Surprise, Your Dog Has New Year Resolutions Too!

 

With the year coming to an end, you might have special plans in mind for next year, but what about your dog? Chances are high your dog has New Year’s resolutions too! Of course, Rover won’r compile a New Year’s resolution to-do-list like many people do, and obviously he can’t express them in words, but as dog owners, we must be our dog’s ambassadors as they depend quite a lot on us for their health and mental well being.  So for New Year’s why not help Rover keep his resolutions for a healthy and happier year ahead? Chances are, some of these resolutions may benefit you too! So here are Five News Year’s Resolutions your dog wants you to know about.

“I Shall Shed Some Pounds”…

According to the The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) an estimated 58 percent of dogs in the Unites States are overweight or obese. And just as in people, those extra pounds makes dogs susceptible to several medical conditions such as orthopedic problems, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory problems, cancer and an over all decreased life expectancy.

Helping your dog lose weight is much easier than thought considering that you are the one in control of portions and distribution of treats. Consider feeding your dog at specific times versus providing food ad libitum, that is, leaving food at your dog’s disposal all day.

Start using measuring cups so you have better control on the amount of food consumed and use a portion of your dog’s food for treats or training, suggests board-certified veterinarian Christopher G. Byers.

Consult with your vet for appropriate dietary changes to help your dog shed extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight.  

“And I Shall Get More Exercise”

On top of shedding extra pounds, engaging more in exercise is another New Year’s Resolution that tops Rover’s list.

You can help him reach this goal by cutting a bit of your spare time and taking your dog on walks. This way, your dog gets to lead a happier and healthier life, but the best part is, so do you!

This resolution may therefore match your own if your were planning to embrace New Year’s with the idea of shedding a few pounds or leading a healthier lifestyle.

Whether you are planning on jogging, going on hikes on trails or long leisurely walks,  you dog will certainly be happy to accompany you.

Just make sure that you’re dog is properly conditioned for the type of exercise you are planning to include him and that he’s old enough; too much exercise or of the wrong type in puppies may have a negative impact on their growth plates.

“I Shall Be Kept More Mentally Stimulated…”

Sure, losing weight and getting more exercise are great resolutions, but let’s not forget that Rover has a mind too, and that mind needs to be kept busy.

Dog owners often forget about this, but dogs like to keep their minds occupied just as much as they like to play and romp around.

Of course, when we talk about mental stimulation, we’re not talking about getting our dogs to do crossword puzzles, compose a piece of music or a solve a game of Sodoku.

Instead, we’re talking about interactive games such as hiding his kibble in hard-to-find places, stuffing a Kong or putting his whole meal in maze bowls.

If you are short of ideas, there are several books that offer a variety of games and puzzles that you can set up for your dog using just a few items you have already laying around the house. Brain Training for Dogs is an e-book with many games and tips to get you started.

“And  I Shall Learn New Skills.”

Just like you are planning to achieve new goals and better yourself, your dog is eager to “continue his education,” whether it involves learning a new trick,  being engaged in a new fun doggy sport or learning to walk politely on leash.

Whatever you are planning to teach your dog this coming year, make sure to always keep it fun and rewarding. Learning something new should be something your dog enjoys and looks forward to, so make sure to embrace the joy of positive reinforcement training without the use of aversives. 

Why not try clicker training if this is something you still haven’t discovered? You will learn a lot too as the use of clicker will teach you how to master good timing and some mechanical skills (ever tried to click your clicker the exact moment a ball touches the floor?)

And Don’t Forget to Keep Discovering More About Me! 

Last but not least, Rover’s last resolution regards you, his beloved owner. Rover whispered in our ears that he hopes you will continue to discover more cool things about him so that you’ll be able to understand him better.

We hope that this whole year with us has been an entertaining journey for you as it was for us. Discovering every day something new about our canine friends was quite an enthralling experience!

We are happy to have made it so far,  bringing you 365 days filled with learning something new about Rover’s behavior, body language, anatomy, health and uncovering the meaning of some  new dog words.

For us, it has been quite a journey and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we have! Here are wishes for a wonderful year ahead and may all your resolutions come true!

Nine Fascinating Facts About Dog Saliva

 

You likely don’t pay much attention to your dog’s saliva until you watch some droplets fall down, and then, before you know it, a little puddle of saliva has formed as your dog watches you eat a juicy steak. Dog saliva after all is meant to stay inside, nicely tucked inside your dog’s mouth, but in some breeds with heavy jowls, that can be easier said that done. Owners of such dogs seem to always be prepared for the saliva downpour and keep a towel handy so to catch those droplets and slingers. Dog saliva after all, may seem like something boring, but instead there are several fascinating facts about dog saliva that are worthy of discovering.

Pavlov Studied Dog Saliva….

Ivan Pavlov was a Russian physiologist who, after reading Charles Darwin, abandoned his religious career to totally dedicate himself to natural science. He therefore started studying the mechanisms underlying the digestive system in mammals.

As he researched the interaction between salivation and the action of the stomach, Pavlov decided to involve dogs in his studies. To better understand the mechanism, a clear tube was connected to the dog’s salivary gland in the cheek which allowed him to keep track of the amount of saliva collecting. Saliva production was therefore copious when the scientists placed food in the dog’s mouth.

