Breed spotlight: Belgian sheep herding dogs

Belgium is a small country in Western Europe that  shares borders with France, Germany, Luxemburg, and the Netherlands. There are quite a few Belgian dog breeds, several of which are often used as guard dogs and police dogs.

The Belgian Shepherd Dogs are amongst famous breeds from the area. This group is divided into the Groenendael, the Laekenois, Malinois, and the Tervuren. The breeds have similarities in looks and temperament, but they are distinct breeds.

Groenendael

The Groenendael is an elegant, strong, and intelligent breed. They were originally used as herders, watchdogs, and companions, but their smarts and versatility quickly made them popular outside of Belgium. Groenendaels soon served as police dogs in Paris and New York City, and were famous for catching smugglers.

Many work in search and rescue, as guide dogs, and as therapy dogs. They also do very well in dog sports such as obedience, tracking, and agility.Groenendael

Malinois

The Malinois is an alert breed often mistaken for German Shepherds, and the confusion becomes bigger from the Malinois being popular for police and military work. While there are physical similarities, this is a completely different breed than the German Shepherd.

An average Malinois is intelligent, confident, and loves to work. They are also popular in obedience trials, herding, sledding, and tracking. Malinois

Laekenois

The Laekenois is clever and alert, and can be quite protective of family and property. This breed was originally developed to tend to flocks and guard, and these properties remain in the breed. Laekenois

Tervuren

The Tervuren is an elegant and devoted dog that often excels in obedience and agility competitions. Many who see these dogs believe they’re German Shepherds with long hair, but the Tervuren is a different breed. They’re outstanding herders that also do great jobs as therapy dogs and guide dogs.

Tervuren

Therapy dogs in nursing homes

The Volpino Italiano needs a medium Plexidor dog doorA nursing home is a place for a person who needs more care around the clock than can be reasonably given at home, but who doesn’t need to be in a hospital. Many nursing homes strive for a home-like environment. Some allow residents to bring their pets, but this isn’t always possible, and many nursing homes around the USA have opened their doors to therapy dogs who come visit on a regular basis.

Dogs have an instinctive way of knowing when they are needed, and a visit from a dog can calm and soothe someone, or lift the spirits of a person who is sad and lonely. The dogs provide a physical touch and many love the feeling of soft fur. They also bring warmth, joy, and a patient ear that will always listen.

Some believe only a certain breed can become a therapy dog, or that they are raised for this purpose as puppies. Therapy dogs come in all breeds and sizes, and many are rescue dogs.

If you’re interested in doing therapy work with your dog, start by training some basic obedience, and bring your dog to many different environments so he or she gets used to noises and people. Then, find a therapy-dog organization in your area. Many states have animal-assisted therapy organizations that offer training programs.

To become a certified therapy dog, a trainer will evaluate you and your dog and suggest courses to take. Then, you’re ready to volunteer. Many organizations will help you find volunteer opportunities. Here is a list that can help you get started.

Bringing dogs to work can reduce stress levels

dog with phone
Dogs in the work place can help reduce stress

Sandra Barker is a professor of psychiatry at Virginia Commonwealth’s School of Medicine, and she has been involved in several studies researching dogs in the workplace. The results may not come as big surprises to dog lovers, but are interesting nonetheless.

A study was made in 2012 at a large manufacturing company. The study included 76 employees, and having just three dogs present on any given day reduced the stress level by 11 percent during the day.

Employees with their dogs left at home, however, had an increase in stress level of 71 percent. As the day progresses, dog owners clearly worry about their furry friends!

Having a dog present in the workplace can work as a buffer against stress – things still happen, but humans react less to stress factors with pets around.

Nationally, around 2 percent of dog owners take their pets to work, and this adds up to around one million dogs in workplaces around the country.

Poop police coming to Carmel?

No one likes to step in dog poop, and there are many reasons to pick it up. Dog poop is the number three cause of water pollution, the water treatment systems aren’t designed to filter dog waste, and it can spread diseases and viruses, to name a few. Many dog owners are still bad at picking it up.

Carmel has a new million dollar dog park, and if dog waste becomes a problem, they’re considering hiring a poop police. The company PooPrints specializes in DNA analysis of dog waste and currently has contracts with apartment complexes and condos in 45 US states, Canada, and the UK.

