love their dogs, and are showing them an aspect of what they consider to be love and affection. Ultimately, this is no different than what Ashley was doing to Mikey. Her constant touch, sweet words, total lack of structure or requirement for manners was creating generalized anxiety, separation anxiety, rude and invasive behaviour, and the total inability for her dog to recognize boundaries or consequences. Her love was destroying this dog. These owners are truly living up to the expression “killing them with kindness”.

Now, for those of your who are regular readers of my blog, you know I am no Boot Camp, Army leader, correction based trainer. In fact, I often see the over-use of correction causing equally as many problems, and let’s not forget the horrors I see in rescue as well. Toby gets the best veterinary care, nutrition, the latest toys and his own corner on the living room couch. He also gets lots of cuddles, kisses and compliments from my husband and I. But he is not so overwhelmed with affection that he has forgotten to be polite in asking for it, nor is he so pampered that he can’t rough it at the cottage by sleeping on the floor and eating just plain kibble. He has a balanced life of quality care, affection, clear communication, manners and respect. He’s told when he’s a good boy, and he’s told when he’s done wrong. Should I eliminate one or the other, problems would certainly develop. In fact, when I rescued Toby, his previous owners told me that they took him for training but didn’t want to make him do anything because they didn’t want him to hate them. Subsequently, he was surrendered for out of control behaviour.

Like everything in life, treat your dog with moderation. Acknowledge the good, correct the bad and stabilize the in between. As I say in the Three Keys, consistency is the key to a well trained dog, including when we do and don’t show them affection.


The Beauty of Dogs

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Every once in a while, we all have to stop the world for a moment, assess our place in it, and answer the Big Why’s. It centers us, it makes us better at what we do, and if the answers are right, it steers us forward. I do this all the time. Dogs never do it. As much as I would like to humanize my dog and play out his thought processes about the meaning of life as he basks by the lake looking out into the sunset, he’s probably just wondering when dinner time is and what that sparkly thing over there smells like. But ultimately, he’s a happy pup, and he doesn’t need a BMW, a healthy bank account or even a good wife to make him feel that way. He just is. For all the teaching I do with humans and dogs alike, I’m quite sure that I learn more than I share each day. From well kept, happy dogs this list is easy; I learn the value of living in the moment, the importance of finding happiness in simple things, and the joy found in a good homemade meal (though my tastes differ drastically from Toby’s!).

Dog lovers who work in any kind of rescue capacity undoubtedly will tell you that they have learned a great deal about the human race, the judicial system, and the extent to which nature can be cruel. Whether we recognize it or not, I think what sticks with us most though are the lessons we learn about the heart of a dog. I recently was involved with an incredible group of people regarding the rescue and rehabilitation of a dog whose owners had ‘discarded her’ in a tin box in their back yard, after she had produced a litter of puppies that were sold and she was then deemed worthless. Sparing the gruesome details, the dog’s experience in the box left her with significant injuries that required surgery and extensive post-operative care. Was amazed me about this dog, Roxi, were the stories of her kindness, her gentle touch, and her pleasure when regaled with rubs and kisses from the veterinary staff. This dog had suffered at the hands of disgraceful people, the only humans it seemed she’d ever known, yet she could differentiate between them and those who were helping her, and despite excruciating pain, demonstrated more love, compassion and forgiveness than she had ever been shown. There will be little to no recourse for the owners (rather, keepers) of this dog, and should we dwell on that fact over and over again as we see dogs like Roxi suffer everyday, few people would gather the stamina and emotional stability to continue to rescue. Instead, we learn from her example; that each person, each being, is an individual; that despite the shortcomings of many, we should acknowledge and appreciate the beauty in others. She taught us that what happened in her past is not necessarily what will happen in her future, and that wallowing in our hardships will negate the benefits of love, kindness and acceptance in our present. For any given reason, Roxi passed away shortly after her recovery due to an aneurism. As heartbreaking as it was to see a dog persevere through so much only to pass away in what would have been the prime of her life, she left a legacy of strength among the numbers who worked to help her, and helped pave the way for the many dogs like her whose future can be changed.