Pavlov’s studies revealed that the biological production of saliva had an important function in the digestive process and that, without salivation, the stomach failed to get the necessary input to start the digestive process. This was proof that digestive functions were linked by biological reflexes in the autonomic nervous system.

When He Stumbled on an Interesting Phenomenon.

At some point, in the midst of observing dogs salivating when food was offered to them, Pavlov saw an interesting phenomenon unveil. He noticed that even when there was no food in sight, the dogs were still salivating. This happening at first was perceived as an annoyance considering that the tubes kept collecting saliva even when the scientists weren’t conducting research.

However, Pavlov carefully evaluated the situation and came to a possible conclusion that the dogs were likely drooling at the mere sight of the scientists’ white lab coats in anticipation for the food.

To prove this theory, he starting ringing a metronome to signal the approach of food. After several trials, he noticed that the dogs not only began to salivate upon hearing the noise of the metronome, but at some point even when no food was present!

This led to the discovery that salivation, a biological reflexwas capable of being modified by something psychological, in this case, a sense of anticipation. Pavlov named this type of reflex a “conditioned reflex,basically a reflex that resulted from associative learning so to differentiate it from the biological reflex, while the whole process of associative learning was called Pavlovian conditioning in his honor, today also known as respondent conditioning or classical conditioning.

This discovery opened the doors to understanding the science of behavior and American psychologist John Watson further expanded this research and, with his Little Albert studies, used its principles to change a human’s behavior.

Dog Saliva Can Help Clean Wounds….

When you get a wound you likely rush to wash it with soap and water, but what does a dog have to do? Prior to domestication, that means prior to when dogs had owners rushing to clean and disinfect a dog’s wounds, dogs relied on themselves to clean up a wound.

The mechanical action of a dog’s tongue along with saliva, helped remove any dirt or debris present on the wound’s surface. So yes, a dog’s saliva along with some tongue action can help remove stuff from the wound that shouldn’t be there, which is good.

The next question though is: does dog saliva have any antibacterial properties?

You may have stumbled at some point or another on somebody claiming that it’s good to let dogs lick their wounds because dog saliva has healing properties. This statement makes sense overall considering how quickly wounds in the mouth tend to heal, but is there any truth to it?

To attain the answer to this we had to go dig up some studies. According to a study conducted by Benjamin L. Hart, and Karen L. Powell, saliva in male and female dogs was found to have antibacterial properties, in particular against Escherichia coli and Streptococcus canis, which comes handy when mother dogs are licking their newborn pups which are predisposed to highly fatal coliform enteritis and septicemia. This suggests that wound licking in dogs may therefore help reduce contamination with E. coli and S. canis

But Only Up to a Certain Point.

As with everything in life, moderation is key. Sure, dog saliva may have antibacterial properties, but it also contains bad bacteria as well. Also, given the opportunity, dogs will tend to lick a whole lot which can cause loads of trouble as the repeated abrasive action of the tongue, along with keeping a wound moist for too long (moisture attracts bacteria), may lead to an infection or injury. This is why veterinarians often recommend that dogs wear the infamous “cone of shame” AKA the infamous  Elizabethan Collar

“When a pet licks a surgical incision, he is introducing contamination, not removing it. In the case of non-surgical wounds, I don’t care if a pet licks a few times before treatment is initiated, but once the area has been thoroughly cleaned and medications started, the downsides of licking once again outweigh its benefits.”~Dr. Jennifer Coates

Did you know? When dogs lick their paws in excess, they may cause what is known as lick granuloma, as seen in the picture.

 

Saliva Aids in Digestion…

If your dog produces saliva, you must thank his salivary glands which are found in your dog’s upper and lower jaw. Want to know more about them? Dogs have two zygomatic glands by the cheek bone near the dog’s eyes, two parotid glands where the head meets the neck, two sublingual glands under the dog’s tongue and two mandibular glands, by the dog’s lower jaw.

As in humans, saliva helps keep Rover’s mouth nice and moist and helps lubricate the passage of  chewed-up food from the mouth through the esophagus and then all the way down to the dog’s stomach.  The blob of chewed-up food is formally known as “bolus” and the more slippery it is, the easier it will slide down without causing damage.

You might have heard the saying “the digestive process starts in the mouth.” All this means is that chewing stimulates the process of breaking down some components of food so that they’re more easy to assimilate. Well, this applies to dogs too. As dogs chew, saliva helps break down starch into individual sugar molecules, explains veterinarian Race Foster.  Not all salivary glands though produce the same type of saliva.

According to Dukes’ Physiology of Domestic Animals, saliva may vary from a watery consistency to thicker, mucoid-like. For instance, the parotid glands, produce a watery saliva rich in amylase, which is what helps dog digest starch, while the sublingual glands, on the other hand, produce a mucus-type of saliva rich in mucin, which helps the bolus travel from the mouth to the stomach.

But Excess Saliva May Be A Sign Your Dog is Nauseous.

Excess salivation should send you on a “barf alert.” Keep those paper towels handy and send Rover on a tiled area for an easy clean-up the moment you notice him drooling and smacking his lips. Why do dogs drool though when they are getting sick? If dogs drool in anticipation of food and saliva helps kick start the digestive process, then why in the world is saliva again getting in the way when a dog is actually about to lose his lunch?

