New Light on Ancient Dogs

From Texas, by way of researchers at the University of Maine in the U.S., comes a story that sheds light on the oldest known domesticated dog in the Americas.  According to their research, the oldest domesticated dog in the Americas weighed about 30 pounds and lived 9,400 years ago.  Bone fragments from the dog were found when the researchers were studying the diet of people from that time who lived in the Lower Pecos region of Texas.

That’s right.  The dog was on the menu.  However, it seems that the dog had been well-cared for prior to being eaten.  Which only points out that there is much we still don’t know about the complex role dogs played in our early relationship with them.  They were companions, protectors, they helped in hunting with us, and, at times, they were a source of food.

The bone fragment discovered closely matches that of a short-nosed Native American dog from New Mexico.  DNA analysis proves that the bone comes from a dog and not from a wolf, coyote, or fox.  The DNA is closely related to a Peruvian dog species.

However, dogs in the New World did not originate in Peru.  Instead, they crossed the Bering land bridge near Alaska from Eurasia when people began to migrate into North America, probably 10-15,000 years ago.  They made their way down the continents with humans.

There are dog fossil finds in Europe and Asia which are much older.  A cave in Belgium has yielded a dog fossil that is estimated to be over 30,000 years old.  Fossils have been found in Israel and China which are over 15,000 years old.

It is believed that dogs were probably consumed during times of extreme desperation or as part of religious celebrations.

The paper “Genetic Structure of the Purebred Domestic Dog” in the journal Science identified the following breeds as the oldest dogs, genetically:

Current scientific evidence suggests that wolves were originally domesticated in southeast Asia and spread from there as humans moved.  Other scientists believe that wolves were domesticated at different places, at different times.

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Should Your Dog Use A Harness?

Dogs have worn dog collars for hundreds, even thousands of years.  You can find paintings of dogs wearing collars on the walls of pharaoh’s tombs in Egypt.  For most dogs wearing a collar is no hardship.  They take to walking on a collar and leash, or training in a collar without any difficulty.  However, for some dogs a collar can present a problem.

If you have a Toy or small breed, especially a dog that pulls against the collar a lot, then in some cases your dog can injure his throat.  There is a condition called tracheal collapse that occurs in small dogs such as Yorkshire Terriers and Pomeranians. It’s caused by a progressive weakening of the tracheal rings in the walls of the dog’s neck.

Classic symptoms of tracheal collapse include a goose honking cough, coughing that gets worse during hot weather or when the dog is excited or during exercise, fainting spells because the dog’s oxygen is cut off, and the dog’s inability to tolerate exercise.

Using a harness instead of a collar for these small dogs can keep your dog from putting extra pressure on his trachea.  This can keep the trachea from collapsing or weakening any further.

Of course, some owners like to use a harness on medium and large dogs, too. If you are a small person and you have a large dog, then using a harness may allow you to have a little more control over your dog.  But you won’t usually have to worry about tracheal collapse in larger dogs.

Again, most dogs will get along just fine in a normal dog collar and there’s no particular reason not to use a comfortable collar for your dog in most cases.  But if you have a Toy or small dog then you may want to consider using a harness to prevent tracheal collapse.

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How To Prevent Resource Guarding

Mixed breeds, pedigree dogs, any dog can resort to resource guarding.  In fact, guarding prized possessions is a normal dog behavior.  Any dog can have a bone or a toy that they cherish.  It’s not unusual for dogs to guard certain items in order to keep them safe from other dogs.  However, this kind of behavior can become a problem if your dog doesn’t recognise that you, the owner, need to have access to anything he or she has.  If your dog growls at you or offers to snap or bite at you when you try to take something from him, you have a problem.

One way to prevent resource guarding right from the start is to teach a puppy that you will always give him something better when you take something from him.  This is called “trading” or “trading up” in dog training terms.  You can also teach this concept to an adult dog, though it may take a little more work if your dog has already started guarding things.

