Saturday, May 4, 2013

Collar Wars

In a perfect world, our dogs would walk in a perfect heel and would make the right decisions without any commands from us. Until then, every dog needs a collar... but not every dog needs the same collar. The style of collar you choose for your dog is more important and controversial than you ever thought.

First let’s go over the basic purposes of a collar:

1) Control - A collar allows you the control to lead your dog in the direction you wish them to go or stop them from moving all together by holding the collar.
2) Training - Whether you want to teach your dog to sit or walk nicely, a collar can help you by simply being a place to attach a leash or as a tool to aid in training.
3) Identification - Collars can be a place to hang your dogs ID tag with contact information in case they ever get lost.

Now we can go over some of the options available:
Buckle or snap: This collar is the most common and provides the least amount of control or help with training but is ideal for providing a place for identification. A buckle collar is best for a dog that does not pull during walks or for dogs that wear collars around the house. It is recommended that all collars be removed during rough play as many dogs have been injured when one of the dogs jaws get stuck in the collar. If a collar is necessary, a break-away snap collar is the safest option.


Martingale: This collar provides good control, helpful in training and can also be used for identification. The martingale was introduced for greyhounds and other sighthounds as their necks are wider than their heads. They can easily slip out of a buckle or snap collars. These collars are ideal for any dog that is skilled at slipping out of their collar. When adjusted properly the collar will tighten when the dog pulls but not enough to possibly strangle. The pressure is distributed evenly around the neck so less pressure is placed on the throat and windpipe.


Head halters and no-pull harnesses: These collars are probably the newest additions to the collar game. They are toted as being a more humane option for control and training as well as providing a place to clip identification. A head halter fits over the dog’s muzzle and the leash controls the direction of the dogs head, very similar to a horse halter because the body tends to follow the direction of the head. Also it can be used to redirect the dogs eyes and attention on you instead of the distraction or pulling forward.
The no-pull harness looks much like a normal harness, but with a big difference, the leash attaches to the front of the harness instead of the back. A harness with the leash attachment on the back gives more control to the dog as it practices the dogs opposite force reaction. The harness applies pressure across the dogs chest and his natural reaction is to push against it. Not very helpful when training loose leash walking but fantastic if you want to train your dog to pull a sled or a wagon. However, a harness with a rear attachment is ideal for small dogs as they are more prone to tracheal damage from a collar and don’t have the strength to pull the owner while on a walk.
There are a few different types of no-pull harnesses but the general idea is to pivot the dogs body so it’s attention is redirected to you and not a squirrel or other distraction.



Slip or choke: This collar provides control and correction-based training. It is not typically used for identification due to the lack of a spot to hang tags. The difference between a slip collar and a choke chain is the material used. A slip collar is usually made out of a durable rope and can also be a leash and collar in one. One end of the leash has a sliding loop for the dog’s neck and the other end has a non-adjusting loop for the person’s hand. A choke chain is made out of a metal links that can come in a variety of thicknesses. The choke chain is named as such due to the training methods that were and sometimes still are used by trainers to correct dogs from pulling, jumping, barking and to train basic commands. Today, neither the slip or choke collar is recommended because of the endless ways they can be misused. It can cause a number of injuries including tracheal collapse, burst blood veins in the eyes, and severely damaged airways.

Prong: This collar provides plenty of control and is commonly used for training, including correction training but like the slip collar it does not provide much in the way of identification. This collar is very controversial. Many people are immediately turned off by the way a prong looks. It uses metal links with blunt prongs that connect to each other and apply even pressure or a pinch when used to give a correction. It looks more menacing than it actually is if used properly. This collar is labeled an “aversive” collar as it can be used to punish a dog for an unwanted behavior. The punishment is an uncomfortable sensation around the neck given as a correction by the person or a self correction when the dog hits the end of the leash. Prong collars come with 2 loops, the live loop and a dead loop. The dead loop when attached to the live loop turns the prong collar into a martingale style collar. If you have no intentions of giving proper corrections, always clip the leash to both loops which will prevent any corrections.

Now that we’ve reviewed the different types of collars, let’s talk controversy and debate.
Prong collars are sometimes called the “power-steering” collar. They can be very helpful for strong dogs that deserve to go for walks and be socialized in public but don’t respond well to other types of collars. This argument can also be used against the prong collar as prong-critics call it the lazy approach to training. That statement is usually far from the truth. Many dog owners have dogs that respond very well to training and walk on a loose leash 95% of the time. But then a squirrel runs in front of them... and now Fido, their 75 pounds of pure muscle has yanked the leash right out of their hand and is loose in a potentially high traffic area. This terrifying situation is something responsible dog owners face on a daily basis. A prong collar would prevent that situation without the damage of a choke chain, or even the head halter or no-pull harnesses. Both the halter and harness can cause injuries if the dogs hits the end of the leash at full speed. The head halter can cause neck damage and face chafing and some varieties of the no-pull harness can cause shoulder injuries while others can cause painful chafing where the harness rubs under the front legs. Another aspect of the debate is the negative associations a dog can form while wearing a prong collar. For example: an excited dog wearing a prong collar that lunges to visit another dog can learn to associate the discomfort it feels with meeting dogs. This can develop fear and later aggression.