Well, here’s a fascinating fact: saliva in this case assumes a protective role. Since vomit is very acidic in nature, the increase in saliva seen when one becomes nauseous is meant to help minimize erosion to the mouth and tooth enamel caused by those potent gastric acids.

Did you know? Your dog’s salivary glands also increase salivation when there are irritating substances in the mouth.

 

Saliva Can Help Dogs Cool Down…

Dogs do not cool down primarily through their skin like humans do, but their main way of cooling off is by panting. You might not know this, but your dog’s saliva can play a role in helping Rover cool down when those temperatures soar in the dog days of summer or after exercising.

Here’s a little insight into the process. When your dog is hot, he will keep his mouth open and breath quickly. This heavy panting allows the saliva-moistened surfaces of his mouth and tongue to cool down by increasing evaporation. Since blood flows through the mouth and tongue, once the blood cools down, it reaches the rest of the dog’s body and thus, lowers the dog’s core temperature. This evaporation is ultimately one of the several ways dogs cool down when they’re hot.

But It Can Also Lead to Unsightly Stains

If you own a white colored dog with a passion for licking, you might be aware of the effects of excess licking on your dog’s coat, but what causes those stains in your dog’s fur in the first place? In this case, you must blame your dog’s saliva. According to Muller and Kirk’s Small Animal Dermatology the main cause for dog saliva and dog tears to cause unsightly reddish stains is due to presence of porphyrins. What exactly are porphyrins? Porphyrins  are simply molecules that contain iron as the result of the natural breakdown of red blood cells. While most poryphyrins are excreted from the body when a dog eliminates, traces of porphyrin may also be excreted through a dog’s tears, saliva, and urine.

And Finally Some Dogs Just Can’t Keep Saliva In

Saliva is really supposed to be stored nicely in a dog’s mouth, some breeds though are by design naturally born droolers. The  shape of a dog’s upper lip (flews) can surely play a role in how predisposed a dog may be to drooling.

Many owners of dogs with particularly developed flews have gotten used to cleaning up what are known as “slingers;” basically, strings of drool that attach to floors, ceilings and walls every time slobbery dogs happen to shake their heads.

It’s very difficult to come by a Saint Bernard with a dry mouth. Many seasoned dog owners though have simply learned to cope with the drooling issue.

“You just always carry a towel and learn to live with it,” explains a fancier to the American Kennel Club Gazette. Coping mechanisms aside, those slingers are not to be underestimated: Barbara Meyer explains in her blog that, left alone, this spittle has the tendency to dry into a rock-like hardness and that she heard a dog owner speculating that it might be of interest to NASA for the purpose of gluing down the tiles of their space shuttles! Quite some amazing stories for just a spit of saliva, aren’t they?

Did you know? A 20 kilogram dog (around 44 pounds) is capable of producing  anywhere between a half a liter up to 1 liter of saliva a day! The amount is usually higher in dogs who are fed dry foods.

 

References:

  • Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), People and Discoveries, Ivan Pavlov, retrieved from the web on December 30th, 2016
  • Antibacterial properties of saliva: Role in maternal periparturient grooming and in licking wounds Benjamin L. Hart, Karen L. Powell, Physiology & Behavior Volume 48, Issue 3, September 1990, Pages 383–386
  • Lussi A, Jaeggi T. Erosion – diagnosis and risk factors. Clin Oral Investig. 2008;12:S5–13.

Photo Credits:

  • Wikipedia, Ivan Pavlov, Public Domain
  • Wikipedia, A statue of Ivan Pavlov and one of his dogs Илья Го. (грохотайло) – Я автор этой фотографии CCBY3.0
  • Flickr Creative Commons, osseousOctober 7, 2013, Luna licking CCBY2.0
  • Wikipedia, Canine lick granuloma / acral lick dermatitis; self-inflicted as an obsessive-compulsive self-destructive behavior,selfOwn work CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Flickr, Creative Commons, Paul Joseph, drool dog CCBY2.0

How to Prevent Dog Collar Strangulation

 

We often assume collars are safe and rely on them to carry our dog’s identification tags, but dog collar strangulation is sadly a possibility and there are more and more stories about this type of accident occurring. The collar may get caught in some branches or one dog may get stuck into another dog’s collar when playing. More and more doggy day cares are changing their policies on the use of collars and there are fortunately some safer alternatives to regular collars to help prevent the chance for dog collar strangulation.

Risks of Dog Collars

A regular dog buckle collar may look like an innocent piece of equipment. It simply encircles your dog’s neck and it carries important information such as your dog’s identification tags, rabies tags and proof of dog license.

Your dog’s collar also comes handy should you quickly get a hold of your dog or quickly attach a leash to it. However, the same collar one perceives as “safe” can pose great dangers and even cause death.

There are several reports of dogs being strangled to death by their collars during play. How does this happen? All it takes is a dog’s lower jaw to get twisted into the other dog’s collar or a tooth to get stuck in a buckle hole while the dogs are playing. Both dogs panic, and by the time the owners rush to help the dogs, it may be too late. It takes only a few seconds for strangulation to occur. Collar accidents can therefore even happen with close supervision. 

