You might be wondering, "What is giardia?" Or maybe you've had the misfortune of watching your dog suffer through vomit and diarrhea caused by this nasty parasite. If you want to get the official scoop on what giardia is all about, I recommend visiting the Center for Disease Control's website at http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/giardia/ It's written in relation to giardia in humans, but it's still a great resource.
The general explanation on the CDC's website is:
Giardiasis is a diarrheal illness caused by a microscopic parasite called Giardia intestinalis (also known as Giardia lamblia or Giardia duodenalis). The parasite is found on surfaces or in soil, food, or water that has been contaminated with feces (poop) from infected humans or animals. People [or dogs] can become infected after accidentally swallowing the Giardia parasite.
Dogs ingest the parasite most commonly from contaminated water or by licking their paws after walking over contaminated surfaces. The biggest symptoms of giardia are:
- Loss of interest in food
- Weight loss
If you suspect your dog could have been exposed to the parasite and he displays these symptoms, please contact your vet immediately.
How can you prevent your dog from contracting giardia?
1. Don't let her drink water from puddles outside. In the winter giardia becomes much more common in cities where it snows. Poop that is left on the ground gets covered by the snow, the snow melts creating a puddle filled with poop, and your dog drinks from it. ICK!
2. Practice good hygiene for your dog. When you return inside, wipe your puppy's paws and backside with wipes right away. If you clean your dog before he has the chance to lick off the bacteria, you can help keep him from ingesting the parasite.
3. Keep in mind that humans can also be infected with giardia. After wiping down your pup, be sure to wash your hands and/or use an antibacterial wipe or lotion.
4. Continue your dog's heartworm preventative year-round (i.e. Interceptor or Heartgard). Although we think of this medicine to be solely intended for heartworms, it actually helps guard against many other parasites. Just because the cold weather scares away the mosquitoes who transmit heartworms, there are still other parasites that survive winter.
Sandra, Sam and I are diligent about keeping the dogs we walk from having an opportunity to explore areas that could be breeding grounds for poop, and we do our best to keep our four-legged clients clean so that they remain healthy. But don't forget to let your dog be a dog! He can't live in a bubble, but you don't have to make it extra simple for him to eat poop and drink from poopy puddles :-)
Please forward this blog to every dog owner you know...giardia is serious and I've found that very few dog owners know about it.
Besides teaching your dog to sit patiently in one place, the most important cue is to get him to look at you with a cue word. If you properly associate a cue like "Watch Me" with your dog giving you his attention, you will be able to win the "battle" against distractions all the time.
Start by having your dog sit indoors with you standing in front of him. Watch for his gaze to shift upward toward you. EVERY time he begins to look up at you, say something like "Watch Me" followed by "Good boy" and a treat. After some practice you should move this exercise outside, and eventually you will be able to remove the actual treat from the steps.
The end result should look like...
Earlier this week, I had a nasty bike accident that ultimately required me to make a visit to the hospital. It happened at the beginning of my day, and I was in quite a bit of pain. BUT each dog I visited helped to keep me smiling through it all. I feel so blessed to spend the majority of every day with dogs, and I truly am a happier more positive person because of it.
As an example, here's a video of Olly "singing" at a passing ambulance. A few minutes earlier two amublances went by and Olly sang even better, but I didn't have my camera ready. As soon as I saw another ambulance approaching, I knew I had to capture it to share with everyone. I hope it makes you smile as much as it made me smile :)
Since I've caught myself saying the same thing to a few of my clients this week, I thought I would just put it in writing for the world to "hear".
Why do my clients (aka dogs) often behave better for me than for their owners? Simply because I do not take it personally if they misbehave - I don't have to worry about admitting ownership for a crazy dog. If one of my dog clients barks at something or someone, I can simply say, "Sorry, it's not my dog. I'm working on it with him though." If one of my dog clients growls at another dog, I can reply by saying, "Oops. Guess he doesn't like your dog. Maybe she should have brushed her teeth today."
My point is this: when your dog misbehaves you should definitely reprimand him for it, but you do not need to go overboard to prove to everyone that you do not condone his behavior, and you do not need to apologize excessively. When you apologize you use a weak tone that reinforces for your dog that he was correct to be on guard because you felt weak. If you respond in a relaxed way you exude a confidence that will help properly reassure an axious dog or remind your dominant dog that you are always in control - keep it fun...it's okay to make jokes like "Guess I should take their second date off our calendar?". If you can get everyone laughing, the tension will quickly subside and all dogs and owners will immediately feel more at ease.
