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Archive for September, 2012

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been reading up on the question of what to feed your dog. My very first dog joined my life when I was in junior high and ate whatever my parents fed him, usually kibble bought at the grocery store, or sometimes that fake plastic feeling hamburger looking stuff, which I don’t believe had any passing relationship with real meat. Over the years what I’ve fed my dogs has changed. I went from what I could buy at the grocery store, to food that wasn’t carried in grocery stores, but could be found at places like Petsmart. And now I’m about to take the next leap to food that Petsmart doesn’t carry.

I’ve been reading about raw diets for several months. It’s something I’ve been considering for some time, but there is a bit of fear there. Fear of contamination. Fear of my dogs not getting all the nutrition they need. Fear I’ll screw something up. Sometimes I think I over analyze things. I know I have an issue with wanting to get things “right” even when I know logically there is no right way. Perhaps a better way to look at it is to find the right way for you and your dog. And sometimes this takes experimentation.

I’ve lost several dogs to cancer over the years. There are a lot of claims about kibble and cancer. There are a lot of claims about processed foods and health issues with humans. I can state that in the last two years I’ve made several changes to my diet and have definitely seen an improvement in my health by adding more fruits and vegetables, and eating far less processed food. Can this extrapolate to dogs? Clearly I’m hoping so!

Several months ago I took the Lab to the vet to have him check out her ears. She’d been shaking her head, and there was nasty, black, smelly build up in her left ear. The cleaner I’d bought at Petsmart wasn’t fixing the issue and the ear was red and clearly irritated. I left that appointment with Oti-Clens, and Zymox. Two weeks later that issue was better, but there was still that wet, squishy sound when you rubbed her ear, and she was still producing a lot of wax and some of the black smelly stuff. At this time I also switched her to a grain free food. The ear became less red, which was good, but clearly something was still going on. Back to the vet we went and this time left with a different ear treatment. (I’ll edit later with the type). Things progressed and we were getting less of the black mess, but her ear canal was staying moist, and cleanings had to be done daily, sometimes twice a day.

Two weeks ago I took her back. This time the vet got a different instrument and got a good look inside the ear to find a small mass of wax and dark black hair near the ear drum. The Vet wasn’t certain if they were her hairs growing there, or something that’d gotten stuck in there and wasn’t being flushed out. We’d managed the infection, and irritation with all the cleaning. Her ear wasn’t red, but as long as this remained in her ear the odds were the ear would keep producing wax to try to get it out. After all this messing with her ears, the Lab really doesn’t do well when someone messes with them, so he couldn’t get a good look to determine if it was a loose mass or her own hair. The decision was made to go back to the Oti-Clens and Zymox for five days, then bring her in and sedate her if the hairs weren’t flushed out to clean it.

Needless to say after all this time, it wasn’t flushed out. So on Monday she went in, and got sedated. The gunk was removed, and it wasn’t her own hair, but hair that had somehow found it’s way into the ear and managed to get hooked in such a way flushing wasn’t getting it out. The only issue is that once he removed this we learned her ear drum is ruptured. The vet doesn’t know when this happened. The infection could have caused this. So now we are on antibiotics and another ear drop to help the ear heal.

Now what does all this have to do with raw diets? A lot of what I’ve been reading states that a raw diet can help with ear issues. I have seen for myself that switching to a higher quality food made a difference, though clearly I cannot quantify how much of a difference since we were treating the ear at the same time I made the switch. But it’s enough that I’m ready to make the switch instead of circling around the issue reading. Sometimes you have to jump in with both feet and give it a try.

I’ve started to order the supplements I’ll be using with the raw diet. I’ve priced the raw diet I’ve decided to go with. I am not brave enough to create it on my own balancing the nutrients, so I’m going with a commercially prepared one that grinds the bones up in the meat for you. I’ve created a spreadsheet of amounts to feed to slowly introduce the raw over a 10 day period. The freezer is on order for storage. I expect the transition to begin next week, and will be documenting any changes I see. I know this will be an experiment in trial and error to find the perfect balance to maintain their weight. We already weigh the dogs every week, and of course do rib checks. I’m sure between the slow transition we plan to make and just making the transition completely it will take time before we figure out the correct amount to feed them. I’ll be back to post how it goes and what changes I see!

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This morning I came across an article that made me chuckle.  It leads me to believe I am not the only one who has an issue with finding the “right” command to use for a given action:

 

Of course, a cue takes on whatever meaning you give to it when you teach your dog a new word or hand signal. We tend to use words that are meaningful to us (they are much easier to remember!) but if you wanted, you could teach your dog that “Banana!” means sit, “Orange” means down, “Pumpkin” means stay, and “Kiwi” means wait. As long as you teach your dog what behavior you want him to associate with your words and use them consistently, your dog will learn the meaning you’ve assigned to them and the cues will work for you.

Given that most trainers are well aware of this, it might surprise you to discover the intensity with which trainers sometimes debate the meaning of the cues “wait” and “stay.” The whole debate is silly; our cues mean whatever we teach our dogs they mean. I’ll explain how I use (and train) the wait and stay cues. Regardless of the words you choose to use and how you choose to use them, I hope you’ll discover the immense value of distinguishing between the wait and stay behaviors.

I actually am aware of it, but I can completely see why there is an intensity of debate.  It’s like we are creating a whole new language when training dogs.  And my expectations for what a sit is could very easily be different from someone else’s.  In fact mine has changed.  In the beginning sit meant put your butt your to the ground.  The moment that happened she’d performed correctly and was rewarded.  Once she managed that reliably time was built into the equation.  Sit now means put your butt to the floor and remain in that position until I release you.  Ideally I wouldn’t need a stay command, though I still use it, while trying to build it into the sit.  Sit also started out meaning put your butt to the ground while I’m standing here in front of you.  It’s grown to mean put your butt to the ground even if I’m at your side, or we are at the park, or if I’m behind you.  Eventually I hope to build it mean put your butt on the ground right where you are — don’t come in closer to me or turn to face me.  But we still have to work on that distance component..  It’s a new way of thinking for me — breaking the exercises down into components and slowly building it up.  Most people who think sit is simple, but there are so many components to it when you really look at what you want from it, and where and how long.

(Whole Dog Journal: April 2009 Issue, How to Train Your Dog to Stay Teach your dog “wait” and “stay” – and how to tell the difference. )

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