Poison Oak and Your Four Legged Friend

I believed for years that dogs were immune to poison oak, but guess what, this isn’t true! Dogs’ fur protects them pretty well from getting poison oak but those with very fine coats, relatively hairless bellies, or just plain sensitive skin are susceptible.

Poison_oakIn addition to rover getting poison oak from crashing around through the brush, you can catch it from the oils on his fur.  If your dog is off-roading through the bushes it’s a good idea to pack damp towels and Tecnu® soap and a pair of rubber gloves to wipe him down with before you need to handle him or let him into the car. Once you get home (or to Pet Food Express where you can rent a bathing station for $15), you can use Dawn dishwashing soap to remove any remaining poison oak oil from your dog’s coat. It is probably a lot cheaper than Tecnu® and you may want to use it as a secondary line of defense depending on how sensitive you are to poison oak.

You can choose to keep your dog with you on fire roads, avoid a lot of the brushy wooded areas and avoid a lot of labor, but this of course is up to you.

Remember if your dog does get poison oak, it will look bumpy.  The dog will be itchy and will probably need to go to the vet for steroids and antibiotics (if they scratch, they can introduce bacteria into the skin causing an infection along with the poison oak rash).

Click here for more information on the four seasons of poision oak from the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

Make Training Fun for You and for Your Dog & You’ll be Much More Likely To Do It

While there is value in obedience drills, there is also the potential for fatigue and boredom. So look for ways to engage your dog’s brain and yours by finding ways to make training fun.

Try teaching some agility. Running around over the obstacles once the dog learns them is great fun – there’s nothing better than having fun with someone you love.

If your dog loves to play ball buy a tennis ball clip, put a ball in it, throw the ball for him as soon as his tummy touches the ground on a down. It will change the way he looks at down and at working altogether.

Throw a squeaker in your pocket and when he’s distracted; squeak it when he focuses on you and slip him a treat. Wow! Who is this interesting person I am working with?!

Playing_ballWhen teaching fetch, I don’t initially make the dog drop the ball into my hand every time. I may jostle it in their mouth or act as though they are winning tug of war. I want them to be happy to play with me, of course I’m usually teaching this to young puppies but many of these principles apply with adult dogs too.

If fetch or tug aren’t your dog’s thing, maybe chase is.  When your dog performs a stay, release her and run with her

Teach a couple of tricks like find the treat, find the ball, or bang! you’re dead. Change things up. Try rally obedience.  Use a wading pool and teach your water dog to find the toy or scent article you put in the pool.

If they love to play with the spray from the hose, use that to teach them to stop, and down and stay while you are running the water then release them to chase and bite the water. You can figure out some way to turn training into play. Try to add some play into your training sessions each time you work.

One of my favorite things that I got to do when I first started my business was handle and play with puppies. You can teach in short bursts while still having a great fun

Practice and discipline will help you build a strong bond. Sharing fun times together will too!

Ugh Ticks!

…disease-bearing, blood-sucking creepy creatures. Believe it or not they have an active season. They are out in force from the first rain in fall and are more prevalent during warm, wet conditions.

Ticks carry a number of diseases including, but not limited to, Lyme Disease, Ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Your dog can catch these diseases and you and your family can too.

These days as I hike with the crew, Frontline or Advantix are not enough to keep ticks off . The darnn things are digging in in spite of these topical anti-tick medicines. I add a tick preventative collar and a drop or two of terra shield essential oil to discourage the nasty beasties. I use the essential oil on myself as well as on the dogs.

I have  seen a significant reduction in the number of eight legged hitchhikers since I began using  preventive collars. This is good because no matter how hard we try to get all of them off they are extremely difficult to find and are very good at hiding.

If you too are finding ticks on your four legged friends try a collar designed specifically to address ticks. There are some relatively new oral medications which target ticks and control fleas. I have not used them, but some of my clients have and report good success.