If the system is put in place, dogs with passes for the dog park would be subject to a gentle DNA swipe from their mouth, and if anything is left behind on the ground, the owner could get a notice and a bill in the mail.

Several apartment complexes currently use the system with great success; the threat of public shaming has been enough to make residents pick up after their dogs.

AKC recognizes four more breeds

The American Kennel Club – AKC – sent out a press release just before New Years telling that it recognizes four new dog breeds. This brings the number of breeds able to participate in AKC events up to 184.

The new breeds are the Bergamasco, Boerboel, Cirneco dell’Etna, and the Spanish Water Dog. AKC adds new breeds when they fill the club’s standards, which include a breed club and a minimum number of individuals in the country.

The Bergamasco is a sheep dog from Italy with a history that goes back around 7,000 years. As most sheep dogs, these are highly intelligent and love to work.

The Boerboel is a hardy farm dog from South Africa. This breed is known for being intelligent, protective, and willing to please their family. Through history these dogs have been used for everything from babysitting to protecting against predators.

The Cirneco dell’Etna is an Italian hunting dog known for its resistance to heat and tough conditions. In the past, it was often used for hunting together with a ferret.

The Spanish Water Dog is another lively and hard working herding dog. This versatile breed herds, hunts, and helps fishermen.

Be careful with antifreeze

At this time a year pet owners need to watch out for antifreeze spills. Antifreeze for cars is based on ethylene glycol, which is quite toxic and leads to many pet deaths every year. If a pet laps it up and isn’t treated immediately, severe damage to kidneys and nervous system will follow.

In the past all antifreeze solutions had a sweet smell and taste, nowadays some manufacturers have changed the formula to make them less appealing to pets, and some manufacturers make “pet safe” antifreeze. Using the pet safe products helps – they are less toxic than traditional products, but can still be dangerous.

If you see a puddle on the ground when you’re walking your dog, don’t let your pet drink from it or walk through it. If it gets on the paws, odds are the pet will lick it off later to clean itself.

Keep this type of product off the ground and out of reach for pets. If there’s a spill, clean it immediately and rinse the area with lots of water.

If you think your pet has ingested antifreeze – even a small amount – call your veterinarian or the closest pet ER at once.

Subtle signs of illness in cats

Cats are masters at disguising any illness. This seems counterproductive to us – we can only help the cat if we know something is wrong – but to the cat, showing illness equals showing weakness. 

The sooner a problem is detected the better and faster it can be treated, and it is important for cat owners to keep an eye for any subtle changes in behavior. And, if your cat suddenly starts acting “weird” it’s time for a trip to the vet.

Here are some of the most common – but subtle – signs of illness in cats:

Unexplained weight loss or gain

Since you see your cat every day it can be hard to notice weight loss or weight gain. It’s a good idea to weigh your cat once a month, or take monthly photos to compare.

Many cats are finicky eaters, and it can be difficult to keep track of consumption of food and water. Measuring the cat’s food helps. You also want to keep an eye on how your furry friend eats – if your cat has always been neat and suddenly starts eating in a messy fashion there might be a problem with their teeth.

Changes in behavior with others

If your cat has enjoyed playing with other cats regularly and starts avoiding them, something is most likely wrong. It can be a health problem, or stress. The other way around can also be true – if your cat has always been private and a loner and suddenly starts seeking attention, something might be wrong.

If your cat suddenly slows down from being energetic, or drastically increases activity, it’s a good idea to visit the vet. Sudden increases in activity in older cat can be a result of a thyroid problem.

Altered habits

If your cat suddenly changes their sleeping pattern or grooming habits, it’s time to see the vet. Also watch for a change in the cat’s voice and smell. Be particularly alert for foul breath.

Kittens

Dog food allergies

Allergies are fairly common both amongst humans and dogs, and just like a human, a dog can develop an allergy at any age. The most common dog allergy is against flea bites, and the second most common is inhaling allergens such as pollen or molds. Dog food allergies come in on a close third place.

In order to develop a food allergy, a dog must be exposed to the same food ingredient for a couple of years or more. Most dogs are between two and six years old when food allergies are first noticed.

What causes food allergy?