As mentioned, another risk is the dog’s collar getting stuck in something. The collar may get snagged in the wires of a crate or kennel and if the door stay outdoors, the collar may snag on branches a fence or the deck and many other things out there. While collar accidents may sound like freak accidents, the fact that more more people are reporting them means that they are more common than thought.

Did you know? An estimated  26,000 dogs a year suffer from injury or death due to collar strangulation accidents. Sadly, most of these accidents could have been avoided.

Taking Precautionary Steps 

Back in the days when working for an animal hospital, collars were the first thing we removed from a dog upon admission into the hospital. This meant all dogs coming in for medical procedures that required an in-hospital stay even for just a few hours, had their collars removed immediately.

What did we replace the collars with? We used these flimsy looking identification collars made of the same material as medical hospital identification bracelets with the pet’s name and owner’s name written with a black marker.

We prepared these “collars” the day prior to the dog being admitted. The same collars were used for dogs just dropped off for grooming or dogs boarding while the owners were on business trips or on vacation. In a dog day care setting, most business owners are starting to recognize that most collars are safety hazards in group play. These establishments are therefore removing dog collars and replacing them with collars that have been purposely designed for safety in group play.

“You can think of it as you would any safety measure such as backing up your computer or wearing a life vest, seat belt or bike helmet…Taking collars off dogs is a safety measure to prevent the worst-case – when the dog’s collar might get entangled on another dog or an object, and the dog chokes to death. At that point it’s too late to say, “if only . . .”~Gail Fisher

Alternative to Buckle Collars

So what is a safer option to prevent dog collar strangulation?  A quick-release collar is purposely crafted in such a way as to prevent collar strangulation.

Quick-release dog collars as their name implies, have a buckle that releases quickly when pressure is applied allowing quick intervention should the need arise.

When a buckle collar gets snagged onto something or one dog gets trapped into the collar of another every second counts. It’s unfortunate, but most people won’t have access to a knife or strong scissors to cut free the dog free in time to save a dog from asphyxiation. The quick-release buckle therefore allows fast intervention. Another option is a safety breakaway collar. This collar looks similar to a buckle collar, but has a safety mechanism which allows the dog to break free of the collar when excessive force is applied. Other options include the Safe Dog ID Collar and the Tazlab Safe-T-Stretch Collar.

A word of caution is needed for these too though: with this collars, should you end up one day with the need to grab your dog by the collar to either stop him from greeting an unfriendly dog or running into traffic, you risk ending up with the breakaway collar in your hand and loose dog in danger!

And what about identity? Many people wonder about this. Many quick release collars have D rings so to allow owners to attach their dog’s collar ID tags, but ID tags can also be dangerous, so some of them offer the opportunity to engrave contact information directly on the collar. Are they entirely safe though? Safe is a difficult word to use, so perhaps it’s just better to just say “safer.” Some doggy day cares prefer to play it safer rather than safe and cut their risks for liability by simply adopting a “no collar rule.” And of course, loads of supervision to keep everybody safe is greatly important too!

“If you’re nervous about having your dog naked (and without ID), use a collar with a buckle that can be released even under tension. Another option is a safety breakaway collar.”~Nancy Kerns

Photo Credits:

  • Flickr Creative Commons, Logan Ingalls Gus was in the hospital – HE’S HOME NOW! CCBY2.0
  • Wikipedia, Nylon quick-release buckle collar with identification and medical tags. The original uploader was Elf at English Wikipedia – CCBY3.0

 


Dog Word of the Day: What is a Dudley Nose?

 

When it comes to dog noses, they can be colored in many different ways, the most common being black, but once in a blue moon you may stumble on what is called a Dudley nose. What exactly is a Dudley nose? The American Kennel Club glossary informs us that a Dudley nose in dogs is simply a flesh-colored nose. This Dudley nose definition though doesn’t tell us much about what causes a Dudley nose in dogs and whether it’s a problem or not. It’s interesting therefore discovering more about why a dog’s nose would appear flesh-colored in the first place.

What is a Dudley Nose?

As mentioned, a Dudley nose is a flesh-colored nose, which differs from the usual solid black pigmentation seen on the noses of most dog breeds.

If you were to look at the usage of this term in many dog breed standards, you would soon notice that it’s often listed as a fault. In some breeds the presence of a Dudley nose is considered a serious fault and in some others it can even be means for disqualification!

For instance, the Labrador retriever breed standard mentions that the presence of a thoroughly pink nose or a nose lacking any pigment is a disqualification.

A Dudley nose in dogs should not be confused with the term “winter nose” or “snow nose.” In the case of snow nose or winter nose, the loss of pigmentation is, as the name implies, seasonal, therefore causing a temporary change that takes place in the winter.

Generally, in snow nose, the middle of the nose looses color, then, once winter is over, the nose returns to its normal original color. Snow nose is thought to occur because of lack of sunlight and is commonly seen in Siberian huskies, Labrador and golden retrievers and some other breeds.

In the case of a Dudley nose instead, the dog is typically born with a solid black nose, but then as the dog matures, the nose starts gradually fading becoming brown until it reaches the point of turning pinkish white. Unlike “snow nose” the change in color is permanent.

Importance of Pigmentation

The next question one may think of is: why is nasal depigmentation in dogs such a big deal? Is it just a matter of looks or is there more to it?