I believe there are pros and cons to each and every one of these tools. A responsible dog owner needs to evaluate their dog’s energy and personality and also the specific purpose for the collar they use. Some dogs should never wear a prong collar because their high energy level could become aggressive when given a correction. Some dogs never react negatively to the prong, never need a correction and walk like angels when wearing it. On the other hand, some dogs have such a negative reaction to a head halter, they freeze with fear or struggle the entire time to remove it from their face. While others who are slowly and positively introduced can become easier to manage on walks.

No collar should be used as a quick fix for any behavior or issue. Positive training is crucial in every aspect of the use. Before adding a new tool to your training, it is important to evaluate your dogs needs and your expectations. It is also best to consult a professional.
A responsible dog owner wants what is best for their dog and sometimes that can be a controversial decision.
-Monika

Websites used for reference:
http://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/which-types-of-collars-and-harnesses-are-safe-for-your-dog

Friday, March 22, 2013

We'd like to introduce ourselves...




The story of Q
4 years ago, I did something I will regret for the rest of my life. I gave my first dog - my heart dog - my first introduction to the pit bull world, to my boyfriend whom I was breaking up with. He said he couldn't imagine his life without us both and begged me to please let him have him. I, feeling guilty for breaking his heart and believing he would take care of my dog like I would, agreed to let him keep Q. I was promised that my dog would be taken care of like I had taken care of him. That he would always be kept safe.
I was lied to.
Q was put down.
Q was not given a chance.
I was not given a chance to save him.
My heart will always have a special place for Q.
My passion for our mission at The PDQ all stems from my love for Q.
The Q in our name is a tribute to him.  
For as long as I live, I will always be a pit bull advocate and voice for those so misunderstood. I will do everything I can so that people who are facing this decision make the right one.
Give them a chance.

Q, this is all for you. ♥
-Monika

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Willow

This is Willow, and she is a Pit Bull. She was surrendered to a rescue at 10 weeks old, she was a product of an unintentional litter. Her mom was under a year old and her owners thought she was too young to have puppies, so she wasn't spayed. Her father was known as an escape artist who ran the neighborhood. The rescue agreed to take the litter of 6 puppies as long as the owners would let the rescue pay to spay Mom and neuter Dad.

Willow was adopted at 11 weeks with an agreement that she would be spayed as soon as she was old enough. We met some resistance from family, friends and even fellow rescues because we already had several special needs small dogs at home, and "how will a pit bull be with them." We knew at this point we had to educate people about how loving and gentle pit bulls can be. Willow out weighed them by at least 10 pounds when we got her, so we immediately started training her to "be careful with the babies." She went to doggie daycare and started puppy class as soon as she had all her shots. She learned "sit," stay," "toes down" and many other commands. We socialized her every chance we got by taking her every where with us. All her training has paid off, and now she is CGC certified, a therapy dog, a service dog and even has her own pack walk group! Willow goes out and leads by example, and she proves that a pit bull is "just a dog."Willow is smart, silly, loving, gentle and can rock a tutu like no body's business!



Jade

Jade came to us as a temporary foster until a rescue could be found. She and a male pit bull were found abandoned in an apartment when the painters went in to get the apartment ready for the new tenant. The lead painter took the male and Jade went home with the other man. Unfortunately, he was not able to keep her because he also lived in an apartment where dogs were not allowed. He and his family (including his 2 yr old son) fell in love with her instantly. He knew he had to make sure she would have a safe and loving home were she would never have to worry about being abandoned again. After having no luck finding a rescue that could take her right away, a plea went out and they found us. We agreed to foster her until a permanent foster/rescue could be found. We were concerned at first because we already had Willow at home, and had heard many times that same sex adoptions don't work. Boy were they wrong! Willow and Jade instantly bonded and it wasn't long before we knew she was there to stay. She is the perfect addition to our family!