In order to make a trade with your dog, you can use a couple of objects such as wooden spoons.  Keep one of them plain and load the other one up with peanut butter or something tasty that a puppy will love.  Then, offer the plain object to your puppy to sniff and mouth.  When your puppy is checking out the object, ask him, “Want to trade?”  Switch the plain spoon for the spoon loaded with peanut butter.  Your puppy should be happy to make the trade!  While your puppy is licking the peanut butter off the spoon, you should load up the plain spoon with peanut butter.  Once your puppy has cleaned off the peanut butter from his spoon, you should ask, “Want to trade?” and switch his licked spoon for the spoon you have just loaded up with peanut butter.  Again, your puppy should be happy to make the trade.  If you keep doing this a few times, your puppy should associate the phrase “Want to trade?” with getting something good.  You can practice making this exchange with other items.  Just be sure that you are always offering your puppy or dog something that is better than the item he is guarding.

If your puppy or dog learns that you will always give him something better than what he has, you shouldn’t have any problem with being able to take things away from him when necessary. 

This lesson is based on trust.  Your puppy or dog has to learn to trust that you will follow through and give him something good, so you have to live up to your part of the bargain.  Don’t offer to trade with your puppy or dog unless you are really going to give him something good.  If you make good trades with your puppy or dog, trading usually works very well and it’s a good way to prevent resource guarding.

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Tips for Choosing a Good Dog Trainer

Dog owners are usually eager to meet their dogs’ needs.  They want to provide good food, a comfy place to sleep (sometimes even their own bed), great toys, treats, and to spend quality time with their dogs.  However, sometimes owners don’t realise that dogs also need training.  Dogs that have good training are actually happier dogs than those dogs which are never taught how to behave properly.  A dog wants to know how to please you, and training can deepen the bond that the two of you share.

Training your dog can be a bit overwhelming if you’ve never trained a dog before so it’s often a good idea to take a training class or to find a private dog trainer much like our animal behaviourists at Dogs Den!

But, how do you know if you’re dealing with a good trainer?  Here are some tips to help you choose a good dog trainer or if all else fails, give us a call on +44 7921 171 140 for a free consultation.

1.  Look for a dog trainer with good qualifications.  While there are no legal requirements for becoming a dog trainer in the UK, you can look for someone who has a diploma in Canine Psychology, Animal Behaviour or Accreditation for Dog Training and Behaviour.  There is also a British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers. Local authorities can also grant business licenses to obedience trainers.  Anyone conducting classes should have the necessary insurance to cover possible accidents.

Just as important as professional licensing, however, is the trainer’s experience.  Look for someone who has actual experience training dogs.  You want to learn from someone who has a background in caring for dogs and who understands their psychology and behaviour.  It isn’t necessary to choose the oldest dog trainer you can find, but you do want to choose someone who has relevant experience.

Kennel clubs and animal shelters may offer dog training classes by very experienced non-professionals.  You can also learn a great deal in these situations as long as the groups do have the necessary insurance in case of any accidents.  When working with dogs it’s always possible that someone could be bitten.

2.  Choose a dog trainer who is likable and able to listen.  It does no good to choose a dog trainer who is all talk and who never listens to the students. You may have questions and you need to have them answered.  You will learn more from someone you like and respect than from someone you merely tolerate.  The best dog trainers have great communication skills with both people and dogs.

3.  Choose a dog trainer who can give you personal attention. This means that you should look for smaller classes, or even a dog trainer who can make a home visit to work with your dog.  In a large class you and your dog may get lost in the pack.  In order to really make progress you need to receive a good share of personal attention from your trainer. If a class has more than about six to eight students and their dogs, you and your dog probably won’t learn very much.