An allergy is caused by the immune system responding to something it believes is foreign. It is a defense mechanism that would normally protect the body, but instead causes an over-reaction to harmless substances met in everyday life.

When it comes to dogs and food the immune system most often reacts to a protein, and the most common triggers are beef, milk and other dairy products, chicken, eggs, soy, corn, and wheat.

What are the symptoms of food allergies?

Symptoms of food allergy include excessive scratching and itchy skin. A dog with a food allergy can scratch until they lose all hair in an area, and the skin is often red and irritated. This is particularly common on the ears, groin, and belly. Some dogs with food allergies lick or chew on their paws, get repeated ear infections, and/or rashes. Stomach problems are also often connected to food allergies.

How do you treat a food allergy?

To treat a food allergy, the dog needs to stay away from eating the problematic ingredient. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find the problematic ingredient. The idea is to eliminate potential causes of the problem through feeding the dog something completely different from what he or she has eaten in the past. The new food – and nothing but the new food – has to be fed for two to three months to give enough time for the method to work. This means no treats or tastes of human foods, which can be frustrating for both dog and human.

Once the dog is symptom free, one ingredient can be added back at a time to see if the immune system reacts.

 

 

Sunshine story: dog gets 3D printed legs

Derby the dog was born with deformed and disabled front legs, and would get around through dragging himself with the small forearms. His foster family got him a wheelchair, and while that worked well, they felt that he could get something even better. Thanks to technology and the new 3D printing technology, Derby got a Christmas miracle and is now able to run on newly created legs.

3D printers have been used to make cost efficient limbs for humans, but Derby is the first animal to get 3D printed prosthetics. The materials and tools that are developed for humans don’t always work on animals. It is, for example, easy to scan a person’s leg to fit a prosthetic, but not as easy to scan a dog’s. The company making the leg molded a cast of fiberglass and scanned that into the printing system.

Another problem is teaching the pet to use the prosthetic, and as you can see from the video, Derby has succeeded quite well – and he is becoming an Internet phenomenon.

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2014 puppy names

Sleeping puppyEach year, the website vetstreet.com compiles a list of most popular names for puppies and kittens. The 2014 lists were recently released. 

For female puppies, the top three remains constant. Bella is the number one name, and has kept that position since 2006. The first book in the wildly popular Twilight saga was released in 2005 and the heroines name is Bella. That could be a coincidence, or maybe not… The other names in the top three – Daisy and Lucy – have also held their positions for years.

When it comes to the boys, Max has been the number one name for nine years. The second most popular name used to be Buddy, but this name was kicked down to a number four position in 2014. Instead, Charlie and Rocky have filled out the second and third spot.

Top names for girl puppies are:

  1. Bella
  2. Daisy
  3. Lucy
  4. Sadie
  5. Molly
  6. Lola
  7. Sophie
  8. Zoey
  9. Luna
  10. Chloe

Top names for boy puppies are:

  1. Max
  2. Charlie
  3. Rocky
  4. Buddy
  5. Cooper
  6. Duke
  7. Bear
  8. Zeus
  9. Bentley
  10. Toby

 

Five of the world’s largest dog breeds

Large dogs are often gentle giants with as much love to give as they are huge. Here are five of the world’s largest breeds. 

The Great Dane

This large breed is easy to recognize, and they are known for being friendly, strong, and elegant. They normally get along well with people, other types of pets, and other dogs.

The Great Dane has roots in ancient history. The earliest known drawings that resemble the breed have been dated to around 3,000 BC, and the oldest written mention to 1,121 BC.

 

A Great Dane needs an extra large dog door

The Irish Wolfhound

On a breed average these are the world’s tallest dogs. When standing on the back legs many Irish Wolfhounds reach seven feet!

This breed is known to be patient, intelligent, and reliable. They love people in general, and do well with children. Many Irish Wolfhounds thrive in the city, but they need a lot of exercise.

An Irish Wolfhound requires an extra large PlexiDor dog door

The English Mastiff

On a breed average, this is the heaviest dog breed with individuals weighing over 250 pounds. It is also considered England’s oldest breed.

English Mastiffs are known for being on the lazy side and need to be activated to make sure they get the exercise they need to stay healthy. They’re devoted to their family, good with children, and accept other dogs.