I could write volumes about the lessons I’ve chosen to take away from dogs like Roxi that I’ve worked with. About the tears I’ve shed the first time I see an adult dog learn the joys of playing with a squeaky toy, or the look of sheer joy when I see a dog who was confined to a closet all her life run alongside the lake with eyes bright , tail wagging and tongue lollygagging out her mouth. Ultimately, no matter who the dog is, no matter where they came from, they hold the key we as humans all search for. The key to finding love, forgiveness and happiness in life as it is in the moment. For this I thank all of you, dogs, for the joy, the tears, and most of all, the values you’ve instilled in me. You are, and always will be, the driving force behind my life’s work.


Canine Allergies – Tis the Season

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

Allergies in dogs can be one of the biggest frustrations for owners and dogs alike. Even the most seasoned veterinarian can have difficulty determining what a dog is allergic to. This can often be the time of year when your pup begins scratching, chewing at her paws, shaking his head or strangely jamming his face into the carpet for a full length run. Even behaviour changes can indicate an allergy. Most dogs present with simpler symptoms like rashes, bright red paws and ears, loose stool/diarrhea, and spotty hairloss. But what exactly is causing all of this is usually a mystery.

An avid reader of my blogs will be familiar with my Boxer (from Boxer Rescue Ontario) Toby, who is practically allergic to his own skin. We often refer to him as my second college education – relating to both the costs of maintaining him as well as the challenges he presents to me and his health care providers (yes, he has more than one!). Toby’s allergies include beef, lamb, wheat, soy, rice, asparagus, parsley, stainless steel, bees, grass, ragweed, most flowers and deciduous trees (those that shed their leaves). Thanks to Toby, flowers from my partner Shawn have to be either kept outside or made of plastic, which we discovered last November when a dozen roses that were lovely in the evening became a nightmare in the morning when Toby woke up with his face almost swollen shut. A quick visit to the vet soon fixed that, and a little creativity on Shawn’s part means I still get the pleasure of getting flowers without the panic of a balloon faced Toby.

As Toby is a rescue, it’s hard to say where his allergies truly began, but they were definitely apparent when he arrived at my home with what appeared to be chicken pox all over his body. The first thing I did was switch him to ceramic bowls, as stainless steel is a common allergen that is very easily resolved. His rash on his lips cleared up within days. The second thing I did was start an elimination diet. This was fairly easy as the family who surrendered him had only fed him one type of food in the 3 years that they had him, and he received limited treats and no table scraps. The fairly limited diet history was a bonus – meaning that I knew I had a lot of proteins and carbohydrates left to work with. When feeding a dog with food allergies, it’s extremely important to ‘save’ proteins so that as his life goes on, and allergies develop, there are still available proteins that he has not had before. The basis of this is in the fact that a dog is extremely unlikely to have an allergy to a protein he has never had before. Essentially, he was brought down to a diet that contained one protein and one carbohydrate, and we gauged his responses. We were quickly able to determine what foods he was tolerant of, and what he was in fact allergic to. He now receives only one protein (Salmon) and one carbohydrate, along with a healthy mix of fresh fruits and veggies.

The second component to determining his allergies was ensuring that he was otherwise healthy. Gut health is primary to resolving issues resulting from allergic reactions, and providing the dog the ability to better cope with allergies that don’t go away, such as environmental allergies. This can be done by way of a healthy diet, pro-biotics, and a regular source of fiber. Healthy blood flow and a stable immune function can also help, and can be remedied by the right mix of vegetables, herbal treatments and clean sources of food. Over vaccination is also known to contribute to an over active immune system, and the relevance of this to your dog should be reviewed with your veterinarian. Dr. Jean Dodds has done extensive research on the subject, and you may find the information found on her website very helpful. Remember that it is an over-active immune system that can be the real cause of an allergy, and the body’s intolerance of certain foods and plants causing an overreaction presenting in the form of an allergy.