4.  Choose a dog trainer who believes in positive reinforcement.  Positive reinforcement is a training method which emphasises the good things that your dog does.  It does not punish the dog when he makes a mistake.  For example, if you ask your dog to sit and he lies down, you would ignore the behavior.  Instead, you would get him on his feet again and ask him to sit.  When he sits, you would praise him and give him a treat.  Positive reinforcement works with praise and rewards instead of punishment.  Clicker training is a form of positive reinforcement.  Many people believe that dogs learn better when they are positively motivated.  There are many good dog trainers using positive reinforcement methods so you should not have any trouble finding one who trains in this way.

5.  Choose a dog trainer who is flexible and able to provide a home service.  Some dogs learn better in a home setting.  It’s also possible that you may work odd hours, or you can’t train when your trainer normally holds classes.  Try to find a dog trainer who is flexible and willing to come to your home to teach a private class.  You can expect to pay more for this service but there are many trainers who will be willing to work with you.

If you use these guidelines you should be able to find a great dog trainer who can help you and your dog achieve training success.  Start looking for a dog trainer and there should be some trainers in your area who are suitable.

If you are located in South West London, why not give Dogs Den a call…We hope to hear from you!

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Should Your Dog Be Sleeping In Your Bed?

We have long known that contact with pets can have wonderful benefits in our lives.  There are studies that show that people with pets live longer, recover from illnesses faster, have lower blood pressure, help our hearts, and pets can help people with things like depression.  But now comes a study from the U.S. suggesting that if you allow your pet to sleep in your bed it could increase your chances of becoming ill.  Could that possibly be true?

According to the study, conducted by Drs. Bruno Chomel, a professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, and Ben Sun, chief veterinarian for California’s Department of Health, most U.S. households have pets, and more than half of those cats and dogs sleep in their owners’ beds.  The authors are experts in zoonoses, or diseases which can be transmitted from animals to humans.  They say that while it is very rare that something can be transmitted from a pet to their owner, it is sometimes a possibility.

“We wanted to raise the attention of people, as sleeping with a pet is becoming quite common, and there are risks associated with it, even if it is not very frequent,” Chomel told AOL News. “But when it occurs, especially in children or immunocompromised people, it can be very severe.”

The authors mention such possibilities for life-threatening infections as the plague (yeah, really, talk about rare), internal parasites, and other things.

In the U.S., according to surveys, about 56 percent of dog owners say that their dogs sleep in their beds.  Most of these dogs are small dogs, but 41 percent are medium-sized dogs, and one-third are large dogs.  According to the American Kennel Club, women are more likely than men to have their dogs sleep in their bed.

According to the authors, cats are even more likely to carry diseases than dogs and their diseases can be more serious.  Plus, more cats are sleeping in their owners’ beds.

The authors cite the following cases of health problems from allowing pets to sleep in your bed:

  • A 9-year-old boy from Arizona got the plague because he slept with his flea-infested cat.
  • A 48-year-old man and his wife repeatedly contracted MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), which their physicians eventually attributed to their dog. The animal “routinely slept in their bed and frequently licked their face,” the California experts reported.
  • Kissing pets can also transmit zoonoses. A Japanese woman contacted meningitis after kissing her pet’s face.
  • A 44-year-old man died of infection after his German shepherd puppy licked open abrasions on his hands.

Your pet’s food can also be a source of disease. A study published last August in the journal Pediatrics tracked an outbreak of salmonella in 79 people between 2006 and 2008 that was caused by contaminated meat in dry cat and dog food.

This seems like very flimsy evidence to me.  Based on a relative few cases in the entire world, these experts are going to suggest that millions of people stop letting their pets sleep with them?

The researchers point out that fleas are one of the biggest concerns.  Your pet can pass them to you, and the fleas can spread disease.  Your dog may also enjoy eating or rolling in something foul or dead, which it passes back to you.  If there are diseases present, you can be infected.