Turns out, for a very good reason a solid black nose is the default color seen in most dogs. Nasal pigmentation is ultimately what protects the dog’s nose from sunburn and potential skin cancer. Generally, the darker the nose, the better UV protection.

“A dog with a black nose would be considered “protected” from the sun. A dog with a pink, fading to pink or pale nose needs sunscreen applied to this area…AVOID sunscreens with zinc oxide. Pet caregivers can also opt for a visor.”~Dr. Jean Dodds

Did you know? Nose color in dogs is often related to coat color. From a genetic standpoint, black dogs have black noses while brown or liver dogs have liver noses.

From a Medical Standpoint

The term Dudley nose is used in breeder circles, but the actual medical term for such reduction in pigmentation  is “idiopathic nasal hypopigmentation.”

The word idiopathic denotes a condition that has an unknown cause. Basically, what triggers Dudley nose in dogs remains for the most part a mystery. It just seems to happen spontaneously for no particular reason.

The word nasal, obviously refers to nose, while hypopigmentation simply refers to low or lack of pigmentation.

Fortunately, a Dudley nose as with some other nose color changes in dogs doesn’t seem to affect a dog’s health overall as long as there are no other signs of problems going on such as scaling, crusting or cracking.

“The only time we need to be concerned about a change in color is if the leather starts to appear abnormal in texture (smooth and shiny rather than the normal textured appearance) or the spots become ulcerated or crusty. Those changes can signify autoimmune disease, some types of fungal infections, zinc deficiency dermatosis in some arctic breeds, or cancerous changes like squamous cell carcinoma.” ~Dr. Kara

Did you know? The word Dudley derives from bulldogs with flesh-colored noses that were bred from a part of Black Country in Worchestershire, known as “Dudley” explains Rawdon B. Lee in the book “A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland.”

 

References:

  • Ear, Nose and Throat Diseases of the Dog and Cat, By Richard G. Harvey, Gert ter Haar, CRC Press; 1 edition (October 14, 2016)
  • A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland, By Rawdon B. Lee,  1893

Photo Credits:

  • Flickr, Creative Commons, Shutterbug 70, Close up of Teazer’s nose. CCBY2.0

What’s the Main Difference Between Papillon and Phalene?

 

Almost everybody is familiar with the papillon dog breed, a small dog breed known for its flashy looking fringed ears that somewhat resemble butterflies, but not many people are familiar with the phalene variety, a variation of this breed that is gradually undergoing a resurgence in popularity. Interestingly, the American Kennel Club accepts both varieties which are categorized as the same breed. In the USA, papillon are allowed to breed with phalene and their matings can produce litters encompassing both varieties. This is in contrast with what is allowed in nations governed by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale where the papillon and phalene are considered two distinctly separated dog breeds.  So today we will be discovering what’s the main difference between the papillon and the phalene. Will you guess the right answer?

What’s the main difference between papillon and phalene?

A  Their distinguishing feature is their tails.

B Their distinguishing feature is their size.

C Their distinguishing feature is their coat color.

D Their distinguishing feature is their ears.

The Correct Answer is: drum roll please…

 

 

The correct answer is D, the main difference between papillon and phalene is their ears.

Introducing the Phalene

The phalene is a variation of the papillon, and, as mentioned, the main distinguishing feature that differentiates the phalene from the papillon is the ears. The phalene has dropped ears. The American Kennel Club describes the ears as being similar to the erect type, but being completely down.

Phalene are known to be one of the oldest specimens of the toy spaniels, also known as Continental Toy Spaniels, from which they descend. Phalene are basically the earliest form of the papillon.

There is belief that it is towards the end of the 19th century that fanciers started breeding a version with the erect ears. This version was called papillon, meaning butterfly, while the version with dropped ears was called phalene, meaning night moth.

While some years ago, the popularity of phalene diminished to near extinction, fortunately nowadays there has been growing interest in breeding this variety.

“In judging the phalène it should be remembered that apart from the ears the variety is identical in all other respects to the papillon and should be judged accordingly.”~Papillon Club of America

Introducing the Papillon

The papillon dog breed derives its name from the large butterfly-like ears, fringed with hairs. Indeed, the word “papillon” is the French term for butterfly. The papillon dog breed is categorized by the American Kennel Club under the toy group, a breed group encompassing the smallest kinds of dogs.

The ears in the papillon are described as being erect and carried obliquely, moving like the spread wings of a butterfly. These small dogs were much cherished by royal families around Europe, with many of them being portrayed in works of art.

It was towards the end of the 19th century that the ears of the papillon become fashionable and the breed became quite popular, much more than the phalene and was therefore given the name of papillon due to the distinguishing feature.

