Saturday, June 5, 2010

Charlie, Day Two

We're surviving! So far Charlie has actually been easier than I had anticipated. He's got pretty good leash manners, is good in his crate, and slept quietly last night - was afraid he was used to getting up at 4:00 AM or some such ungodly hour, but he was quiet in his crate until I went down at 6:30. Jess took him to the office yesterday where he got lots of exercise exploring the warehouse and playing with Stella the Cavalier, plus she took him for several walks. I walked him twice yesterday evening, and I think he was absolutely exhausted!

His owners switched Charlie's food to Costco Kirkland brand which is a reasonably good food, actually made by Diamond, supposedly with Diamond's regular formula. The only problem with discount dog foods is that the ingredients may vary from batch to batch depending on the commodity prices, and the concern that lower quality ingredients are often used. At least he is not eating Sprout or Old Roy, bottom of the line store brands. I'd prefer he was eating Pro Plan, but try not to be too "bossy" about the dogs I sell. This food is a good bit less expensive than what he was eating before, but cost should not be the deciding factor when feeding dogs.

I am somewhat concerned about the fact that Charlie is too thin - he's lost a couple of pounds since the last time I saw him when he was already lean. His owners will need to increase the amount of food Charlie is getting because he is an active young dog. We'll discuss that when I return him tomorrow. It's sometimes difficult to get the amounts right on young dogs and they are often too thin or too heavy. I would rather have him a bit thin and everyone who knows me well, knows that I hate to see fat dogs.

It appears that Charlie's owners took my suggestions to heart last time, as his leash manners seem much better already. They had gotten too dependent on using a prong collar rather than actually training him. Prong collars, like those nasty head collars, give the owner more control of the dog, but they are often used as a substitute for actually training a dog to walk properly on leash. Charlie understands to wait at the door and before coming out of his crate, which is also very handy, and is quite responsive to a sharp EERRRRR as a distraction when I need to get his attention (such as when he is focusing on a squirrel or obsessed over a good smelling post). The prong collar is fine when they take Charlie jogging, but for walks around the neighborhood a simple chain training collar is best.

He's also much better about having his teeth checked, and being "examined" which means being touched all over. Young males are sometimes hesitant to have their hindquarters examined, but Charlie seems to have gotten past that. It's important to pet dogs all over their bodies, so they can be examined by a dog show judge OR by a veterinarian. All the things that a dog needs to know to be a good show dog also help him be a better pet. As with children, the more dogs learn, the more they CAN learn. Charlie seems very open to learning new behaviors, and I'm extremely pleased with his temperament, how well his owners have socialized himm and how willing they are to take advice.

The only real problem to overcome is Charlie's tendency to sit whenever collar pressure is applied, and to sit for a treat - both learned behaviors that work well on companion dogs. We just need to teach him the stand command as an alternate behavior, so he does not sit unless he is told to sit. Automatic sits are required for obedience competition, and are taught in most obedience classes, so we will have to work around this. A sit is also used as a "control position" when Charlie gets overly excited - control positions are very helpful in managing enthusiastic dogs. We'll show Charlie on a soft cloth slip collar (like a chain training collar but made of woven material) which might help, as Charlie is used to wearing a metal collar when he is trained or goes walking. We'll work hard on this over the weekend, and encourage Charlie's owners to work on a stand command too.

Jess reserved ring time at Pet Junction tomorrow, so we will have a chance to work with Charlie (Argus/Nikon) and with Jax (Argus/Lilly) who Jess co-owns and wants to start showing this summer. Hopefully we can get good pictures of both boys. Am so pleased with both of them. Jax was difficult last fall, but has really grown up over the winter. Like Charlie's owners, Jax's owners have worked hard to make him a good companion.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Furry House Guest

Nope, we don't have mice if that's what the blog title suggested, at least no mice indoors at this time. I've seen a number of Centipedes this week though. UGH. I am not generally a squeamish person, and really enjoy snakes, salamanders, lizards, pet mice & rats, big pet spiders. I keep live bloodworms in the fridge for the dogs. You name it, I covet it. Still arguing with myself over getting a baby Bearded Dragon - that will happen eventually. But Centipedes, oh my! I HATE Centipedes, especially when I find one trapped in the sink when I get up in the morning. The worst was waking up to find one sauntering across my bedroom ceiling. Still sends chills up and down my spine. How to kill him without having him fall down on to me. Eeewwww. Just too gross.