If your dog's behavior is so bad that you're embarrassed to walk down the street, then let me take your dog for a walk. I guarantee that after consistent walks with me, your dog will modify his behavior and you will gain more confidence to walk your own dog. Don't take my word for it though, click here to check out what one of my clients wrote on Yelp :-)
In the spirit of last week's Kentucky Derby, I thought I would impart some of my horse training knowledge as I feel it applies to dogs. Very often people on the street comment on how Gatsby reminds them of a racehorse, and today on our walk someone commented, "your dog looks like a very powerful thoroughbred." Of course that flatters me since I admittedly do treat Gatsby more like a horse than a dog sometimes.
For example, most dog handlers lead dogs from the right side (dog on the left of the handler), but I typically walk Gatsby from the left side (Gatsby on my right side) - this is the side from which you lead a horse. I "click" and "kiss" to Gatsby on our runs to ask for a change in gait - kiss equals canter and click equals trot. When I walk Gatsby with his head collar, instead of keeping the leash in between us, I actually have it lay across his back so it turns his head away from me instead of toward me - in horse training this is similar to riding with the outside or indirect rein.
One horse training method that is shared by most disciplines of riding is commonly referred to as "join up" (made popular by Monty Roberts aka the horse whisperer), and I realized today that this is actually the theory that has helped me train Gatsby to ignore distractions and focus on me even when he is off leash at the park. The general idea behind "join up" is that you create a bond / relationship with the horse that makes them want to follow you wherever you go, makes it possible to lead your horse without being physically attached or encourages them to come galloping to the gate to greet you. I won't go into all the details as I'm sure you can find plenty of information via a quick Google search.
How does this apply to your dog and relate to the title of this blog? Gatsby and I play a game at the park, on the beach and other places where there are plenty of distractions. I place Gatsby in a "sit" "wait" (my version of stay), and then I proceed to walk away from Gatsby repeating "wait" over my shoulder every few yards. People in the area are always amazed at how well Gatsby remains seated and focused on me regardless of how far away I get or how many distractions are around him. Gatsby will hold this position until I give his release command, "ok," and then he comes sprinting like a racehorse out of the starting gate to catch me. Sometimes I get as far as 100 yards away before I release him, and all that time he sits poised and focused on waiting to be invited to come greet me.
We have turned this into a fun game and because I have always rewarded Gatsby with tons of praise, rubs and occasional treats, he gets excited to come "fetch" me. In this game we have replaced the stick or the ball with yours truly, and it's quite a strong testament to the bond Gatsby and I have formed. This bond also allows me to maintain Gatsby's attention on leash when I need him to heel or ignore something that I know is very tempting to him.
Build the bond with your dog by making visits to the park fun, and keep your attention on your dog when you go for a walk; I promise that your dog will reward you with greater focus and attention to your requests. Start by:
- Turning off your cell phone and interacting with your dog instead.
- Playing hide and seek.
- Climbing a tree to see if your dog will wait at the bottom for you.
- Racing your dog from one end of the park to the next.
- Changing your pace on a walk: run for a couple yards and then come back to a walk
Always keep it fun and give your dog plenty of reasons to watch you!
I think we all know that the chicken crossed the road "to get to the other side," but I'm curious to know why so many dog owners in Chicago cross the street when they see another dog approaching? Is it because they have an aggressive dog? Are they afraid the oncoming dog is aggressive? Did they skip getting their dog vaccinated recently and are afraid of communicable diseases? Did my deodorant wear off and I'm just oblivious that people can smell me over a half block away?
I venture to guess that almost 100% of these dog owners choose to cross the road because they are afraid their dogs will display behaviors they cannot control. For these dog owners, I would like to provide some simple advice:
1) Avoiding other dogs on the sidewalk is only making the problem worse. You are never presenting your dog with opportunities for positive re-inforcement.
2) Make sure you have a collar, head collar or harness that makes you feel comfortable about being in control of your dog's behavior - there's a reason "training collars" were created.
3) Practice "Watch Me" and "Leave It" at home using high-value treats to prepare you for success outside the home. These treats should be something that will quickly get your dog's attention (and keep it) - something "smelly" like Zuke's is usually good.