If you feed a kibble diet, keep in mind that an allergy can take about 6 weeks to leave the system. A properly rationed change to a new kibble should still be done, and you may go through a bag or two before you really know if the dog is allergic. Try to choose a kibble containing a protein that the dog has never had before, and as much as possible work with the fewest ingredients possible so that you can better identify the allergy. Treating should be kept to the same protein, and most kibble companies manufacture complimenting treats. If your dog seems to only exhibit allergy in the spring and fall, you may consider that this is an environmental allergy, and consult your vet for treatment. A chronically allergic dog can develop secondary issues as a result of being itchy, such as aural hematomas of the ear, which require surgery, or even irritable bowel syndrome or clogged anal glands due to chronic loose stool.

Allergies should not be ignored, and with time and dedication, they can be managed. The key factor is patience, and the right guidance is available from professionals such as The Dog’s Assistant.


Dogs who won’t play

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Recently I was presented with an interesting question from a fellow rescuer about dogs who won’t play with toys, and whether or not work to release toys would encourage play. Many dogs who are rescued come from backgrounds that we are not necessarily made aware of, and in some situations they won’t engage in any play. Play is an important part of a dog’s life, and particularly his rehabilitation in rescue. Work to release toys are helpful because they contain food, which can often help a dog to be interested in the toy. They are a common type of toy, and normally come in the form of Kongs™, Tricky Treats™ or Orbeez™.
There are a few variables that precipitate this type of refusal to play, and these sometimes need to be addressed before any toy, including work to release, will be appealing. The same dog who is feeling too uncomfortable to play may be equally uncomfortable taking food or treats. Before making the investment, see if the dog will take a treat while in the same environment in which he is refusing to play. Often, depending on the background, a rescue dog may feel too vulnerable in front of people or other dogs to relax enough to play or take food. This is usually a fear based behaviour, which would lead us into another realm of discussion. Essentially, you’d have to address the fearfullness before
introducing activities that require the dog to be happy and relaxed.

It is also important to consider when that dog is ‘working’. Dogs are serious about their jobs, and you will find this more prevalent with guarding breeds, terriers and herding breeds, but always try to consider what your breed’s ‘job’ is, and try to apply it to this theory. All dogs tend to be more apprehensive in newer environments (like a new foster home) or in a multi-dog household. Guarders (such as Rottweilers, Dobermans, Boxers) are trying to assess what needs to be protected (primarily themselves in a new situation) and where potential dangers may arise. Terriers and herders are trying to find out where the ‘prey’ or next movement may come from. In both cases, in newer environments, these dogs will be intensely focused on their job, and not so interested in play. This is where you would want to reduce the room size, or ‘area of interest’ for the dog, and try to keep yourself relaxed and ignore his working behaviour until he realizes that there is nothing to ‘work on’ and no reward for the work, and then try to initiate play. This would be once he is relaxed enough to lie down, or approach you for affection. Your own relaxed behaviour while carrying on simple activities without looking at the door, other dogs or interacting with other people will indicate to the dog that you are not concerned with any danger, prey or chase, and he has no reason to work during that time. Try to warn any other members of your household when you are working in a closed room with your dog, otherwise the demonstration of a person entering the room, his guarding or herding response (even raised ears and a stiffened body) followed by your asking the person to leave indicates to the dog that at any point he may need to be ‘working’, and also reinforces his behaviour because his body language followed by your instruction resulted in the ‘problem person’ going away – he believes that he has done his job. This will contradict your efforts to have the dog take some time off.
Once he is relaxed, offer him the toy in a calm manner and close to the ground (objects higher than his head may appear threatening) and allow him to approach the toy. If you are able to get the dog to sniff the toy, or even take it his mouth, praise praise praise!! Remember that even a simple action of pawing at the toy deserves a “Good boy” and an excited pat on the back! This way he knows that the behaviour you are looking for is interest in the toy, and the behaviour of guarding or herding is NOT what you want from him and therefore goes unrewarded.

The third thing to consider for a dog who won’t play is what drives him. Dogs are driven by one of three things – once they have completed a behaviour, they will deem success from their owner by either getting a treat, a toy or praise. Try to determine what makes that dog most excited, and that is what drives him. If toys seem to be last on the list, but food is first, then a Work to Release toy would be the best thing to entice him to play.