“Suddenly, toward the end of the 19th Century, the erect ear carriage with its butterfly appearance became highly fashionable. In fact, it so caught the public fancy that the new term of “Papillon” quickly became the name for the entire breed.”~Rachel D. Kemmerer 

References:

  • American Kennel Club, Papillon Breed Standard, retrieved from the web on December 27th, 2016
  • Papillon Club of America, retrieved from the web on December 27th, 2016

Photo Credits:

  • Spaniel_miniaturowy_kontynentalny_phalene na Światowej Wystawie Psów Rasowych w Poznaniu Pleple2000Own work CCBY3.0
  • Flickr Creative Commons, mika I love dog! CCBY2.0

I am Your Dog’s Gracilis Muscle

 

You might have never heard about a dog’s gracilis muscle, but this muscle is one that certain dog owners may never forget about once their dog develops problems with it. Just as in humans, a dog’s body is made of several muscles which allow force and motion. It is thanks to your dog’s muscles after all that your dog can maintain and change posture, move about, and ultimately live his life, considering that even the heart is muscle. The gracilis is an important muscle of your dog’s hind leg that can be in certain circumstances prone to injury. So today, let’s discover more about your dog’s gracilis muscle, the role it plays and potential problems this body part may be prone to.

Introducing Your Dog’s Gracilis Muscle

Hello, it’s your dog’s gracilis muscle talking! My name derives from the ancient Latin word “gracilis ” meaning slender, thin. And if you take a look at me by taking a peek at  the picture on the left, you may have a clear idea why I am called this way.

I am found in your dog’s hind limb, and more specifically, the inner surface of the thigh. I am categorized as a skeletal muscle meaning that I am a “voluntary muscle” anchored to bone and used to allow locomotion. 

I Create Motion

Yes, as mentioned, as many of your dog’s other muscles, I am responsible for allowing motion. What do I do exactly? I allow adduction of the thigh, that is, movement of  the limb towards the body, extension of the hip and extension of the hock. Quite a lot, for a thin muscle like me, huh?

When Things Go Wrong

The most common type of injury affecting me, is a muscle contracture, also known as fibrotic myopathy. What exactly is a muscle contracture? The term may sound familiar but it’s different from a muscle contraction.

While a muscle contraction is the normal process of a muscle temporarily shortening when it’s being worked, a contracture is a pathological, abnormal shortening of muscle tissue, causing it to become resistant to stretching which can lead to long-term disability.

You see, when I am subjected to injury, scar tissue, under the form of fibrous connective tissue may form. However, sometimes, I may be almost entirely or completely replaced with fibrous connective tissue. Now scar tissue is less flexible than muscle fibers and therefore it leads to shortening which may limit my ability to allow a dog to to flex or extend the leg. Dogs affected by a gracilis contracture may therefore show signs of pain in the acute phases, lameness, a decreased range of motion and a characteristic gait.

The signature gait is characterized by the affected leg being raised with a jerky motion, with the hock flexed and rotated laterally, and a shortened stride due to the dog being unable to fully extend the ankle, knee, and hip joints. A video though is worth 1,000 words, so to give an idea of what happens to me when I am injured, you are better off watching it to see the gait.

In the greyhound racing business,  injury caused by me is often referred to as “dropped muscle” because affected dogs may develop a bulging area in the inner area of the dog’s thigh. Generally, this type of injury is most commonly seen in German Shepherds and Shepherd related breeds, but it can be present in many other large breed dogs with an active, working lifestyle.

 “Although fibrous scar tissue provides tensile strength and plays a part in normal muscle healing, excessive scar tissue impedes muscle fiber regeneration and interferes with muscle contraction and relaxation, resulting in varying degrees of mechanical lameness.”~ Sherman O. Canapp

Did you know? Mechanical lameness refers to lameness that is not caused by pain but rather is triggered by a physical abnormality, such as presence of scar tissue, that prevents the normal motion of the leg.

As seen, I am an important structure that requires attention. If your dog is engaged in sporting events, it may help me, along with my other fellow muscles, if you could ensure proper conditioning and allow appropriate warm-ups and cool-downs. Passive stretching and massage before events is also helpful! Consult with your vet or a vet specializing in canine sports for the best ways to take care of me and prevent problems. I hope this has helped you understand me better,

Best regards,

Your Dog’s Gracilis MuscleDog Pawprint

Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog has problems with his hind leg, please see your vet for diagnosis and treatment.

 

References:

  • DVM360, Hind limb sprains and strains (Proceedings) retrieved from the web on December 26, 2016.
  • Vaughan LC. Gracilis muscle injury in greyhounds. J Small Anim Pract 1969;10(6):363-375.
  • Lewis DD, Shelton GD, Pias A, et al. Gracilis or semitendinosus myopathy in 18 dogs. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 1997; 33:177-188.
  • Vet Surgery Central, Semitendinosus and Gracilis Fibrotic Myopathy, retrieved from the web on December 26, 2016
  • Preventing Injuries Focus on Canine Sports Medicine By Debra Canapp, DVM, CCRT, CVA and Chris Zink, DVM, Ph, retrieved from the web on December 26, 2016.

Photo Credits:

Wikipedia Anterior Hip Muscles by Beth oharaOwn work CCBY3.0

What’s Up With Dogs Shredding Paper?

 

Whether it’s a roll of toilet paper or a pile of junk mail, many dogs enjoy shredding paper just about as much as playing with a toy, what gives? For a good reason, several dog owners have granted their dogs the nickname of “Shreddy” or “Confetti”due to their abilities to shred things into pieces. Sure, watching a dog shred paper into pieces can be quite fun, but it might not be too much if it involves your homework, your daily newspaper or some important documents and you must then pick up all those minute pieces! Of course, you can train your dog to help you pick them up, but if you don’t make the activity rewarding enough, most dogs will just abandon the room and leave you on your own cleaning up the mess,

A Matter of Sensory Enrichment

Dogs in general, but in particular, puppies and young dogs, are often on the lookout for novelties or anything that provides them with some level of sensory enrichment. Just the mere sensation of holding paper in their mouth may feel rewarding, but there’s often more to that.