An English Mastiff requires an extra large PlexiDor dog door

The Scottish Deerhound

The Scottish Deerhound resembles an extremely friendly rough-coated greyhound. They are known for being gentle, loving, and easy to please.

It’s important to know that a Scottish Deerhound requires lots of exercise and gets bored easily – if they have too little to do they might take upon themselves to reorganize the home or redesign furniture. They love to have company of another Deerhound.

 

A Scottish Deerhound requires an extra large PlexiDor dog door

The Leonberger

The Leonberger gets its name from the coat resembling a lion’s mane. Young Leonbergers can be very energetic and don’t settle down until around three years of age, but after that, nothing fazes them.

They’re surprisingly agile for their size, and require lots of exercise to stay happy and healthy.

 

A Leonberger requires an extra large PlexiDor dog door.

Pet doors for giant dogs

If you want a dog door for your very large friend, the extra large PlexiDor dog door accommodates dogs up to 220 pounds. It is constructed to take the impact of a big and powerful dog running through at full speed.

Four important things dogs don’t like

Some human behaviors translate poorly into the world of dogs, and they often cause accidents or bites. Here are four things we humans tend to do that dogs in general don’t like.

1. Misreading the dog’s signals

A vast majority of dog bites, especially when children are involved, happen because humans misread a dog’s body language. Parents can think something is cute, but the dog just wants to get away, even if it knows the child. The follow signs should be put in context, of course, and each sign below is usually accompanied by other signs of stress.

  • Licking nose and lips
    A stressed dog licking nose and lips looks very different than when you feed your dog a treat.
  • Yawning
    A stressed dog often yawns repeatedly, with intensity. Some dogs even yawn when they need to go out.
  • Panting
    Of course dogs pant to cool off, but it is also a common sign of stress.

Other common signs include looking away, turning away, pinning back the ears with a tense facial expression, low body posture, leaning backward, and tension.

2. Hugging

Hugging is a human phenomenon. Many dogs get used to being hugged by their family members and can even learn to appreciate it, but there are also dogs that never get used to it.

Hugging a dog can make them feel threatened or challenged.

There are countless news stories where a child has been bit by the neighbor’s dog – or even the family’s own dog – and the parents say, “It came out of the blue. She was just hugging the dog.” This misunderstanding between the species ends with a traumatized child and euthanized dog.

3. Patting on top of the head

While most dogs love to be petted, that’s not the same as going up to a dog and patting them on the top of the head or on the face. Teach your children not to do this – especially not to dogs they don’t know. While most dogs tolerate it, they might not like it, and some perceive it as a threat. They don’t like a hand coming at them from above any more than a human would.

When you meet a dog, crouch and turn away a little – this means that you’re not a threat. When the dog comes up to you, pet it on the side.

4. Staring into a dog’s eyes

Most dogs are okay with gazing into their owner’s eyes. However, don’t approach a dog you don’t know and stare into their eyes – this is a challenge in doggie language.

Holiday decoration safety tips for pets

Puppy santaHoliday decorations are a big part of the season, and lights and cheerful colors spread joy in the winter darkness. Everything new in the house brings new dangers to pets as well, and here are some safety tips for little things that can make a big difference.

The tree

Whether you use an artificial tree or a reason, make sure it’s securely anchored so your pets can’t knock it over. Especially cats are tempted to climb into the tree. Also clean up any tree needles regularly – they’re sharp and can get stuck in your pet’s throat or paws.

Tinsel

Pets love to play with and eat tinsel and ribbons. These can cause a lot of damage if swallowed, and even require surgery. Keep tinsel and ribbons off the floor.

Baubles

Many pets, particularly cats, see baubles as irresistible play things. Try to use decorations that won’t shatter if they hit the floor, and that aren’t too small. You don’t want your pet to accidentally swallow a decoration.

Power cords

Protect cords so your pet can’t play with them or chew on them.

New house plants

Many of the season’s house plants are poisonous. Most people think the poinsettia is very dangerous, but it is only mildly toxic to cats and dogs. Pets shouldn’t be encouraged to eat it of course, but the poinsettia’s reputation is quite exaggerated. Mistletoe, rosemary, and holly can be dangerous to cats and dogs. Keep them out of reach, and contact a veterinarian if you think your pet has ingested any type of holly.