I doubt that people are going to stop allowing their pets to sleep in their beds.  I know that I won’t be deterred.   However, if you are concerned about diseases that could be transmitted by your pet, there are some precautions you can take:

  • Young people and people with a compromised immune system should use caution in sharing their bed with a pet or in regularly kissing pets.
  • Any area licked by a pet, especially an open wound, should be immediately washed with soap and water.
  • Pets must be kept free of parasites, especially fleas.  You should regularly de-worm your pets and they should be examined by a vet on an annual basis.
  • Puppies should be given preventive measures for flatworms and drugs for tapeworms and other parasites in the first few weeks of life.  Their mothers should be wormed during pregnancy.

Most of the concerns about contracting a disease from your pet can be eliminated if you keep your pet free of parasites and up-to-date in terms of good veterinary care.

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To Spay or Neuter? That Is The Question

According to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, there are about seven million dogs in the UK.  It’s estimated that around 100,000 dogs are taken in by rescues each year, and some 400 are put to sleep each week.  These are unwanted dogs.  However, not all of them are puppies.  Many of the dogs found in rescue centres are turned in by owners who cannot keep them any longer.  Getting the wrong dog for your lifestyle, or getting a dog on impulse often leads to a dog being turned in to a shelter.

If you are getting a puppy or if you have an intact older dog you may be considering having your dog spayed or neutered.  Spaying or neutering is a good way to make certain that your dog never produces any unwanted puppies.  Most pets will benefit from spaying and neutering.  There are some well-known benefits to these procedures:

1. Your dog will not be sexually active.

2. Your male dog will have a very low risk of prostate and testicular cancers.

3. Female dogs will have a very low risk of pyometra, uterine, mammary, and ovarian cancers.

4. Male dogs are much less likely to urine mark in the home.

5. Male aggression is usually lessened.

6. Mounting behaviour usually stops.

On the other hand, having your dog spayed or neutered should never be undertaken lightly.  These procedures are operations, and spaying is an ovario-hysterectomy which removes your dog’s uterus and ovaries.  This is a serious operation.  There are risks involved, even though they are relatively small.  There are health benefits to keeping your dog intact which you should also consider before having your dog spayed or neutered:

According to the American College of Theriogenologists, these canine reproductive specialists cite the following health benefits of keeping your dogs intact:

1.       There is a decreased incidence of hemangiosarcoma in intact dogs.

2.       There is a decreased incidence of osteosarcoma in intact dogs.

3.       There is a decreased risk of transitional cell carcinoma in intact dogs.

4.       There is a decreased risk of prostatic adenocarcinoma in intact male dogs compared to gonadectomized male dogs.

5.       There is a decreased incidence of obesity in intact dogs, which may be due at least partly to increased metabolic rate.

6.       There is a decreased incidence of urinary incontinence in intact female dogs (equivocal if bitches are spayed after 5 months but before their first heat).

7.       There may be a reduced incidence of urinary tract infection in intact female dogs.

8.       There may be a reduced incidence of autoimmune thyroiditis and hypothyroidism in intact dogs.

9.   There is a possibly reduced incidence in diabetes mellitus in intact male dogs.

10.   There is a reduced incidence of cranial cruciate rupture in intact dogs.

11.   There may be a reduced incidence of hip dysplasia in that are not gonadectomized before 5 months of age.

These health findings are important to consider.  You should be particularly wary of spaying or neutering your dog early.  Health risks are nearly always increased in dogs that are spayed at a young age.  In the United States some dogs are being spayed and neutered as young as six to eight weeks old!  This is not common in the UK but the RSPCA does follow this practice at some rescue centres.

Most vets in the UK recommend spaying and neutering dogs between 6 and 16 months old.  It is usually best to wait until a dog’s growth plates have closed before spaying and neutering.  The sexual hormones estrogen and testosterone play a role in helping your dog’s bones grow properly so dogs that are spayed and neutered at a young age may have health problems related to a lack of these hormones during their growth.  Waiting until your dog is at least a year old cuts down on the risk of many possible health problems later in life, including many kinds of cancer.

Most pets do benefit from being spayed and neutered as long as they are past a year old when the procedure is done and they have achieved their adult growth.

