With summer quickly approaching, dogs are more likely to spend time in the yard and this makes them more prone to fire ant bites. The dog in this picture got recently stung and as you can see, there is some residual scar tissue to attest the encounter with the pesky fire ants. The name of these ants isn’t casual; when fire ants sting, they produce a toxic substance that is known for causing a burning sensation. Fortunately, in many cases the burning sensation is short-lived and dog owners can use a common household remedy to help reduce the pain and itch associated with these bites. So today’s trivia question is:
What makes an effective dog fire ant bite treatment?
A Apple cider vinegar
B Ginger root
C Epsom salts
D A paste of baking soda and water
The correct answer is: drum roll please…
The correct answer is: D, a paste of baking soda and water.
Fire Ants and Dogs
Fire ants are common ants in the southern United States that belong to the genus solenopsis. These ants are typically red and are known for living in large mounds made of fluffy worked soil found in open areas. The ants are about 1/8″ to 1/4″ long, and when they are disturbed, they tend to gather and crawl up vertical surfaces nearby their mounds. Because these ants tend to live nearby lawns, in parks or playgrounds, active, inquisitive dogs are likely to encounter them at some point or another. Digging, sniffing and nosing around puts dogs at risk for fire ant bites.
Feels Like Fire
When the fire ants feel threatened, they will sting and inject a toxin called “solenopsin.” The burning sensation may cause a dog to lick the area. A dog’s paws and upper legs are areas commonly stung as the dog walks around and the irritated ants start climbing. Other vulnerable areas are the dog’s muzzle and belly area. Generally, within minutes dogs develop local irritation and swelling. Also, white vesicles or pustules may form.
“In clinical cases, discomfiture manifested by jumping back, running away, head shaking and rubbing of the paws was noted. ” (Nett, C., personal communication, 2004)
Dog Fire Ant Treatment
At the first signs of problems, it’s helpful to make a poultice of baking soda and water as this will help neutralize the sting, explains Amy D. Shojai in the book “The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats.” Simply mix one tablespoon of baking soda with enough water to form a thick paste and apply on the area making sure your dog doesn’t lick it off. If the area is a foot or paw, it may help to place a sock for about 20 minutes to ensure absorption. Antihistamines, such as plain Benadryl can be used for mild cases, but it’s best to consult with a vet on proper dosages.
“Make a thick paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the sting site. If your dog has multiple stings or bites, a soothing oatmeal bath is the way to go.” VCA Animal Hospitals
Signs of Problems
As with other types of bug bites and stings, there are risks for serious allergic reactions that may result in anaphylactic shock. Dogs who develop hives, facial swelling and trouble breathing should see the emergency vet at once.
Timing is of the essence here. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual death due to anaphylaxis may occur within minutes following the sting.
Disclaimer: this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog got stung and is exhibiting concerning symptoms, please see your vet for proper treatment.
Skin Diseases of the Dog and Cat: Clinical and Histopathologic Diagnosis, By Thelma Lee Gross, Peter J. Ihrke, Emily J. Walder, Verena K. Affolter, Wiley-Blackwell; 2 edition (September 12, 2005)
The First Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats, By Amy D. Shojai, Rodale Pr (February 2001)
VCA Animals Hospitals, First Aid for Insect Stings in Dogs, retrieved from the web on May 31st, 2o16
At some time or another, you may have noticed how your dog has a small indentation at the the top of his upper lip right under his nose. This vertical groove is also seen in humans, and at a first glance, it may seem to have no particular function; however, in dogs there are chances it has a distinct role that’s worthy of mentioning. So today, let’s hear this small structure’s story.
Introducing Your Dog’s Philtrum
Hello, it’s your dog’s philtrum talking! Yes, this is my actual name, but I am also more formally known as “medial cleft.” I am that little indentation at the top of your dog’s upper lip. I may look a bit insignificant, but rest assured I am there for a reason.
My name derives from the ancient Greek word “philtron” meaning “love potion” possibly because according to the National Human Genome Research Institute back in time, the Greeks thought I was one of the most erogenous parts of the body. This may also be why the Ancient Romans referred to me as “Cupid’s Bow.” Other than the Disneyian image of Lady and the Tramp’s spaghetti-eating kiss, dogs may care less about being romantic though, so let’s get straight to the facts.
A Sensory Purpose
In humans, other than possibly having an erogenous role, I really don’t seem to carry any other functions. For this reason I am often considered a vestigial structure with no particular role other than perhaps making the application of lipstick difficult in the dark! In mammals though speculation suggests that things may be a tad bit different.
According to the”e-Study Guide Illustrated Anatomy of the Head and Neck“ I am responsible for carrying moisture from the mouth to the rhinarium, your dog’s moist surface area of the nose. Courtesy of capillary action, I therefore may contribute to keeping your dog’s nasal area moist. As you may already know, having a wet nose aids your dog’s sense of smell as tiny water droplets that carry scent are more readily absorbed.
Did you know? According to veterinarian Allen M. Shoen, the nasal philtrum is an important acupuncture point. Known as GV-26, this point is used for treating shock and cardiovascular collapse.
A Residual Reminder
In animals and humans, I am a reminder of time spent in the womb. You see, during fetal development at some point the nose and the lips fuse together and I am the result. Correct timing is of the essence here. When the two parts grow and fuse together everything goes well.