-Della and Tracie
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Sasha

Sasha is our special girl. She came to us through Florida Boxer Rescue. We had been approved to adopt but hadn’t found the dog that was the right fit. We thought we were getting a call about one of the dogs we had been waiting in line for but instead it was an emergency. Sasha was next in line to be put down at Polk County Animal Services and in desperate need of a foster home. She had heartworms and a sweet soul. Everyone that came in contact with her said there was just “something about Sasha.” Along with her heartworms and sweet soul came some pretty serious separation anxiety. She would scream in her crate to the level that my neighbor felt it necessary to call me at work because she thought she was hurt. Even though we took all the right steps to make it a safe and comfortable place, the crate was no place for a Sasha. We started to let her roam free in the house while we were out and she began to feel more comfortable being alone. She learned that we’d be back. Every day. No matter what. Slowly she had let go of some of that stress in her face. We obviously had to adopt her. She needed us and we needed her. It’s been a little over 2 years now and she still makes us smile with her silly boxer-ness and warms my heart seeing her enjoying the stress-free life that she always deserved.


Stitch

We weren’t looking for a dog when Stitch popped into our lives. Sasha was finally comfortable, trusting and not as anxious when we were gone. Adding a new dog to our family could have disrupted the balance we had worked so hard to achieve. But this face kept popping up in my facebook newsfeed... he was at Polk County Animal Services and his days were numbered. Just like the many other faces that popped up looking for a home, I shared his picture with a plea for help. 2 weeks later came the email begging for a foster home... that face I couldn’t get out of my head had run out of time. Second Chance Boxer Rescue must have seen what I did... Stitch is clearly not a boxer but he had a sparkling personality that came through in that ridiculous face of his. Clearly, he had won me over but now I had to convince Anthony, my boyfriend, that we should bring another dog into our house. I did my best sales pitch about how Stitch was on death row and was so young and cute and we’d find him a home in no time. I honestly didn’t know what to say when Anthony said “Go get him. But one condition - Don’t pretend like he’s just a foster.” He knew I was already in love with that gremlin-faced dog before even meeting him. Stitch was 11 months old when he came home with us. Full of energy and sweetness. He’s a complete clown. Unlike Sasha, he doesn’t know anxiety or stress. He’s healthy and smart. Why anyone would give him up is a mystery. But as the saying goes - “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” He loves with every ounce of his wiggly white body. He makes Sasha a younger, more care-free version of herself. He is most definitely a treasure.


-Monika
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Suzi

Suzi came to us through of all places, Craigslist. We just happened to look up pitties one day and her story caught our eye. The owner was driving down a rural road when the truck in front of her stopped for no reason and threw something out the window. They thought it was a cat and when they got out discovered a little 4-5 DAY old pup. They took her to the vet and had her checked out. Perfectly healthy just no mama. She kept her and raised her for about 5 weeks when she decided she just couldn't keep her with her 2 dogs, 2 kids and school. We signed her up for school as soon as she was old enough and she's been our little ball of non stop energy ever since. She's a Frisbee and ball playing machine! She loves teaching people that pit bulls are just dogs and we love the smiles she puts on peoples faces. She even took Willows lead and is a blood donor, dogs need surgery too ya know. :)


Dixie

When we decided to look around for a sibling for Suzi we had no idea what would catch our eye. We heard of a dog through the grapevine that really needed a good home. She was heartworm positive, deaf and had come into the shelter with a severely shattered leg. Unfortunately they had to amputate it but don't feel bad for her she gets around just fine. When she runs you don't even notice she doesn't have 4 legs! We educated ourselves on the heartworm treatment and about how to care for and train a deaf dog. She's our little deaf tri-pawd and papas snuggler on the couch :) People keep thanking us for adopting a special needs dog, but to us, she's just perfect.


-Dave
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Mascot - GhiGhi
GhiGhi is a 3 1/2 pound chihuahua who is approximately 9 years old. She was dumped off at Animal Control as a "stray". She was kept in an office at the shelter because she was too small for the dog runs. She spent about 8 weeks in there before we rescued her through a network of people determined to save this little girl. When she arrived at the shelter, she was flea infested, missing patches of fur, and most of her bottom jaw was missing due to neglect.
This made us think...who is GhiGhi? What was her story? It is hard to believe this tiny little dog was wandering around the streets a big city all alone. Did she have a home that loved her at some point? Did her owner pass away and nobody wanted her anymore? Did her family just discard her like trash? How could someone just "dump" her at the shelter in such a delicate state? Dogs are forever, not disposable when you are tired of them or when they need a little extra care.
The most amazing thing is her personality, this girl is "balanced". She loves everyone: people, dogs of every shape and size, even cats! She loves to wear clothes on cool days and does well on a leash. This little one had obviously been socialized in her earlier years...so the question remains....how did she end up all alone in a shelter?
-Della and Tracie

Adopt, don't shop!