Take it slow – if you start out with a Kong and peanut butter, reward him even if all he does is lick at it without actually playing with it. Then slowly work up to games like retrieve, tug or hide and seek. After some practice, you can even begin to name this behaviour by saying ‘playtime!’ and taking out the toy, as this will help even more to peak interest and excitement. Try to keep your sessions short and minimize frustration – dogs are very sensitive to failure, and if they don’t understand at first, or sense your frustration with the lack of play, they’ll pick up on that and begin associating toys with bad feelings.
There are many considerations to make when a dog won’t play, but these are some good indicators as to what may be going on. A trainer or behaviourist can also be very helpful in determining the root causes of a dog who won’t play, but in most cases, patience, understanding and a little time to get used to new ideas is all that’s needed. Don’t forget about the “Mr. Serious” types – some dogs are just born to be thinkers and not players, and find their greatest happiness from just a rub on the bum!
Erica Garven
The Dog’s Assistant


Toronto Humane Society Arrests

Friday, November 27th, 2009

This morning’s news was plastered with news of the arrests of Toronto Humane Society President Tim Trow, the shelter’s lead veterinarian and three other senior staff. If you’ve been following this story, you’ll know that the OSPCA’s investigation at the shelter has been ongoing for more than 6 months now. Based on our own experiences with the shelter and the recent news broadcasts about the animal cruely within, we can all form our own opinions about what may be happening inside one of the largest shelters in Ontario. Amongst many of my own opinions, one thing that pleases me about this coverage is the “exposure” that the Toronto Humane Society is NOT a part of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The OSPCA runs shelters in most communities in Ontario, and is the governing body for cruelty to animals and animal safety. This province is very fortunate to have such a group, and they are responsible for saving the lives of thousands of animals every year, including those at Toronto Humane Society.
This news story is an ideal example of how a ‘rescue organization’ is not always operating with the good of the animals in mind. Like many organizations, there is the drive to make money, the politics in offices that promote these profits, and the suffering of animals as a result of these profit seekers. Unfortunately, animals are not products, and simply refusing to ‘shop’ at these non-SPCA related rescues will not end their suffering, in fact it will prolong it. So how can we as animal lovers bring an end to money-hungry rescues without denying the animals within them a home?
First of all, support the rescues you do know and love. I am a volunteer with two purebreed rescues, and an advocate of many other purebreed and all-breed rescues. I encourage everyone I know to contribute financially or with their time to these rescues, and as a result these reputable rescues can operate better and place their animals quicker. I am confident in these rescues’ skills and integrity as charity organizations because I see what lengths they are going to to provide good, lasting, ‘forever’ homes for their animals, the extent of fundraising and commitment for veterinary care and the heartfelt decisions made for animals who really do need to be humanely euthanized. They do NOT base their fundraising on low euthanasia rates. nor do they ply you with sad stories of abused animals with horrifying stories – although every rescue sees and cares for such victims regularly. Rather, many reputable rescues and SPCA shelters will show you the practical ways that your contributions can be applied, demonstrate their dedication to the animals, and show you the happy side of adoption.
If you’re planning on adopting from a shelter or rescue group, do your homework, and beware the organization that sends you home with an animal without doing THEIR homework on YOU. If they have a shelter space, visit it several times to ensure that there is consistency of care in a shelter. Every shelter has a back area for animals who are sick in order to prevent spread of infection and quality of care – but if this area is larger than the shelter and seems to be the busiest place in the shelter, combined with a no-kill policy, do some extended community research on the shelter before you adopt. Ask questions first! A shelter or rescue who is wary of answering your questions and tries to avoid them generally has something to hide. Most of the rescues that I work with are more welcoming of potential adopters who ask questions about the animals because it demonstrates a genuine interest in the animal. However, a good adoptions volunteer will never tell you right away that you’ll be getting an animal – and the one who is does belongs to the shelter that should be questioned. Good volunteers with good rescues and shelters always care about where their animals end up – and that decision to allow you to adopt is usually not easily arrived at.
Remember – just because a shelter or rescue group claims to care about animals, always question whether or not there is something else they care about first. Rescues and shelters should be exclusively for and 100% involved in putting animals first.


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