Fail to grow and fuse together though, and a puppy or baby is born with a birth defect known as a “cleft palate” that requires corrective surgery.
According to the Veterinary Surgery Small Animal Textbook, in order to correct the issue, the puppy’s philtrum, nasal planum and oronasal barrier need to be reestablished. Left untreated, severe cleft palates may cause difficulty nursing aspiration pneumonia, regurgitation, and malnutrition.
As seen, I am an interesting structure that was worthy of discovering! I hope you have found this article helpful! Yours respectfully,
Your Dog’s Philtrum
National Human Genome Research Institute, Anatomy of the Philtrum, retrieved from the web on May 30th, 2016
e-Study Guide for: Illustrated Anatomy of the Head and Neck: Biology, Human …By Cram101 Textbook Reviews, Cram101; 4 edition (Jan. 1 2014)
DVM360, Veterinary medical acupuncture in critical care medicine (Proceedings), Allen M. Schoen, MS, DVM, retrieved from the web on May 30th, 2016
Veterinary Surgery: Small Animal: 2-Volume Set, 1e1 Har/Psc Edition by Karen M. Tobias DVM MS DACVS (Author), Spencer A. Johnston VMD DACVS (Author), Saunders; 1 Har/Psc edition (December 26, 2011)
Wikipedia, Cleft lip in a Boxer by Joel Mills – Own work, Cleft lip in a six week old Boxer puppy. CC BY-SA 3.0
Among the variety of dog breeds that populate the world, you may stumble on dogs who blow their coats naturally, dogs who grow hair that needs clipped routinely and dog breeds that need hand stripping. Why do some dogs need hand stripping? Turns out, it’s a matter of how the coats are crafted in certain dog breeds. You won’t have to necessarily hand strip your dog’s coat if he belongs to any these breeds, but if you want to keep your dog’s traditional breed look and or are planning on showing your dog one day, hand stripping may become a way of life.
Pulling Out of the Roots
Hand stripping is the process of ridding a dog’s coat of dead hairs. This can be accomplished in two ways, either by using a stripping knife, a serrated edged knife which comes in left and right-handed models, or the good old-fashioned way which involves using fingers.
Unlike clipping a dog’s hair using electric clippers which just entails cutting through a layer of hair leaving the root intact, hand stripping involves pulling out every single hair from its root so that there is room for the new coat to grow in.
For the girls reading, the difference is quite similar to shaving legs with a razor versus using an epilator or waxing which involves plucking out hair from the roots.
Did you know? A dog’s wire hair reaches its maximum life span around 6 months which is when it starts to die off.
For Rough-Coated Dogs
Dogs who have a wiry coat, basically, those “rough-coated” breeds usually need hand stripping. Dogs with wiry coats generally have a top coat that is wiry and a soft and short undercoat. The wiry hairs are typically rough on the end and soft near the base. Once their hairs of the top coat have reached their maximum length, they will start dying, and thus, remain loosely anchored into the hair follicle until they’re manually removed or shed naturally.
One may wonder, what is the advantage of hand stripping dogs versus just clipping the coat? When a dog’s coat is clipped, the wiry hairs lack their rough end and therefore risk becoming soft and of a dull color, whereas the hand stripping procedure grants brightly colored hairs with a nice wiry texture. Hand stripping therefore helps remove dead dull-looking hairs of the dog’s top coat so that the dense, soft undercoat is revealed and room is left so that the new top coat can grow in. The procedure is done twice a year.
“A wire hair has a hard point, but is soft near the base. Clipping removes that hard end, and the soft, faded portion grows farther out. Stripping removes the entire hair from the follicle, allowing for a new, wiry, brightly colored hair to grow.”~Renae Hamrick RVT
How it’s Done
Stripping entails holding a few hairs between the thumb and side of the index finger and pulling straight out using a gentle, yet firm motion. Those who are using a stripping knife will keep the hairs between the thumb and the blade when pulling out. For better traction, some people like to use chalk.
Once the dog’s entire coat is stripped, the dog remains only with its undercoat until the wiry top coat starts growing back. “Rolling the coat” is a similar procedure but it involves routinely going through the whole coat only to remove the longest dying hairs; whereas in stripping the coat all dead hairs are removed so to leave the dog with the undercoat only.
According to Groomarts, it generally takes about 8 to 10 weeks for the new coat to come and cover the undercoat.
Does hand stripping dogs hurt? Many experts in the field claim it does not as the hairs are already weakened and ready to come out, but until dogs can talk we might not know exactly how they feel about it.
There are chances that dogs who are hand stripped from an early age may find the process more tolerable. According to the Irish Wolfhound Club of America, possibly the most bothersome part of all is having to stay still in the same spot for any great length of time, however, certain areas may be more sensitive such as the ear area and the belly.
“Properly performed, handstripping is not painful to the dog and improves skin condition. It clears the hair follicles of sweat and hair secretions and promotes healthier skin.”~Karen L. Campbell
Stripped Dog Breeds
As mentioned, dogs who are hand stripped are often dogs with a wiry coat. Hand stripping can be offered by groomers but it can turn out being a costly service as it’s time consuming and requires a certain level of expertise. Many dog owners opt to hand strip their dogs at home once they master the technique. Done correctly, it shouldn’t be painful, and many dog owners attest their dogs even relax and end up falling asleep!