But, don’t all dogs need a home?
A friend of mine whom I consider to be intelligent, educated and kind recently asked me this question after I had posted on my facebook encouraging my friends and family to choose adoption instead of buying when looking for their next pet.
The short answer is YES. But the real answer is much more complicated than that. Of course, all dogs deserve a home regardless of if they are sitting in a pet store or at a shelter. The real issue is who is profiting when one of these dogs go home.
When you buy a dog from a pet store the owners make a profit off the lives of imprisoned dogs who live in breeding factories where they live in a cage 24/7. They don’t have warm beds to have their puppies in; they don’t go outside; they are bred until they can’t birth any more puppies and then they are destroyed. They most certainly don’t get to decide whether or not they want to breed. They are money makers. Plain and simple. The puppies do not get to spend time with their mom and learn how to be dogs, they are thrown in cages to sell like merchandise. Every time one of these puppies is bought the owners of the puppy mills and pet stores make a profit and are given a reason to keep using these poor animals as their money making machines. If we stop buying puppies from them, they won’t be able to pay their rent, pay their breeders and inevitably will go out of business. The leftover dogs will go to an animal shelter or pound. Is that the ideal situation, of course not. But the vicious cycle must stop.
Animal shelters are not in the business to make money. They rely on donations and/or some government grants to run their facilities. The adoption fees, which are mere dollars compared to the hundreds that a pet store charges, do not cover even a fraction of the costs associated with running a county pound or local shelter. These facilities are not glamorous or well-advertised. They serve an ugly purpose that they don’t get much appreciation for. They clean up the messes of irresponsible or unfortunate owners. When they do not have the room/funds/hours in a day to take care of the poor souls that end up on their doorstep, they are left with the awful task of euthanization. It is unfair and unjust to villainize these shelters for something the people of the community caused. Many of the animals that end up at shelters were bought at pet stores or from backyard breeders. The animals at the shelters are not of any less value because they cost less than the animals at the pet store. They are the same animals and they all deserve better. Maybe someday, if everyone that is buying from pet stores instead adopts from their local shelter, the shelter can adopt out more animals than they euthanize; they can spruce up their shelters to make them more comfortable for the animals who are there waiting for a home; and they can spend more resources supporting the community.

If we all help one person make the right decision to adopt, we can make a difference and stop all the unnecessary suffering.
-Monika

Puppy Preschool - Why its imperative

So you've decided to add a new puppy to the family. You have planned ahead and bought a create, bed, bowls, food, treats and toys. The time has come and puppy finally comes home, what is the next step?

One crucial step in proper socialization is puppy preschool. Ideally, a puppy should be enrolled in classes before 18 weeks of age. This will help with socialization and acceptance of new situations before the puppy hits adolescence. At this early age, puppies learn quickly and easily. The classes are equally as important to the family. This is where you can learn about puppy care, emotional and behavioral needs, humane training techniques, and appropriate games to play. Many games that are played with puppies can actually foster bad behaviors, and nobody wants that!

Puppy classes also teach basic obedience to help them learn manners and self control. Examples are: basic recall (coming when called), walking on a leash and basic sit/stay commands. One of the most important elements is the handling exercises so your new puppy enjoys being touched and petted. They will also be use to having their mouths and ears looked at and paws touched. Another important lesson is petting the puppy while it is eating to prevent food aggression.

A good puppy preschool should also include a Q & A session which can help families address issues such as: teething, house training, and crate training. It is always nice to know you are not alone when you are dealing with a problem.

Here are some things to consider when looking for a good puppy preschool:
• Classes should be held in a clean place that is not frequented by roaming dogs. You don't want your puppy to get sick.
• The instructor should be able to recognize problem temperaments/behaviors and offer timely advice.
• Classes should be small (6-10 puppies) to allow for adequate supervision.
• A good instructor should be able to tell the difference between appropriate play and intimidation. A puppy should not be allowed to bully or be bullied.
• Methods should focus on praise and reward, not punishment.
• Classes should be focused on issues such as socialization, play biting, chewing, house training and not just on sit, stay, etc. Puppies need to learn manners, not just commands.



What important things will your puppy learn?

• Confidence and friendliness to people and dogs.
• What body language indicate and proper etiquette.
• Bite inhibition.
• Controlled play and when to settle down.
• Handling and restraint which is very important for Vet exams and grooming.

What you should learn?

• House training techniques.
• How to read and react to canine body language. This is how your dog communicates with you.
• Leadership skills. All dogs need a strong pack leader, or they will take charge.
• Basic training skills (sit, stay, down)
• Basic dog care information such as nutritional needs, vaccines, and parasite and heartworm prevention.

Now, get out there and have fun bonding with that new puppy!


-Della