This week's Day Training Extra Credit: Ticks! Not only are they yucky to look at, but they can be a vector for illnesses such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, some of which can also be transmitted to humans! As we venture out into our beautiful outdoor lands more this summer, our dogs may be coming into more contact with these blood-sucking arachnids. Talk with your vet about the safest and most appropriate flea/tick preventatives (don't just buy over the counter as some preparations have been linked to neurologic and other adverse effects) and add a Tick Key to your first aid kits at home and in the car for safe, effective tick removal. Make sure to check your pet after every outdoor adventure so you can find any hitchhikers early- pay special attention to the ears, genital area, between the toes, and under the collar. If you haven't already worked with your dog on becoming comfortable with this kind of handling, ask your trainer for more information! Don't use vaseline or matches to induce a tick to let go of your pet! After you've removed the tick, you can preserve it in a small container of alcohol to take it to the vet, flush it down the toilet, or use it to help scientists track ticks and tick-born disease!
This week's Day Training Extra Credit: Summer Storm Safety! We've already had several severe thunderstorms and tornado watches in the Denver/Metro area this year! Although actual tornado strikes are rare within the city, you should have a severe weather plan that includes your pets! Are they leash, carrier/crate, and muzzle-trained? If not, start now. Even if you don't use crates or muzzles most of the time at home, knowing how to be comfortable with these management tools can be a literal lifesaver during severe weather or other disaster (including wildfires). Put together an emergency kit for you and your pets including food, water, bowls, first aid, documentation, and first aid kit. If you already have an emergency kit, now is the time to check and update- refresh food and water supplies, update vaccination records and medical info, and make sure other supplies are in good shape.
This Week's Day Training Extra Credit: Participate in some awesome canine science! The more we know about dogs, the better job we can do to help them live their best lives with us! Here are two cool studies you can help with from home:
This week's Day Training Extra Credit: Rattlesnake Safety! We're lucky to have such great open spaces in Colorado to enjoy with our dogs, but we have to remember that we share them with native wildlife that isn't always dog friendly. To reduce your dog's risk of rattlesnake bites, keep them close and on leash, consider getting the rattlesnake venom vaccine which may reduce the severity of symptoms if your dog does take a strike, and consider snake avoidance training using positive reinforcement methods. Also find out what emergency vets in your area have rattlesnake antivenin (most don't!) so you know where to go in an emergency.
This week's Day Training Extra Credit: May 7th is National Foster Care Day! Have you ever thought about serving as a foster home for a homeless pet as they find their way to the perfect forever home? Fostering is a great way to make a huge impact even if you're not in a place to adopt a pet. Commitments can be as short as a day or two, or much longer depending on your ability and the rescue's need, and supplies and vet visits are generally fully covered by the rescue. Foster homes receive training and support before and during a foster placement to ensure they have what they need to provide for their temporary guest! And who am I kidding- it's a blast! I won't tell you it's all fun and games, but it's an amazing way to save lives and meet some wonderful souls in the process. If you can't foster, consider volunteering to transport animals between placements so they can safely reach the next stop on their journey. Several Noble Beast trainers and staff are involved in foster and rescue and can help find contacts with reputable rescues if you're looking for a place to start- contact your trainer for more information!
Take the time this week to check all your dog's equipment for safety, fit, and function. Make sure that collars, harnesses, and leashes are snugly fitted and don't rub or cause irritation, have no frayed or chewed sections, and that all buckles, snaps, and fasteners are intact. Check tags to make sure your contact information is still clearly visible and hasn't rubbed off or become obscured. You need to be able to count on this equipment to keep you and your dog safe in an emergency, so make sure it's up to the task. If you have questions about the appropriateness, fit, or safety of a piece of equipment for your dog, your trainer will be happy to help take a look with you.
This week's Day Training Extra Credit: You probably know that your dog has an impressive sense of smell, but did you know you can leverage that special ability to help your dog develop and maintain behavioral wellness? Dogs soothe themselves by engaging in four main species-appropriate behaviors: chewing, licking, shredding, and sniffing. Our toys and activities often focus on chewing, but scientists have found that helping dogs engage in sniffing behavior can actually increase dogs' optimism! This week, use scent to enrich your dog's life by going on a sniffari, playing scent games, or spraying a toy or towel with diluted coconut, vanilla, ginger or valerian scents (never apply scent directly to a dog.) If you find that your dog thrives on scent enrichment, ask your trainer for more information about the sport of nosework, in which dogs find hidden containers with essential oils. It's one of the most accessible dog sports, where dogs with physical disabilities, blindness, deafness, and reactivity can still play happily and safely!
This week's Day Training Extra Credit:
It's Dog Bite Prevention Week! Did you know that 77% of dog bites are from a family or friend's dog? Since we are most likely to be bitten by dogs we know and love, we are also most able to prevent these bites! Brush up on your knowledge of dog body language and stress signals, stay out of risky situations, and learn to ask for consent both before starting to pet and while petting ALL dogs, even your own love bug! Not only could you prevent a dog bite, but you create a real, two-way conversation about interactions that can form the foundation of a richer, more authentic relationship.
This week's Day Training Extra Credit: You probably know a lot about what treats your dog likes best, but did you know that the treat you choose can impact the success of your training? Scientists have studied how our choice of reinforcers affects training success and found that dogs prefer high value rewards (eg cheese) over a large quantity of lower value rewards and that rotating or varying the rewards you choose can help maintain motivation and interest for training. Even if you have a dog who will eat anything that doesn't eat her first, you can add power to your training sessions by taking these factors into account. Take a look at your treat jar this week- have you gotten stuck in a rut with rewards? Consider adding "human" food to the mix- things like cooked chicken, hot dogs, cheese (in moderation), and diced ham are generally very popular and usually even cheaper than products labeled for dogs! If you have to use kibble because of allergies or dietary restrictions, you can increase its value for your dog by soaking it in broth to make it soft and smellier. If you don't already have a treat pouch to hold all this delicious stuff, now is the time! My favorites are the Doggone Good Rapid Rewards (we carry this in the Noble Beast shop!) and Starmark ProTraining Pouch.
Decompression walks: This week take some time to examine how your dog really feels about his walk- is the way your dog walks really promoting his behavioral and physical wellbeing the way you think it should? If you struggle with leash pulling or reactivity on your walks, you might relate to the feeling that walks are a chore rather than a joy. But have you ever thought your dog might have the same idea? Often the way we walk dogs (on relatively short leashes attached to collars, in straight lines on concrete) doesn't do much to mimic the exercise and stimulation they would choose as free roaming animals. To make matters worse, we've been told all sorts of things about "providing leadership" to our dogs by choosing the direction and time of our walk and making sure they get a specified amount of exercise on walks. In reality, almost no dog can get appropriate amounts of physical exercise on leash walks, but they can get valuable enrichment and sensory stimulation by making the most of our walks to mimic what their brains and bodies are built to do. Enter the decompression walk! These walks aim to encourage sniffing, more natural movement, and focus on behavioral effects of walking. The general rule of thumb is that a decompression walk lasts twice as long as it takes the dog to settle- so if the dog is wild for the first 30 minutes of the walk, then you walk an additional 30 minutes after they settle. Check out these podcasts answering more questions about decompression walks here and here