For those who do not wish to get their dogs hand stripped but still want to maintain a certain level of “texture,” it’s possible to rake out some dead hairs before and after using the clippers.
Following is a list of some dog breeds that are commonly hand stripped.
German wirehaired pointer
Wire Fox Terrier
Wire-haired pointing griffon
Video of Handstripping a Terrier
The Pet Lover’s Guide to Cat and Dog Skin Diseases, By Karen L. Campbell, Saunders; 1 edition (November 14, 2005)
GroomArts, Hand Stripping Information Sheet, retrieved from the Web on May 29th, 2016
Irish Wolffound Club of America, Stripping your Irish Wolfhound’s Coat, retrieved from the Web on May 29th, 2016
Pet Place, Stripping: Reveal Your Wirehaired Dog’s Show Quality Coat, retrieved from the Web on May 29th, 2016
Flickr, Creative Commons, Liz M, Rogue-stripping-face, CCBY2.0
Flickr, Creative Commons, Tony Alter Dachshund Details: Smooth Coat – Long Hair – Wire Hair, CCBY2.0
If your dog’s feet smell like popcorn, Fritos, Cheetos, Doritos or some other type of favorite snack food you’re likely to find in a vending machine, you may have wondered what’s behind that smelly concoction. No, it’s not like your dog has set up a secret corn chip factory around the corner nor is he stealing your snack foods when you’re not looking (even though he would love to). And if you think it’s a matter of the food you are feeding your dog, think again. Turns out, you are not imaging things when you think your dog’s feet smell like popcorn and veterinarians seem to have a reasonable explanation for it.
The Role of Sweat
If you think your dog will break a sweat after jogging in the same way you do, think again. Dogs don’t sweat the same way we do. While we have many sweat glands profusely distributed throughout our bodies, dogs instead sweat very discreetly through isolated sweat glands that are located on their nose and paws pads. Sweaty feet in dogs are most likely seen when dogs are stressed just as we tend to get clammy hands. These sweat glands though, according to Muller and Kirk’s Small Animal Dermatology, have limited function when it comes to cooling dogs down. A dog’s primary method for dissipating heat therefore remains panting, which entails vaporizing water from their respiratory passages.
Did you know? According to Sue Gould, professional dog groomer and author of the book “The Dog Groomer’s Manual,”those sweaty feet in dogs helps improve their grip and traction so that they can make a safe escape.
Bacteria and Yeast
On top of sweating, dog feet (like the rest of the dog’s skin) are normally populated by several types of bacteria and yeast. The fact that toes are stuck together, touching each other, further results in reduced ventilation and trapped moisture. On top of that, dog feet are in contact with the ground for a lot of time and dogs occasionally tend to lick them which contributes to additional microbes. All of these factors therefore likely contribute to the smell, paving the path for a stronger odor compared to the rest of the dog’s body, explains veterinarian Janet Tobiassen Crosby.
Pointing the Finger
Two types of gram negative bacteria known as “pseudomonas” and “proteus “are strains known for populating a dog’s feet and ears, explains, Rob Hilton a veterinarian with a practice restricted to referrals and consultations in Veterinary Dermatology around Melbourne.
While bacteria may contribute to the odor of dog feet, when it comes though to that typical snack food smell, proteus is the main bacteria to blame, explains Dr. Robert J. Silver, a Colorado-based veterinarian in an article for the Huffington Post.
Signs of Trouble
As mentioned, the dog’s skin is normally inhabited by several types of yeast and bacteria, and fortunately the immune system does a pretty decent job in keeping their numbers under control. Sometimes though things may get out of hand. An overgrowth of yeast and bacteria may cause problematic skin conditions that go beyond that typical popcorn smell. If you ever notice a rancid, pungent or musty odor coming from your dog’s skin, it’s best to seek veterinary attention, suggest Karen Helton Rhodes and Terri Bonenberger, two board-certified veterinary dermatologists.
Reducing Dog Feet Smell
Do your dog’s feet smell and you want to do something about it? After having your dog see your vet to rule out any medical conditions, you can try a few homes remedies to reduce the odor. Here are a few tips.
Monitor your dog’s feet for signs of trouble and report to your vet promptly.
Boosting your dog’s immune system so that his body is better armed to keep the population of yeast and bacteria under control is helpful.
Keep your dog’s feet dry (especially in the warm months) as moisture attracts bacteria and yeast.
Trimming the hair around the dog’s feet helps improve the circulation of air. Hairs may trap sweat and moisture which can be a problem in dogs prone to inflammation in their feet, explains veterinarian Dr. Fiona.
Is that popcorn smell coming from your dogs’s feet making you dizzy? Jodi Ziskin, a Certified Pet Nutrition Consultant for Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice, suggests spraying a dog’s feet daily with squirts of organic, raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar making sure that it reaches between the toes.
Muller and Kirk’s Small Animal Dermatology, By William H. Miller Jr., Craig E. Griffin, Karen L. Campbell, Saunders; 7 edition (December 14, 2012)
Dog Groomer’s Manual: A Definitive Guide to the Science, Practice and Art of Dog Grooming …by Sue Gould, Crowood Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2014)
Frito Feet’ – Why Do Dog Paws Smell Like Corn Chips, Nuts, or Popcorn? by Janet Tobiassen Crosby, retrieved from the web on May 28th, 2016.
