TEACH YOUR DOG HOW TO USE HIS NOSE FOR GOOD SCENTS
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Have you ever wished there was a dog sport that anyone -- and any dog -- could do? Wish no more. Nose work is what you've been looking for. If your dog can eat treats out of a box or has a favorite toy, he can excel at this fun sport. Purebreds and mixed breeds of all ages, sizes and abilities are finding a place in nose work classes and competitions.
The object of the game is for the dog to find a particular odor -- birch, anise or clove -- and alert his handler to the find by sitting, looking at the person or displaying some other signal. It can be played indoors or outdoors on all types of surfaces. Weather or environmental factors such as wind, rain, snow, air conditioners or heating vents affect the dispersal of scent and the difficulty of the find.
Nose work, which was invented in 2006 by three California dog trainers, isn't just a way for your dog to use his sniffer. It helps shy or fearful dogs learn confidence, strengthens the bond between dog and handler, and permits older dogs to remain active and interested in life.
In this sport, the dog takes the lead. It's his nose that does the work, after all. Both dog and handler must learn to read and respond to the subtleties of each other's body language, and dogs must learn to overcome distractions, handler interference and individual fears, such as shiny floors or tight corners.
For people, it can be difficult to step back and not try to direct the dog. The word "No" is off the table, as are any other corrections and obedience commands. Letting the dog work and believing him when he gives the alert signal is easier said than done, but you'll find that practice enriches communication between you and your dog.
It's essential to reward the dog for finds. That's where treats -- or a favorite toy -- come in. Dogs start by finding an open box on the floor filled with treats. They get to eat the treats out of the box, plus they get more treats and praise when they find the container. Even if he needs a little help, the dog is always rewarded for finding a scent.
Gradually, scent is paired with the treats in the box. As the dog progresses, he's eventually searching for scent alone, but he always gets rewarded with treats or a favorite toy and praise when he makes a find. That's a big ego boost for any dog, but it especially benefits dogs with little confidence. It's not unusual to see shy or timid dogs become excited about searches after just a couple of classes.
Got a dog who barks or snarls at his fellow canines? That's not a problem in nose work. Each dog works individually while the others are out of sight in a car or crate. They might see each other in passing, but class members learn quickly which dogs need more space and then work together to accommodate their needs. Even after the dog learns the basics, most people continue to go to class for practice and camaraderie.
Nose work is a game that you can do just for fun, but it also has a competitive element. After passing an Odor Recognition Test (ORT) proving that the dog has the ability to find and recognize a particular odor, dog/handler teams can compete for titles at different levels: NW1, NW2, NW3 and NW3 Elite. Find classes through the National Association of Canine Scent Work, which held its first national trial earlier this year.
Diarrhea in cats has
many possible causes
Q: Why does my cat get diarrhea, and what should I do about it? Is it serious? -- via email
A: At one time or another, every cat owner experiences the foul-smelling loose stools produced by cats with diarrhea. It's one of the most common problems seen in cats, but diarrhea has many different causes. If you'll excuse the pun, figuring out the cause of diarrhea is a process of elimination.
Kittens often have diarrhea caused by intestinal parasites, such as roundworms. A sudden change in diet, eating rich foods, food allergies, gastrointestinal infections caused by bacteria or viruses, pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease are other common causes of diarrhea. Possible causes of diarrhea in aging cats include hyperthyroidism or alimentary lymphoma.
Occasional diarrhea usually isn't serious. Whether a case of "the runs" warrants a trip to the veterinarian depends on several factors. If your adult cat who goes outdoors is eating well and acting normally, you can probably wait a couple of days to see if the situation improves. He may just have "garbage gut" from eating a dead mouse. Anxiety caused by guests in the home or other environmental changes can also trigger a bout of diarrhea.
If you have a kitten or a senior cat, and diarrhea persists for more than a couple of days, or if your cat has bloody diarrhea, he needs to see the veterinarian. Very young and very old cats can quickly become dehydrated if they have diarrhea. You should also be concerned if your cat isn't eating, seems lethargic and is vomiting in addition to the diarrhea.
With an examination and some detective work, your veterinarian can determine whether your cat's diarrhea needs to be treated with antibiotics, a hypoallergenic diet or probiotics. A diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease may call for corticosteroid injections, while diarrhea caused by intestinal cancer may be resolved with chemotherapy. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Less costly treatment
plan for pups with parvo
-- Canine parvovirus is a terrible intestinal infection that can kill dogs, especially puppies, if left untreated. Unfortunately, treatment in a veterinary hospital, while it has the best survival rate, is often very expensive, running between $1,500 and $3,000. Now veterinarians at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital have developed a new outpatient protocol with an 85 percent survival rate, compared to 90 percent for the more costly inpatient treatment. While it requires a high level of nursing care from the owner, as well as close supervision by the pet's regular veterinarian, the cost is only $200 to $300. Veterinarians can contact CSU for details of the protocol.
-- A proposed Massachusetts law would require towns and cities in the state to put emergency evacuation and shelter plans in place for animals. Laws like this are currently on the books in 13 states, inspired by the large numbers of people who died rather than abandon their pets during Hurricane Katrina. Such loyalty to animals can put the lives of first responders at risk as well, which is why the federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act requires states that accept money for homeland security to incorporate disaster plans for animals. The new law would give municipalities in Massachusetts one year to develop such plans.
-- What's louder: an animal shelter or a jackhammer? Unfortunately for homeless pets, many shelters measure in at around 118 decibels, louder than a subway train or a jackhammer, and higher than the 90-decibel OSHA cutoff for required ear protection for human workers. Peak sound levels occur at feeding and cleaning times. Considering that dogs hear three times better than humans do, that's a considerable animal welfare concern. Studies have shown that canine respiration and heart rates go up in noisy environments, and they have an increased incidence of both physical and behavior problems. -- Christie Keith
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are joined by professional dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.