Mail can be interesting because it’s covered in a variety of scents and bubble mailers may be fun to pop and then shred into pieces. Paper rolled up in a ball stolen from the waste basket is fun to pat, mouth and chase and toilet paper roll is fun to unroll and then shred.

Tearing paper into pieces fulfills a dog’s ancestral need to eviscerate and tear apart prey animals. Even though dogs are domesticated, they have inbuilt motor patterns reminiscent of the old days when they were hunting and paper may fulfill a dog’s needs to grab, bite, shake and dissect.

A box of tissue paper may therefore be fun to “tug” with and grab to empty it of its contents, which obviously will be then mercilessly torn apart. Paper dishes are fun to hold on to and “kill” with several head shakes. All of these paper-related products are extremely inviting to your dog, unveiling the the “tissue paper predator” in your dog who can’t help himself but jump into the whole fun and rewarding activity of shredding paper to pieces.

Did you know? According to Forrest Wickman the popular excuse “my dog ate my homework” possibly originates from as early as 1905, when a clergyman pulled his clerk aside after a service to ask him whether his sermon seemed long enough. The clerk reassured  him that it was fine and of the right length, when the priest relieved said “I am very glad to hear you say that because my dog got a hold of my sermon and ate some of the last pages.” Soon, the saying got quite popular and become the infamous excuse used by countless students when they failed to turn in their homework.

 A Word About Boredom

As seen, tissue paper, toilet rolls, newspapers and paper dishes are appealing to dogs, but they may be particularly appealing to bored dogs in search of something to do to keep occupied. And for those attention-seeking dogs, picking up some paper from a wastebasket or stealing a roll of toilet paper may be a way to grab their owner’s attention when they are feeling bored and socially deprived.

A word of caution though is needed here. Many people are aware of the popular adage “a tired dog, is a good dog.” This saying is often misinterpreted, giving people  the misled notion that “If I exercise my dog enough, he’ll be good for the rest of the day.”

No, exercise will not automatically grant your dog a halo over his head and magically transform him into a dog who says “no, I won’t shred this tissue paper, cause all my energy has been drained.”

Just as you would enjoy doing crossword puzzles or read a book after going to the gym, your dog is entitled to still feel like shredding paper after going for a hike. Shredding paper can actually be a relaxing way to end the day and most dogs do it when they are comfortably lying down. Sure, exercise may cause your dog to calm down and want to sleep more, but don’t expect exercise to cause him to become apathetic and disinterested in his surroundings, that’s a depressed dog or a sick dog, not a tired dog!

Warning: while your dog may just have fun shredding paper, consider that if the paper has remnants of something tasty on it, your dog may feel compelled to ingest it. There are countless stories of dogs ingesting napkins with pizza sauce or cupcake wrappers.

Creating a Nest

Owners of pregnant dogs may witness their dogs shredding paper and other objects to pieces as whelping day gets closer. This behavior stems from instinct; mother dog is simply replicating what she would have done out of a domestic setting, which is building a maternal den.

Basically, when getting ready to give birth, a dog’s ancestors would have dug up a place to raise their puppies so they were safe, warm and dry. Puppies, being altricial, are born in a pretty much helpless state; basically, they are deaf, blind and unable to regulate their temperatures, so the use of a den was a good choice to up the pups’ chances for survival.

Even as today, mother dogs still retain the instinct to build a den. Owners of pregnant dogs often observe how, as the birthing day nears, their dogs are prone to start digging on couches, sofas and in closets and shredding cloth or pieces of paper for the purpose of building a maternal den.

These behaviors are referred to as “nesting behaviors” and they are reminiscent of when the puppies were kept safe in a den until they reached about 10 to 12 weeks of age. Past this age, the pups would then start using their dens less and less and rely more on special rendezvous areas that can be compared to open-air kindergartens.

Did you know? The instinct of creating a nest, isn’t necessarily a sign of pregnancy. False pregnancy in dogs may also evoke nesting behaviors in intact dogs who recently went into heat but didn’t get pregnant.

Tips to Stop Dogs From Eating Paper

Help, my dog shreds paper and eats it, what should I do? Some dogs unfortunately take shredding paper a step further and end up also eating it. Obviously, this is not good as it may cause digestive upset and even lead to a blockage, which can lead to costly surgery.

The best option to stop a dog from eating paper is to simply shut the bathroom door, invest in wastebaskets with lids and keep tissues out of reach, in places that even a jumping dog can’t reach. Think of your puppy or dog as a toddler who is crawling around and at risk for getting into things he shouldn’t have.

Providing interactive toys that can be stuffed with treats can help provide mental stimulation; however, just because your dog has a fun chew toy, doesn’t mean that he’ll ignore a tissue paper that just fell on the floor!

Studies have shown that dogs are attracted to novelty and even when presented with new toys, their interest tends to wane after a few seconds. So on top of keeping paper out of reach, it’s worthy training your dog the leave-it and drop-it cue just in case you ever happen to accidentally drop something he shouldn’t have. Teaching your dog to trade the paper in exchange for a tasty treat can also come handy when he gets a hold of other things.