Huffington Post, This Is Why Your Dog’s Paws Smell Like Fritos, retrieved from the web on May 28th, 2016
Clinical Review, Bacterial Infections of the Skin, by Rob Hilton, retrieved from the web on May 28th, 2016.
Canine Skin Solutions, Facts and Myths About Yeast Dermatitis in Dogs, retrieved from the web on May 28th, 2016.
Among humans, belly buttons are quite noticeable whether they are “outies” or “innies,” but among dogs things are far more secretive and you might need to go on some sort of treasure hunt in search of them. If you have already tried to look everywhere under all that fur with little success, you may have been tempted to shrug your shoulders and assume dogs just don’t have one. So do dogs have belly buttons or not? Today, our mission is to discover whether it’s worthy to keep looking for one or to throw in the towel and give up.
Discovering Those Buttons
Before going on a treasure hunt in search of our dog’s belly button, it’s worthy discovering a bit more about belly buttons in dogs. We affectionately call it belly button, but to be precise the technical term is navel or if we want to be more clinically correct, the ideal term is “umbilicus.” For this article though, we’ll stick to belly button because we think it’s cuter.
What’s really a belly button though and how is it formed? It might not look like it, but a belly button is simply scar tissue that has formed at the site where the umbilical cord was once attached. Therefore, we can say that the belly button is simply a “memory” reminiscent of the good old days when we were still in our mother’s belly and our umbilical cords were attached to our mom’s placenta so that we could be supplied with oxygen-rich blood.
A Trait of Placental Mammals
Not all animals have belly buttons though. In order for an animal to have a belly button, it must have a history of having an umbilical cord attached to a placenta. So animals like birds who hatch eggs or marsupials who incubate their little ones in their pouch, don’t fit the description.
Therefore, the only animals that can have belly buttons are animals that fall under the category of “placental mammals.”
According to the University of California Museum of Paleontology, these are mammals that prior to birth, are nourished through a placenta. Examples of placental animals include humans, cats, dogs and several non-egg laying farm animals such as goats, cows and sheep.
For ease of explanation, we can therefore state that when there’s an umbilical cord, there’s likely a belly button hiding somewhere.
Going on a Treasure Hunt
Just because your dog’s belly button isn’t readily visible, doesn’t mean it’s not there! For sure, you’ll have an easier time finding it in puppies, shortly after the umbilical cord shrivels and detaches. Afterward, as the puppies develop, their small belly buttons start becoming more and more difficult as their permanent adult coats come in.
Fact is, those belly buttons aren’t as relevant as ours. Unlike our belly buttons that are readily noticed, theirs are barely visible often resembling a small barely visible white line or scar. For some dogs, the only indication of its presence is that small tuft of hair you find right below the end of your dog’s rib-cage.
Pushing the Wrong Button
“Outies” are quite common among humans, but in the dog world if you notice something sticking out from the dog’s abdomen, you’re likely looking at an umbilical hernia, explain Caroline Coile and Margaret H. Bonham in the book “Why do Dogs Like Balls.” An umbilical hernia is simply a protrusion found around the dog’s umbilical area caused by some fat or a portion of abdominal lining or abdominal organ. Generally, the soft bulge doesn’t cause any particular complications other than looking unsightly, but they can sometimes warrant an emergency trip to the vet when a loop of the intestines become trapped, explains veterinarian Debra Primovic.
Pet Place, Umbilical Hernia in Dogs, Dr. Debra Primovic, retrieved from the web on May 27th, 2016
University of California Museum of Paleontology, Eutheria, the Placental Mammals, retrieved from the web on May 27th, 2016
Why Do Dogs Like Balls?: More Than 200 Canine Quirks, Curiosities, and Conundrums Revealed, D. Caroline Coile PhD (Author), Margaret H. Bonham, Sterling (September 2, 2008)
You may have at some point or another stumbled on some comic strip or a funny cartoon scene depicting a dog on guard duty sleeping with one of his eyes open, but can dogs really sleep with their eyes open? Eyes are often associated with a state of vigilance and therefore we say things like “I’ll keep an eye open” to ensure we don’t miss something, and then, on the other hand, we say “close your eyes and imagine” to depict a transition from awareness to an imaginary world. It’s not surprising therefore if we imagine an animal that’s known for being alert as the dog as having the superior ability to “sleep with its eyes” open. Many owners attest that their dogs can really sleep with their eyes open or semi-open, but can they really sleep this way?
A Matter of Protection
Eyes play a very important role in our lives and the lives of our dogs. When it comes to dogs, good vision in their evolutionary past meant the difference between getting to eat a meal or starvation or becoming some other animal’s lunch or surviving. Mother Nature has therefore made sure that the eyes of our dogs were protected (and continue to be protected) from harm arming them of eye lashes, blinking reflexes and other protective measures means to protect this dog’s important asset known as vision.
Before we drift into deep sleep, we close our eyelids (which are meant to protect our eyes) as sleeping with the eyes open could mean exposing them to the elements, causing dryness and potential damage to the cornea (which can progress to a condition known as exposure keratitis) but what what about dogs? Sleeping with their eyes open would be quite counterproductive!