My house guest will be much more attractive, and definitely furrier! Charlie Brown is coming to spend the weekend while his folks go camping. He'll get some intensive show training while he's here, and Jess really wants to get him ready for a Specialty this month. I humored her, and entered him, but will not hold my breath. Some dogs are naturals though and require less work than others. However, he will need to learn about gaiting on a leash, standing to be examined, and will also need to accept having his bite and his testicles checked, things not always easy for year old boys. At least he has excellent crate manners and is an experienced traveler. I've asked that his owner take him back through a basic obedience class, just as a refresher. Charlie is very well socialized, and because his owners are runners, he is also fit and well exercised which help a great deal. Charlie was sold "with stings". A pet dog at a pet price, but I reserved the right to show him at my expense if he turned out well. Actually, he turned out better than I had anticipated!

Bless the Salvation Army, they took the old furniture yesterday and I finally had a chance to put my living room together. Furniture looks fabulous, but I am not real happy with the new carpet. Guess it will take some getting used to. Next project will be the dining room which will require a new ceiling and new wallpaper. Perhaps one room a year is enough and I can put this off for awhile longer. I'd rather work with the yard, the dogs and the fish.

Picked up some new fish last night. Betta bellica is a species of wild Betta. Our speaker last night brought along some really nice fish for the auction and I was pleased to pick these up. Also a bag of lovely new Cichlids which I did not need, but took pity on. They should be gorgeous as adults, if they don't kill one another. New livebearers arriving today, Xiphophorus xiphidium, the Spiketail Platy, another wild livebearer. Not quite sure where I will put them, but suspect the young Firemouths will have to join their parents in the 55 gallon tank. Also got another batch of bloodworms so hope to get the Goo Obo Gudgeons and Betta picta in spawning mode. And now to decide which fish will summer outside in the pond.

The Showy Ladyslipper bloomed this week. Hope to post a picture tomorrow.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Don't Throw The Baby Out With The Bath Water

Many of the problems we encounter in dogs, both purebred and mixed breed, can be classified as hereditary, although the mode of inheritance is often complex and dependent on the actions of a number of genes. Each breed has it's own list of potential problems, and mixed breeds can inherit a variety of problems from their assorted ancestors. (No, they are NOT healthier.)

Some of these inherited traits are only tendencies that can be modified with proper care. For instance, both shyness and aggression can be inherited, but in many cases they can be modified with proper training and socialization. The same is true of structural issues like hip dysplasia - in breeds where it is common problem, pups that are allowed to carry too much weight while growing seem to be at increased risk. Excessive supplementation has been tied to other orthopedic problems in growing pups. Atopic dermatitis is a commonly inherited allergy in dogs, but some dogs will have serious allergies while others will be only mildly affected because of differences in diet & environment. Responsible breeders try to minimize the possibly inherited problems when they plan a breeding, but it's impossible to prevent everything. A famous geneticist explained to us at a seminar that we have to decide whether a problem is serious enough to eliminate all potential carriers from a breeding program, but if you also eliminate the dogs who produce minor/manageable issues, you might end up eliminating the entire breed!

A reader posed an interesting question -
i bought a puppy who at about ten weeks old began displaying signs of entropion (spelling?). we took her in and the vet "tacked" her eye lids and now she is just fine and you can not even tell that she had the procedure done. it caused no damage whatsoever. i was talking to a friend today whose mastiff puppy had the same condition, only much worse. she told me that my puppies' parents should never be bred again because entropion is hereditary. is this true? my puppy's sire is a champion and has produced several litters (and a couple champions). is this problem always hereditary? thanks.

Entropion is characterized by one or both eyelids rolling in, causing eye irritation and damage as the hair rubs on the eyeball. It's more common in breeds with excessive skin folds (like Chows & Shar Peis) but can show up anywhere. It's considered a serious problem in Mastiffs, but not in Dalmatians, and its not at all common in this breed. I've only seen one affected pup in 40 years, and it was in a puppy bitch I purchased about 10 years ago. One of her eyelids started rolling when she was about 4 months old. My Vet "tacked it" (a few small stitches to help it stay in the correct position) and explained to me that this was normally enough to allow the eyelid to tighten as the dog "grew into" it's facial skin. Had it been successful, I would probably have shown her but not bred her. The tacking didn't work and she eventually had surgery, was spayed, and was placed in a pet home.

This pup came from a pedigree that I was very familiar with, dogs from breeders who I knew well. None of them had ever seen a case of Entropion. Several of her littermates have produced multiple litters without producing a single case of Entropion and some really fine dogs have come from this pedigree.

Because this is not a problem in the breed, because it can be related to a variety of developmental factors, and because it is normally easily managed, I do not agree that the parents should never be bred. The breeder needs to be informed that this happened, and should check on the littermates and any other dogs produced by the parents, but one isolated case is not sufficient reason to stop breeding the parents.