You can keep your pet from putting on pounds following spaying or neutering by watching how much you feed your dog and making sure that s/he is still getting plenty of regular exercise.

You should always consider your dog’s overall health, breed, age, and other factors before opting for any surgery.  Talk to your veterinarian and then decide.  That’s the responsible thing to do.

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Taking Your Dog On Holiday

Many people like the idea of taking their dog on holiday but they may not realise all that’s involved when it comes to actually bringing their dog along with them.  Owners can get very stressed when they have their dogs with them, especially if they have not prepared in advance.  If you are considering taking your dog on holiday with you, there are some important things you need to know before you make those reservations.

Socialisation

Before you take your dog on holiday with you, it is best if your dog has some good socialisation.  The dogs who enjoy holidays with their owners the most are those dogs who are happy and excited about going places and meeting people.  If your dog typically runs for the car when you pick up your keys and wags his tail when he sees new people. then he is probably a good candidate for taking a holiday with you.  On the other hand, if your dog tends to hide when it’s time to travel, or ducks his head when meeting people, you may want to reconsider taking him on a trip.  He may not enjoy going on holiday.  Try to be honest about whether your dog will genuinely have a good time on your trip or just cause you more headache than it’s worth.  On any holiday there will likely be many new and exciting things to see and do.  Many dogs will love this kind of adventure but some will not.  If your dog is one of the dogs that will not enjoy such a trip, it’s best not to force him to do something he won’t like.

You can improve your dog’s socialisation, especially at a young age, by taking him places where dogs are welcome and letting him get used to new sights and new people.  Invite friendly strangers to pet your dog and give him treats.  Take your dog to the park and to other places where dogs are welcome.  If you work on your dog’s socialisation you may be able to help him enjoy going places and meeting people more.

Training

If you’re planning on taking your dog on holiday it’s a good idea if your dog has at least some basic obedience training.  You and your dog will be more comfortable in strange surroundings if you are confident that your dog will obey some simple commands such as coming when called, sit, stay, and so on.  If your dog simply walks calmly on a loose leash it will make your holiday much more relaxed and enjoyable.  The last thing you want to do in an unfamiliar city is have to search for your missing dog because he has yanked the lead out of your hands!  So, it’s a good idea to practice some basic obedience lessons with your dog before you go on holiday, or enroll in a basic obedience course for a few weeks.

Preparations

When planning for a holiday people often spend a great deal of time buying clothes, packing, making reservations, and so forth, but they forget to make preparations for their dog!  No matter how you’re planning to travel, make sure that you have made the necessary preparations for your dog.  If you are going by plane, train or some other conveyance, your dog may need a reservation.  Be sure to check.  Does he need a Pet Passport?  Is your dog up-to-date on his vaccinations?  Do you have his paperwork if you are asked to show it?

When making preparations for your dog you should remember to take his food with you, if possible. If it’s not possible for you to carry food with you, you will need to purchase the same brand once you arrive.  Changing your dog’s food during a trip will almost certainly lead to a bad stomach upset and diarrhea — something no one wants to deal with on holiday.  If you are traveling by car you should take water with you for your dog.  Bottled water is a good choice as it will not upset your dog’s stomach.  You should also take your dog’s bed and some toys.  Even if you are flying you should try to take a blanket or towel from home so your dog will feel more secure, and a couple of his favorite toys.

If you are flying you will need to check with the airline about pet carriers and their regulations for flying.  Airlines must be very particular these days and you will need to follow their regulations exactly.

Be sure you bring collars and leads for your dog.  It’s a good idea to bring extras in case one breaks.  And, of course, your dog should be wearing identification when he is on holiday.  This can be a tremendous help in case your dog gets lost.