Exceptions to The Rule
Dogs do not normally sleep with their eyes open. An exception though would be when dogs are undergoing veterinary procedures requiring sedation or anesthesia. During these procedures, the dog’s eyes may stay open as the dog’s blink reflex and tear production decreases. According to Dr. Foster and Smith this is remedied by applying a special artificial tear ointment during these veterinary procedures. But what about dog owners attesting that their dogs do sleep with their eyes open? At a first glance it may appear that way, but at a closer look, we may see that things are a tad bit different than thought.
Did you know? Lagophthalmos, is the medical term used to depict the incomplete closure of eyelids during sleep. According to Advanced Animal Eye Care this condition is commonly seen in short-faced dog breeds like Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, Pekingese, and Pugs.
Introducing the Third Eyelid
When our dogs look as if they are sleeping with their eyes open, in reality we are looking at a dog’s third eyelid, also known as the nictitating membrane. Indeed, if we look carefully, we’ll notice a light pink or reddish looking tissue rather than the dog’s regular eye color.
The third eyelid is a protective film of tissue that naturally draws across the dog’s eye when the dog is sleeping. The nictitating membrane therefore helps keep the eyeball moist. According to the American College of Veterinary Opthamologists, the gland of the third eyelid gland is indeed responsible for the production of 40 to 50 percent of the dog’s tears. On top of keeping the eye lubricated, the third eyelid, just like an effective windshield wiper, sweeps off any debris preventing it from attaching to the dog’s eyeball as he’s sleeping. This is ultimately something quite valuable considering that dogs lack our manual dexterity to rub their eyes to remove any foreign items, points out Dr. Eric Barchas.
A Passive Movement
The dog’s third eyelid is quite different from other structures as there are no muscles attached to its membrane. Its movement is therefore entirely passive.
Basically, once the eyeball retracts into the orbit, it elicits the third eyelid to passively slide across the eye’s surface, explains veterinary opthamologist Dr. Christine C. Lim, in the book “Small Animal Ophthalmic Atlas and Guide.”
Eyes Wide Open
When a dog awakens from sleep, the third eyelid should retract and go back to its normal “awake state” position, which is tucked out of sight in the dog’s inner corner of the eye. Now that the dog’s eyes are open, blinking will take over in keeping the dog’s eyes moist and removing debris.
In some cases though, the third eyelid may not retract as it should. This can be due to an eye injury, ocular pain illness or possibly, a damaged nerve, explains veterinarian Betsy Brevitz in the book: “Hound Health Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Keeping Your Dog Happy.” If your dog’s third eyelid therefore is showing when he’s wide awake, it’s best to have the dog evaluated by a vet.
Did you know? In humans, the third eyelid has shrunk to a rudimentary bump that is found in the inner corner of the eye, explains veterinarianPaul Miller of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Pet Education, Doctors Foster and Smith, Artificial Tears, retrieved from the web on May 26th, 2016
American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists, Prolapsed Gland of the Third Eyelid, retrieved from the web on May 26th, 2016
Small Animal Ophthalmic Atlas and Guide1st Edition, by Christine C. Lim, Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (April 20, 2015)
Hound Health Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Keeping Your Dog Happy …By Betsy Brevitz, Workman Publishing Company; 1 edition (April 16, 2009)
Scientific American, Why do cats have an inner eyelid as well as outer ones? retrieved from the web on May 26th, 2016
Advanced Animal Eye Care, Lagophthalmos (Incomplete Eyelid Closure), retrieved from the web on May 26th, 2016
When it comes to the many types of leashes for dogs, there are several to choose from and the retractable leash is one option. As the name implies, the retractable leash may sound like a good idea as it allows dogs more freedom on walks, but there are several drawbacks when it comes to their efficacy and safety. It’s important to understand how these leashes work before purchasing one as there are several things to become aware of. So today, we’ll be taking a closer look at retractable leashes for dogs, how they work and their pros and cons.
At a Closer Glance
In the world of dog leashes, there are regular leashes that typically come in lengths of 4 to 6 feet and then there are retractable “leashes” which offer the possibility for dogs to wander at distances generally ranging from 15 to 25 feet.
How are these “leashes” made? A retractable leash has a plastic handle which houses a thin cord that releases courtesy of a spring-loaded device that activates when the dog pulls. As the dog walks, the owner has the option to allow the cord to release or retract, thus, dog owners can control how much the leash extends through the use of a button on the handle.
The main appeal of these leashes is the fact that dogs can be granted more freedom for exploration, but as mentioned they have some drawbacks worth mentioning.
Dog behavior can sometimes be prone to certain phenomena that can leave us wondering what may be going on. Let’s see if for today’s trivia you can help solve the mystery behind this case of a dog’s behavior that gets worse before getting better…
Becky owns a smart, five year old border collie mix who goes by the name of Sammy. Sammy has been going through a period of finickiness, not wanting to eat her kibble as usual. Becky, concerned about the behavior, started giving in and feeding her at the table some table scraps. Her vet though said that her dog just had a bout of stomach problems causing her to be finicky, but now that she is doing better, he recommends stop feeding the table scraps as she has already started gaining some pounds and has a sensitive tummy. He therefore tells her to start ignoring her begging behaviors and feed her exclusively a special prescription diet food.