What pet owners really want to do for the holidays

The holiday season is great for visiting with friends and family, but vetiq.com made a survey to find out what pet owners really want to do for the holidays. The results are both thought-worthy and amusing.

A vast majority – 96 percent – answer that they would prefer to spend the holidays at home alone with their pet instead of leaving their pet at home to celebrate with in-laws.

85 percent of pet owners think a kiss under the mistletoe is okay for pets too. 85 percent also think their pets have been nice during the year. The survey doesn’t report whether the 15 percent of naughty pets are the same 15 percent that won’t get kisses…

Only 24 percent of pet owners plan to travel with their pets during the holiday, and 97 percent of those who do will go by car.

54 percent say Santa Claus best describes their pet’s holiday personality. 32 percent say Frosty, and 14 percent The Grinch.

 

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The Brazilian people loves small dogs

A Chihuahua needs a small or medium PlexiDor dog doorBrazil has undergone large changes during the last few decades, and the quickly urbanizing middle class work more, earn more, and have kids later than previous generations. They also get more and more pets.

The population of Brazil is roughly 200 million people. They also have almost 20 million small dogs, and this is more per capita than anywhere else in the world.

The total number of dogs in the country is around 36 million, and the average home is more likely to have at least one dog than to be dog-less.

Most of these pooches get specialized care – they are blessed by priests, driven in pet taxis, taken for specialized grooming, and bred in dog love motels. The most common breeds are small terriers, shih tzus, and chihuahuas.

The top five countries for small dog ownership are:

  • Brazil
  • Portugal
  • Mexico
  • Philippines
  • USA

The countries with the least small dogs are:

  • India
  • Turkey
  • Indonesia
  • Egypt
  • Saudi Arabia

Egypt only has one small dog for every 5,600 people, and Saudi Arabia one small dog for every 9,400 people.

Myths around dog bite force

Some people who are afraid of dogs will claim that certain dog breeds can exert over 2,000 pounds of pressure with their jaws. It’s an impressive number – and an enormous exaggeration. They bite harder than a human, but not as much harder as one could think.

The average human can bite down with a 120 pound force. A grown up man can reach around 150. It’s not a lot, but being bit by a human will still hurt and do damage.

It is more difficult to measure the exact bite force of dogs, because they won’t bite as hard every time, and they will bite harder if they’re provoked. The force they can chow down with depends on the shape of the jaw and the size of the dog’s head

One test measured three dog breeds that often strike fear in those afraid of dogs; American Pit Bull Terriers, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers. (If you are afraid of dogs, you should know that all dogs can be good and all dogs can be bad – it depends on the owner and not the breed.) The average bite strength turned out to be 269 pounds of pressure.

The Rottweilers were the strongest and topped with 328 pounds of bite pressure. German Shepherds came in second with a 238 measured bite force, and the American Pit Bull Terrier came in third with 235 pounds of pressure.

How does that measure compared to cousins in the wild?

Dogs are at a disadvantage.  A wolf’s normal bite force is around 400 pounds. If it is protecting itself, a large wolf can bite down with over 1,200 pounds of pressure.

Large cats are very strong. A Jaguar can reach 700 pounds of pressure, and Siberian Tiger 950.

You might not think of Hyenas as strong, but even though they are scavengers they also hunt, and most of the time they chase down their own food. A hyena can bite down with 1100 pounds, and they’ve been known to chase off lions to claim food.

When it comes to our primate cousins, the Gorillas are the largest and strongest. An adult male gorilla can weigh 400 pounds, and bite down with a strength of 1,300 pounds per square inch. Now, that doesn’t mean that you should fear gorillas – they are herbivores, peaceful, and shy.

Many who visit the south are afraid of alligators, and it is certainly wise to abide by regulations and warning signs. The American Alligator has a bite strength of 2125, sharp teeth, and powerful muscles to hold their prey. This still pales compared to the Nile Crocodile that can close their mouths with a pressure of 5000 pounds.