New Surroundings

Once you and your dog have arrived at your destination you will need to take stock of your new surroundings.  No doubt you’ll be happy to have arrived but before you allow your dog to fully explore things, you will need to check the area to be sure that it is safe for your dog. This means that you will need to “doggy-proof” the room, house, or yard.  Your own home is probably doggy-proofed to some degree and you will need to do the same thing to your new place.  Check the rooms for things that your dog could eat which would be harmful to him, or which he could destroy, such as remote controls, bars of soap, and other small objects.  Make sure that electrical cords are tucked away so your dog can’t chew on them.  Make sure windows are closed so your dog cannot escape through them.  Consider putting away art objects, which could be broken by the wagging of a dog’s tail.  In short, try to look at the room through your dog’s eyes and put away things that could be broken or eaten.  You should do the same thing if you have a yard where your dog will be spending time.

You should also check your rooms to see if there is anything potentially frightening to your dog.  Are there any scary light fixtures?  Is there anything in the bathroom that could frighten him?  Is there anything at all in your rooms that is strange or unfamiliar to your dog?  If there is, you should take time to carefully introduce it to your dog so he will not be frightened or alarmed by it.  You will need to do the same thing if you have a garden that your dog will be using.

Most dogs will adapt very well to these new surroundings but there can always be something unexpected that could cause your dog to essentially freak out.

Unexpected behaviours

Dogs on holiday can sometimes exhibit unexpected behaviours.  They are in a new environment and they don’t always behave the way they do at home.  Sometimes they may be absolutely naughty.  For instance, if you are staying in a hotel or an inn, your dog may decide to bark when he hears strange noises such as people in the hallway or (heaven forbid!) another dog.  It can be very frustrating to have your dog start barking when you’re in the room with him but when he’s on holiday your dog is wound up and excited.  His nerves are keyed up.  He may be having a wonderful time but he is not relaxed as he is at home.  If he hears a strange noise or notices that there is a strange dog nearby, he may over-react.

The best thing you can do in this situation is try to distract your dog to get him to relax.  Try taking him for a walk.  Your dog is probably not getting his normal exercise when he’s on holiday so a good walk to tire him out a bit can help to relieve a little tension and provide an outlet for his energy.

Dogs on holiday may also forget their house training to some extent.  This is usually due to the fact that their schedule is off-kilter and they are very excited by the things happening around them.  If your dog gives you a signal that he needs to relieve himself you should assume that he needs to go immediately.  Stop what you’re doing and take him out right away.  Otherwise you may have some clean-up to do in your rooms.  Be sure to take your dog out first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

Your dog may also temporarily stop eating while he is on holiday.  This happens with some dogs.  Again, your dog is very excited to be on holiday.  Your dog can usually miss a couple of meals without it doing him any harm.  After that you may need to try to tempt him to eat with some of his favorite foods.  Most dogs actually eat more than their owners think.  They may nibble at their food without eating an entire meal.  If your dog is skipping meals but eating cookies or biscuits he is probably getting enough to eat for the short term.  His appetite will return when he’s home again.

When you are out walking your dog, your dog on holiday may become very feisty or he may seem shyer than usual.  Holidays tend to bring out new sides to a dog’s temperament, especially when they are interacting with other dogs.  Remember to keep your dog leashed next to you.  You should always approach other leashed dogs with friendly caution.  Do not assume that other leashed dogs will welcome your dog jumping on them or getting in their face, even if you have a small dog.  Stay away from unleashed dogs completely.  There is no one to control how they behave.

Summary

It may seem as though there are lots of do’s and don’ts about taking your dog on holiday but it’s actually lots of fun to travel with your dog.  Most dogs love to go on holiday with their owners.  And, once you, as an owner, consider a few basic suggestions, taking your dog on holiday is not really very difficult. Just remember:

  • Do socialise your dog
  • Do teach your dog some basic obedience
  • Do plan ahead with reservations, vaccinations, identification, dog food, and pet passports
  • Do dog proof your new surroundings
  • Do make allowances for any unexpected behaviour when you and your dog are on holiday

If you keep these things in mind, then you and your dog should have a wonderful holiday!  Have a safe trip and have fun too!

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