The process of weaning off the table scraps isn’t one of the easiest tasks. With a history of getting table scraps for quite some time, Sammy’s behavior of begging at the table is quite established, but Becky is very determined in not giving in to her dog’s pleading eyes. The first day, Sammy stared at her with intent as usual, but Becky was determined and didn’t give anything. Now, Sammy’s begging behavior seems like they are getting worse, and Becky is starting to feel discouraged even doubt about her vet’s advice to ignore the begging. So today’s trivia question is:
What’s the name of the phenomenon that’s likely behind the worsening of this behavior?
A Incidental Training
C Extinction Burst
D Potentiation Effect
The correct answer is: drum roll please…
The correct answer is: C, an extinction burst.
A Lesson in Etymology
The word “extinction burst” may sound like an odd term that can bring to mind animals that no longer exist or some sort of explosion, but it’s quite an effective term in depicting what is going on once we take a closer look at what it entails. Chances are high that if you own a dog, at some time or another, you may have witnessed this phenomenon.
The word “extinction” comes from the ancient Latin word extinctus, which is the past participle of extinguere which means “to put out, destroy, abolish, extinguish.” The word burst, on the other paw, comes from the Old English word berstan which means to “break suddenly, shatter under pressure.”
Extinguishing Dog Behavior
When it comes to dogs, undesirable behaviors are often what people ask for help with. Dog owners may wish to “stop” certain attention-seeking behaviors from occurring such as begging at the table, jumping, pawing or barking at their owners when bored. Before discovering extinction bursts, let’s first see what happens when a behavior is in the process of extinguishing.
In psychology, the term extinction is used to the phenomenon where a behavior with a history of reinforcement no longer yields the reinforcing consequences. We know that certain dog behaviors are fueled by attention, so if your bored dog barks at you when you are sitting on the couch and you get up and play with him, your attention will have fueled (the correct term would be reinforced) the barking behavior. The attention given quite often thus allows the barking behavior to stay alive, fueling it like oxygen does to a fire and preventing it from extinguishing.
Introducing the Extinction Burst
In the midst of the process of the behavior extinguishing, one may stumble on an extinction burst. What exactly is an extinction burst? According to the Association of Animal Behavior Professionals, an extinction burst consists of “an initial increase in the rate of responding following the instatement of extinction.”
In the case of the dog’s begging behavior getting worse, it’s therefore undergoing an extinction burst as the owner is no longer, “feeding” the behavior. In the case of the dog barking for attention, the barking gets more persistent and louder.
We can see the same phenomenon in humans. Here’s a practical, real life example. A mom always gives in and buys candy for her child when she cries when visiting the grocery store. Then one day the child’s dentist notices the candy is ruining the child’s teeth. So from the next day, no more candy. The child cries, and cries and cries throwing a temper tantrum but mom is determined not to give in.
What happens though after several day in a row of not buying candy? The behavior of crying gets temporarily worse but then eventually extinguishes just like a fire that is deprived from oxygen.
Extinction Burst: “A characteristic of extinction. If a previously reinforced behavior is not reinforced, the animal will increase the intensity or frequency of the behavior in an attempt to earn the reinforcement again. If the behavior is not reinforced it will diminish again after an extinction burst.”~ Karen Pryor Academy Glossary
What’s Likely Happening
What’s behind an extinction burst? The worsening of the behavior is likely a build-up of frustration/motivation due to the lack of reinforcement. It’s as if the dog is saying “Hey, what’s up? Usually when I look at you eating you slip me a slice of turkey, what’s going on today? I am here, see me?” Or in the case of the dog barking for attention “Yo! Bark, bark, bark, what part of my bark you don’t understand? You always play with me when I bark! I’ll bark louder so you pay attention to me!” Or in the case of the child “Mom, I want candy! You always got me candy, I want candy! Get me candy! Nooooowwww!”
Interestingly, during an extinction burst the behavior may not only increase and become more insistent, but variability may also set in under the form of new behaviors added into the mix. The dog who has always begged at the table by looking at the owner with pleading eyes, may now start also pawing or barking. The dog who has always barked to get the owner to play may now start jumping on the owner as he ignores him. The child who has always cried to get candy, may now stomp her feet on the ground and scream. According to Pierce & Cheney, 2004 , this change in behavior is called “resurgence.”
“Resurgence: The increase in topographic variability during extinction after a period of reinforcement…”~ (Pierce & Cheney, 2004). “
Tip: When the extinction burst happens, it might feel frustrating for dog owners to witness and it may be tempting to get mad at the animal and correct him. Instead, it’s very important to understand what is going on and be appreciative for the animal trying hard to overcome “their mental road blocks.”
Persistence is Key
When dog owners stumble on the extinction burst they may start doubting and wonder if their behavior modification program is truly working. “The vet told me to ignore the behavior, but the begging is getting worse, maybe it’s time to change protocol?” Changing protocol though could be a big mistake. The fact an extinction burst takes place is a sign that what is being done is actually working! A little more persistence in further ignoring the behavior will therefore likely yield to extinction.
The worst thing one can do during an extinction burst is giving in such as buying the child candy when he’s throwing the temper tantrum just to shut him up. This would fuel the behavior even more than before, turning it into a bigger fire that is always more and more difficult to extinguish! Next time, you can bet when the child doesn’t get candy, he’ll be turning into a scaled down version of the Incredible Hulk!
Not Always a Bad Thing!