While alligators and crocodiles can run fairly quickly on land,  it’s nowhere near what urban myths claim. They can lounge out of water at a fairly high speed, but the land speed record is around 10 mph, and they grow tired quickly when on land. Alligator attacks are extremely rare. The risk of being injured in an unprovoked alligator attack is around one in 2.4 million.

 

Not every dog is cut out to be a police dog

The Belgian Malinois is a breed used by police forces all over the world, and they excel at security work, protection, search and rescue, scent detection, and many other things. However, dogs are individuals just like people, and police work isn’t for everyone. 

Cash is a two year old Belgian Malinois, and he was supposed to join the police force of Cannon Beach, Oregon. While he surely did his best, it was soon clear to the officers that Cash wasn’t cut out for the job; the poor dog was afraid of heights, skittish, and maybe even afraid of drugs – he’d bark aggressively instead of sniffing them out.

Cash is now returned to his original owner, and will hopefully find a new career.

The Belgian Malinois was originally bred to be a herding dog. Many confuse the dogs with German Shepherds, but they are quite different dogs. They are generally quick to learn and eager to please their humans, they have an abundance of energy, and require interaction and exercise.

 

Cash, the Belgian Malinois

Dogs process speech in a way similar to humans

Dog owners know their pooches understand language, and past research has shown that dogs respond to different parts of human speech, making a difference between content and emotional tone. New research shows that they process speech in a way similar to humans.

Naturally, this doesn’t mean that all dogs understand all human words. Dogs must learn our language, and different individuals can retain different amounts of words.

The study shows that dogs process words with the brain’s left hemisphere – just like humans do. This part of the brain processes syntax and words.

Dogs and humans both process emotional tone with the brain’s right hemisphere.

Does this matter?

It helps explain how dogs became man’s best friend – they can truly tell the difference between meaningless sounds and words that are important to them. They love us back, see us as their family, listen to what we say, and understand.

What is flyball?

If you have an energetic dog that loves balls, Flyball might be an ideal sport. It’s a team sport, and a form of controlled chaos that involves a lot of running and jumping. The dog needs to be able to focus around distractions and in good enough shape to run and jump.

Flyball is played in teams with four dogs in each team. One end of the course holds a starting line, and the other a specialized box where the dog will release and catch a tennis ball that is to be carried back to the starting line. In between are four jumps.

Each dog in the team must complete the course. That is, run over the jumps, trigger the box to release a ball, catch the ball, and return with it, going over all four jumps. The next dog in line can’t cross the line before the dog currently on the course returns. If a dog would run on the side of a jump, or return without the ball, he or she must run the course again.

The height of the jumps are based on the team’s shortest dog, so everyone wants to have a small dog on the team.

Flyball is one of the most athletic dog sports. At a flyball tournament, a team might run between 18 and 24 heats in a day. Add in reruns for starting too early, missing a jump, or some other error, and a dog can easily run 40 times during a weekend.

To start training, your dog needs to get used to noisy and busy places. At a competition there will be dogs running around, barking, people running back and forth, balls, and other distractions. Train to stay calm around distractions, and train recall with distractions.

You can also train jumping, chasing you, tugging, and building the dog’s general strength through swimming and jogging.

Search for a club and classes in your area. This is a great sport with a lot of fun, and an opportunity for both humans and dogs to make friends.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

The big eating holiday is finally here, and odds are tempting smells are pulling both humans and pets towards the kitchen. Yesterday we shared some tips of Thanksgiving foods that are okay for dogs and cats to eat, and some they shouldn’t have.

If you really want to share the holiday spirit and make your furry friends something special, we have a couple of ideas.

Pumpkin Smoothie for dogs

This is really easy to make, and most dogs love it. Mix equal parts plain nonfat yogurt and canned pumpkin puree. (Make sure it’s not pie filling – the cans look quiet similar.) Serve as  a liquid, or freeze for handy, cool treats.

Turkey Meatballs for dogs

  • 6 ounces ground turkey
  • 0.5 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 0.5 cup quinoa or oatmeal
  • A pinch of kelp powder

Place the carrots and turkey in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add quinoa/oatmeal and the kelp powder and blend some more. Roll into meatballs (it’s easier if you wet your hands with cold water) and bake in 400 F on a non-stick cookie sheet. They need around 15 minutes in the oven.

Happy Thanksgiving for dogs and cats