4) As soon as you see an oncoming dog, put your dog into sit, stay, and get a solid "watch me" using the high-value treats. I've heard this technique refered to as "Bar Open" "Bar Closed". It's called "Bar Open" when you are feeding the high-value treats over and over again until the other dog is out of site. It's "Bar Closed" once the other dog is out of site.
5) If your dog becomes distracted by the other dog and loses focus on you during "Bar Open", use "leave it, watch me" until you regain "watch me". If you are unsuccessful in regaining your dog's attention, quickly turn and walk away from the other dog while repeating "leave it" until your dog settles.
6) Once your dog settles, regain sit, stay, watch me and re-open the "Bar".
9) If you feel as though the situation might become dangerous, place more distance than the width of a sidewalk between your dog and the other dog, but DON'T take the other dog out of site by crossing the street. Find an alley, driveway or yard to step into until the other dog passes, but continue sit, stay, watch me, and "Bar Open" while you wait for the other dog to pass.
You might be thinking, "I could have simply avoided all that effort and display if I had just crossed the road before my dog ever reacted," and you are correct. But what happens when you can't avoid coming into close contact with another dog? Isn't it better to fix the problem so you never have to worry about being put into a dangerous position?
Training takes consistency and patience, but your dog WILL start to associate that every time a new dog is around it's a VERY positive thing. Ask some friends if they will practice with you, and Gatsby and I are also more than happy to help out some fellow canine friends, so feel free to give us a call.
I just got home from Gatsby's last walk of the night, and I realized that he and I walked a total of more than five miles today. That's actually a pretty standard day for the two of us though. Gatsby is now sound asleep on my bed while I type this entry, and I can't help but be proud that he seems to be relaxed after what I think he would agree was a rewarding day of playtime and exercise.
As a dog walker, there are many days I consider slacking on the time I take Gatsby for a walk. Let's face it, if you walked a minimum of six miles with clients each day, would walking another five or more really be at the top of your list? I've tried sending Gatsby to doggie daycare to lighten my walking load, but that seems to stress him out too much. So ultimately I suck it up and make sure that Gatsby gets his exercise each day regardless of how tired I might be because I realize it's good for his body, mind and overall well-being.
On the days I consider skipping some of Gatsby's walk time, I think of something I recently experienced. At my previous apartment I attempted to make it a daily routine to take the stairs to the 22nd floor (my floor) at least once each day. One day I came home with a 7 or 8 pound bag of cat food and decided it was the appropriate time for my 22-story climb. By the time I reached the tenth floor I was already exhausted. What does this have to do with skipping Gatsby's walk time?
I got to thinking after that 22-story climb about how much of a role that additional 7 pounds had on my ability to exert myself, and it made me think about the extra 20 pounds I was carrying around on a daily basis due to my huge appetite for good food. There's nothing wrong with eating, but it needs to be balanced with the right amount of exercise. Then I got to thinking about how 7 pounds is roughly 3.5% of my total body weight...how would that 7 pound bag of cat food relate to an overweight dog? Here's what I concluded:
My 7lb bag of cat food on Gatsby (about 80lbs) would be the equivalent of him gaining only 2.8 pounds. Take that one step further and apply it to the majority of my dog walking clients (average around 20lbs), and my 7lb bag of cat food on a small to medium dog is only 0.7 pounds!!!
Some people may think that skipping their dogs' exercise is not a big deal. I can't stress enough how important it is for your dog to get regular walks and exercise (as well as a reasonable diet), and I'm not talking about the quick run out the front door for a potty break - just because the leash is attached does not make it a walk by default. And as an added bonus, everytime you take your dog for a walk, you're also exercising yourself, and the average one-hour dog walk burns about 250 calories for a normal person (compare that to 80 calories burned while sitting watching tv).
I completely understand how hard it can be to get motivated to take the dog for a walk after a long day at the office...that's exactly why I started Get Pet! I want to make sure that people with more demands on their time than me still have a way for their dogs to get exercise to stay fit, healthy and happy!
Growing up in the country in Pennsylvania gave me tons of experience with animals from a very early age. I later pursued a career in horseback riding and also have experience as a veterinary technician. I have a strong passion for animals and have an uncanny ability to connect with all sorts of furry friends.