Extinction bursts are not always a bad thing! First and foremost, as we have seen, if you are trying to extinguish an unwanted behavior, the extinction burst is a good sign, meaning that things are progressing and that after the hill, if you persist in not reinforcing it, you’ll likely have a smooth road ahead. Terry Ryan, dog trainer and author of the book “Coaching people to train their dogs” likes to tell her clients when they stumble on their first extinction bursts and get discouraged: “Great! He got worst! That means extinction is working!”So if you continue withholding reinforcement, the behavior will eventually weaken and eventually vanish.
On top of this, extinction bursts can also be used to your advantage in training your dog. So let’s say you are trying to train a behavior, but you want to see more motivation or variability. In the case of increasing motivation, let’s imagine we are training our dog to do attention heeling, where the dog looks up at you while walking. We reward the dog for looking up at us quite often while walking, we have been doing this for some time, but at some point, we want our dog to look to be a bit more motivated so to create a flashier looking heeling. So we stop rewarding as often. The dog at some point may look at us with more motivation. This is when we want to lavishly praise and reward! We can see an example of this increase in motivation in the video below.
As mentioned, extinction bursts can also be helpful to add variability. So let’s say, you want to train your dog to play the piano using his paws, but your dog is using his nose all the time. After rewarding nose touches every single time for a while, you stop rewarding them. Your dog at this point may get a tad bit frustrated, and wonder what’s up since he’s no longer being rewarded. “Hey! Don’t you see me? I am using my nose to play! Look at me, see me? I’ll do it again, and press even more!”
At some point though your dog may think of trying something else to gain reinforcement, perhaps something he has done in the past that has gained it. So he might at some point decide to use his paws. Bingo! “You click and reward the behavior. In the meanwhile, your dog may think something along the terms of “Aha! so this is the behavior that now gains a reward!” and soon your dog is on his way to playing with his paws more and more.
Warning: removing reinforcement too early in training or with dogs who are inhibited and tentative in offering variable behaviors may discourage them and cause them to give up rather than trying harder!
Here’s an Example of Extinction Burst, where during the second half of the video, the dog being reinforced less often than before, starts working harder when pulling the laundry out and pushing it into the owner’s hand!
Association of Animal Behavior Professionals, Glossary, retrieved from the web on May 24th, 2016
Karen Pryor, Click Training Terms, retrieved from the web on May 24th, 2016
Legacy Canine; 2 edition (January 1, 2008) Coaching People to Train Their DogsPaperback– January 1, 2008
You might have never heard about your dog’s inter-ramal tuft, but rest assured, you have likely noticed this anatomical feature on your dog many, many times. This technical sounding word simply refers to that little batch of whiskers found under your dog’s chin. It may feel tempting at times for some dog owners to grab a pair of scissors and remove these hairs, but it’s worthy of thinking it over twice, especially after we discover why these hairs are there in the first place and the important role they play in a dog’s life. So today, let’s have the dog’s inter-ramal tuft do the talking so that we can better understand these facial hairs and tell us their story.
Introducing the Dog’s Inter-Ramal Tuft
Hello, and thank you for stopping by and listening to my story! I am your dog’s inter-ramal tuft, a solitary tuft of hair found under your dog’s chin. My name may appear a tad bit technical and some people like to refer to me as simply the “tuft of whiskers under the chin.” This is fine with me too, as I technically fall under the whisker category.
You see, when people think about dog whiskers, they tend to mostly think about the hairs sprouting from the dog’s muzzle, right above the lips. These whiskers are known as “mystacial whiskers” perhaps because they appear in the area where in humans mustaches tend to grow. Dogs have more whiskers though, such as those found on top of the eyes (superciliary), by the cheeks (genal) and then under the chin (yup, that’s me, the inter-ramal tuft!) As other whiskers, I am made of thick hairs that often sprout from a dark little spot of skin.
I Transmit Information
Not many people give thought to dog whiskers, but they are not there just for decoration, they actually have a purpose. You see, dog whiskers are a tad bit different from the rest of your dog’s hair. They are thicker, longer hairs that are equipped with hair follicles that are heavily innervated with sensory nerves. You can think of them as powerful antennas that provide sensory information. Basically, when something in your dog’s environment rubs against them, they tend to vibrate and stimulate nerves in the hair follicles, explains veterinarian Dr. Mary Fuller. The stimulated nerves then transmit information to the brain under the form of feedback about their surroundings. If you think about it, this explains why whiskers are also known as “vibrissae.” The word vibrissae comes from the Latin word “vibrio” which means to “vibrate.”
The World Below Me
Think cars and only trucks have blind spots? Think again! Dogs have blind spots too and one of them is just under their chins. Now you know why your dog has sometimes a hard time seeing that treat you just tossed him that is right under his nose! While your dog’s mystacial whiskers provides your dog with sensory information about what is on his left and what is on his right, I provide your dog with information on what is found right beneath his head so to keep him informed and safe.
So it is thanks to me, the inter-ramal tuft, that your dog is able to tell how close or far his head is from his food bowl and water bowl. I also help dogs when they go on their digging adventures and try to fit their heads in holes or inside tunnels or when they sniff with their noses close to the ground. From an evolutionary standpoint, I have a history of helping dogs they were digging with their noses and nosing around looking for foods near the ground.
