Teach your dog how to use his nose for good scents
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
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 resist directing the dog. The word "no" is off the table, as are any other corrections or obedience cues. 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 is always 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, many 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, proving that the dog has the ability to find and recognize a particular odor, dog/handler teams can compete for many different titles in the sport through the National Association of Canine Scent Work, the American Kennel Club and other organizations.
Diarrhea in cats has
many possible causes
Q: Why does my cat get diarrhea, and what should I do about it? Is it serious?
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
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
sounds of silence
-- 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, that's a considerable animal welfare concern. Studies have shown that canine respiration and heart rates go up in noisy environments, and dogs living in loud surroundings have an increased incidence of both physical and behavior problems.
-- How important is scent to cats? More than you might think. Cats have a keen sense of smell and rely on it heavily. They use their sense of smell to establish territory and determine where they are, to identify each other, and to whet their appetites. Their sebaceous glands -- located primarily on the lips, chin, between the eyes and ears, at the base of the tail and around the anus -- secrete sebum, an oily substance that is odorless to humans but contains scent markers that are meaningful to cats. Urine and feces also contain these scent markers.
-- If you see a dog who resembles a retriever with a curly coat, don't assume he's a Labradoodle. He may be an unusual breed called a curly-coated retriever. The curly, as he's nicknamed, was developed in the 18th century and is one of the oldest of the retrieving breeds. Bred to hunt pheasant, quail and grouse and retrieve waterfowl, the curly is a wickedly smart independent thinker. His coat has small, tight, crisp curls. (Don't blow-dry it unless you want him to look like a Chia Pet.) The coat sheds a little year-round, with a heavier shed twice a year. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.