Many people think that ticks are in brush and trees and while this is true, they are also very prevalent in grassy areas so avoiding brush won’t (unfortunately) keep you or your dog tick free.

I spray my clothing with Off! Deep Woods Insect Repellent or some other deet-laden repellant, tie my hair back and wear a cap, but that doesn’t keep the ticks from getting on me if they decide the dogs aren’t such a tasty feast. If possible, after I have combed the dogs thoroughly, I shower and change clothes. If I don’t have time for all that I step into my bath tub, remove and shake out my clothes & brush my hair. If any ticks are dislodged I will see them on the white porcelain and dispose of them.

First aid: If your dog has a tick embedded use your fingers or a box style paper clip (clip the clip to the tick) and unscrew the little bugger counter-clockwise. Some vets will tell you to pull them straight out and that unscrewing them is an old wives tale. I can’t vouch for old wives, but I know the counter-clockwise method of tick removal is the one I have been using successfully for 30+ years.

Of course always wash your hands after handling ticks!

Happy and tick-free hiking!

Foxtails and Hoodies

In May the grass is well on its way from green to gold. Along with the color change come the stickers: foxtails, filaree, oats, bronco grass, and even comparably innocuous rye grass has stickers that can be dangerous for your pet. As you have no doubt noticed on your own hikes these pesky stickers can cause a worlDaycare_0209d of misery. They get into your running shoes or hiking boots, work their way into your socks, and even work their way up your pant legs

I used to think that if I just kept the group all leashed I could keep their noses and ears sticker-free but I realized rather quickly that in reality all it takes is one wrong sniff or an inside-out ear and off we go to the vet. To prevent this, one of my clients has come up with an ingenious device:  it’s a hoodie to keep foxtails out of ears, eyes and noses. It also protects dogs from scratched corneas when running through tall grass and yay it helps prevent their wantonly ingesting the nasty stuff they find on the trail.

The dogs in my care wear their hoods every day during sticker season. They are able to pick up a ball or a stick with their hoodies on. They can pant freely to cool off and can drink water with their hoods on. I am so grateful for this well thought out tool!

These hoodies are available at www.foxtailfree.com.

Rattlesnake Avoidance

Rattlesnake avoidance training is just one of the clinics and services we offer to help keep your dog safe on the trail.  Natural Solutions does an impressive job using live, muzzled, wild rattlesnakes and electronic collars which teaches your dog in the gentlest way possible to stay away from rattlesnakes on the trail and in your yard or campsite. One of the nice side benefits is that your dog will alert you to the presence of rattlesnakes and allow you to avoid the snake! I have been very impressed as the dogs in my hiking group (who have all received the rattlesnake avoidance training) consistently come away from snakes and directly to me. This training takes about 1/2  an hour and it is good to refresh it at least once a year.

For more information about the Rattlesnake Avoidance Clinic, click here.

In the picture below, Niki is avoiding a rattlesnake by putting the trainer between her and the muzzled rattlesnake.


Effective Teamwork

Ellie_Liesl_TrainingEveryone focuses on what is wrong with the performance of their dog…it’s human nature. That said, one of the most important skills we can build in order to have effective teamwork with our dog is being able to see what’s right and encourage that behavior. When we work in a non-distracting environment with them it allows us to build a good relationship by focusing on and encouraging the positive. When you have a positive relationship with your dog it goes a long way towards creating the attitude and behavior you want.

Conversely, dogs that aren’t worked in a situation where praise and encouragement are used, often start to feed on negative reactions from their handlers, much like children who don’t receive enough attention get into mischief in order to get some type of reaction from their parents.

Many dogs, especially the ones with confidence issues, tend to become even more fearful when an owner corrects and doesn’t give them good praise support and encouragement. Cultivating a positive obedience relationship with your dog with little to no distractions is key in creating this positive, trusting working relationship. I strongly suggest spending time one-on-one with your dog for 10 minutes at a time at least 2 to 3 times a day.