Take Good Care of Me
As seen, I am not just sitting there thumb dwindling all day nor am I am there for decorative purposes. I perform some important functions to keep your dog’s head protected and safe. I therefore tend to cringe when I see dogs going to the groomer and having me chopped off just to provide for “a cleaner” outline of the jaw. Many times groomers are forced to chop me off, as it would be very difficult to avoid me as the dog’s facial hairs are trimmed off (think poodles). However, the good news is that once trimmed off, I will readily grow back. In the meanwhile though, according to veterinarian Roger L. Welton, your dog will need to adjust to the way he senses his surroundings.
I hope this has helped you understand me better! Hiding, down right under your dog’s chin, I live a bit in the shadow, so it is easy to forget about me! Now that you know me better, you can have a better idea of what I do when you watch your dog navigate the world. In the meanwhile, I send you dear regards.
Your Dog’s Inter-ramal Tuft.
Did you know? According to Stanley Coren, there are several areas of the dog’s brain purposely crafted to register tactile information. Out of all these areas, nearly 40 percent is dedicated to the regions of the dog’s facial area, particularly the areas of the dog’s upper jaw.
Vet Street, What’s the Deal With… Whiskers? by Dr. Mary Fuller, retrieved from the web on May 23, 2016.
Psychology Today, Why do Dogs Have Whiskers, by Stanley Coren, retrieved from the web on May 23, 2016
They say eyes are the windows to the soul, and those brown eyes in dogs are truly expressive! When it comes to dogs, Mother Nature seems to have equipped the majority of dogs with brown eyes and made it the default color, but occasionally you may stumble on dogs with other eye colors. This seems to also be a common pattern in many other animals, with brown being the most popular color on the palette when it comes to eye colors. Despite the fact that dogs are likely the most varied looking animal on earth (they come in so many shapes, colors and sizes!) it may seem a bit peculiar that Mother Nature got a bit stingy in the eye color department, but for sure she was generous in giving those brown eyes different hues. Whether your dog has amber eyes, hazel eyes or light brown, medium brown or dark brown eyes they sure have quite an expressive touch!
A Matter of Melanin
What determines how dark a dog’s eyes will become? Genetics aside, it’s a matter or melanin. The colored eye part of the eye that encircles the dog’s black pupils is known as the “iris” and its pigmentation varies from one dog and another depending on its concentration of melanin, a pigment that is responsible for giving color to skin, coat and eyes.
Therefore, dogs with brown eyes have a greater concentration of melanin in their iris compared to dogs with lighter colored eyes. Without melanin, dogs would be albino and have a white coat, pink skin and likely their eyes would be pinkish in color.
Age of Onset
Melanin production doesn’t start from the get-go. Because of this, most puppies are born with blue eyes. As the pups develop, their eyes will turn their permanent color at around 2 months of age, explains Stanley Coren in the book: “Do Dogs Dream? Nearly Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know. ” By this time, most puppies will therefore develop brown eyes. No change by this time frame may be indicative that the blue eyes are likely to stick around in dogs genetically prone to having blue eyes.
Coat Color Matters
The shade of eye color in dogs can also vary based on coat colors. For example, according to Powerscourt Cocker Spaniel Breeders, in a puppy with a merle coat, the blue eyes will fail to darken because the merle gene dilutes the melanin pigment, therefore the blue eye color becomes permanent in this case.
When it comes to brown eyes, certain shades are exclusively seen in certain coat colors. For instance, according to Dog Genetics, liver dogs always have amber eyes as the liver gene dilutes the brown eyes to amber and the nose is diluted to light brown. Amber eyes may range from light brown as seen in the Pharaoh hound and Anatolian shepherd, to yellow or even almost grey as seen in the Weimaraner. Amber eyes are also popular in dogs with a blue or isabella coat, and sometimes amber or copper eyes are present in dogs with black pigment.
A Softer Look
Most dog breed standards call for dark brown eyes in our canine companions. Interestingly, canines in the wild instead have lighter colored eyes compared to our domesticated dogs. Wolves, which are the dog’s ancestors, often sport an eye color ranging from gold, to amber or light brown with hues of yellow or even gray, claims Lisa Dube Forman, an American Kennel Club Dog Show Judge for Irish Wolfhounds and Afghan Hounds.
There may be chances that domesticated dogs were selectively bred to have darker eyes due to cosmetic appeal. Lighter colored eyes referred to as the yellow “bird of prey” color is often frowned upon in several breed standard (it’s a serious fault in the Rottweiler and means for disqualification in the cane corso and Polish lowland sheepdog breed) as it tends to give dogs an unappealing harsh look according to the American Kennel Club.
Dogs With Beautiful Brown Eyes
Dog Genetics, Eye Colors, retrieved from the web on May 22nd, 2016
Do Dogs Dream?: Nearly Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know, By Stanley Coren, W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (July 16, 2012)
Encyclopedia of K9 Terminology By Edward M. Gilbert, Jr, Patricia H. Gilbert, Dogwise Publishing (August 30, 2013)
American Kennel Club, Glossary, retrieved from the web on May 22nd, 2016
Powerscourt, W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (July 16, 2012) retrieved from the web on May 22nd, 2016
The Canine Chronicle, The Eyes Have It, By Lisa Dube Forman, retrieved from the web on May 22nd, 2016