Last but not least, for those die-hard paper shredding dogs, it’s worth mentioning the behavior to the vet. In some cases, medical problems or nutritional deficiencies may cause a dog ingest non-food items.

“Tiny chunks of paper are not likely to do harm. But, if a whole piece of paper was eaten it definitely could act as a foreign object and cause an intestinal obstruction.”~Dr. Marie

Photo Credits:

Flickr, Creative Commons, Mackenzie Black, Eggroll CCBY2.0
Flickr Creative Commons,John Davis, ali ripping tissue paper CCBY2.0
Flickr Creative Commons, Jim Larrison, Sleeping in the Closet, CCBY2.0
Flickr, Creative Commons, Rusty Clark – poodle-bob in a basket CCBY2.0

What’s the Difference Between Dog Howling and Baying?

 

While dogs can’t talk, we must admit that Mother Nature has blessed them with the capacity to produce a variety of sounds and at one point or another one may wonder what’s the difference between dog howling and baying. Most of us are familiar with the sound of dogs howling, dogs are often heard howling at sirens or when the owners leave the house. Baying is typical of certain dog breeds and it may be confused sometimes for howling, but the noise produced is a tad bit different and the purpose may be a bit different as well.

A Word About Howling

Howling is the sound often associated with canines in the wild and is characterized by a prolonged, loud, wailing sound. The howling sound is used by wolves for aggregation purposes, a way to reunite other wolves to gather for the hunt.

It may happen that the wolves are scattered about with some sleeping and others wandering, and being that wolves take a cooperative approach to hunting, it’s necessary for them to unite. Howling in this case therefore elicits social contact.

Howling in wolves has also a social function, when wolves are howling in unison, it creates a sense of belonging, a sense of group cohesion.

As we have seen in a previous article, dogs are different from wolves in many ways, and domestication has brought some changes in the ways dogs communicate vocally. For instance, since dogs no longer hunt for their meals and are fed kibble from a bag, howling to gather a group for a hunt has lost its original function and therefore dogs howl less. Dogs however, bark more considering that barking was selectively bred by humans so dogs could alert them of the presence of other animals or strangers.

Although dogs tend to howl less than wild canines, the howling behavior is often evoked by sounds like sirens, musical instruments such as flutes or harmonicas, other dogs howling or the owner mimicking a howling sound. Howling can also take place in dogs when they are separated from their owners and feel lonely. In this case the mournful howl may denote a dog’s desire to re-unite with his family.

Did you know? When wolves howl together, they harmonize rather than emitting the same notes so that they give the illusion of there being more wolves than what they really are. Recordings of wolves have shown that no wolf wants to end up howling using the same note as another.

A Word About Baying

Over hundreds of years, hunters found the “howling” sounds produced by dogs productive because it carried a long way and was helpful when working with dogs following trails over certain distances. Hunters could loose sight of their dogs because of distance or thick vegetation and their vocalizations could keep them aware about their whereabouts.

Certain dogs were therefore selectively bred over hundreds of years for their ability to “bay,” or “give tongue,” a distinct vocalization that has a tendency to become more intense and enthusiastic the closer the dog gets to the animals that are hunted.

This increase in intensity draws the attention of other dogs and hunters to gather at the trail area or where the animal is cornered.

Did you know? In hunting terms a hound who happens to vocalize when there is really nothing significant going on is called a “babbler.”

“As the scent becomes stronger, suggesting that the pack is now very close to its prey, the baying becomes a bit less melodious, as the individual sound phrases become shorter in duration but more frequent, and the massage now shifts to mean “Let’s get him!” or “Altogether now!”~ Stanley Coren

Howling Versus Baying

Howling is the noise produced by wild canines and in certain circumstances by the domesticated dog; whereas, baying is the sound exclusively emitted by hounds. You’ll therefore have beagles baying when they catch the scent of quarry and coonhounds baying when game has been “treed.”

If the two vocalizations were compared, howling would entail a single note, whereas baying would comprise more variations within the tone and short bursts, explains Stanley Coren, the book “Do Dogs Dream?: Nearly Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know.”

One may also assume that baying is much more enthusiastic than a mournful howl and even though it has an element of “come join me” it’s more geared towards gathering the hunter and other dogs to the area where something exciting was found.

However, as much as baying may seem the result of years of selective breeding, it’s still likely reminiscent of a dog’s ancestors after all, considering that wolves too emit vocalizations upon detecting prey. According to Seton, author of  “Life-histories of northern animals : an account of the mammals of Manitoba page 770, ” a “muster” or a “rallying cry” may be emitted by a wolf upon finding game that is too big for him to confront alone, while a higher pitched howl vibrating on two notes known as the “hunting song, corresponds exactly with the full cry of a pack of hounds on the hot scent!”

Did you know? There are chances that the word beagle derives from the old French word “becguele” meaning “noisy person,” or more literally “bayer” meaning “open throat” due to this dog’s loud baying.

 

References:

  • Original Dog Bible: The Definitive Source for All Things Dog, edited by Kristin Mehus-Roe, Lumina Media; First Paperback Edition. first printing edition (May 2005)
  • Do Dogs Dream?: Nearly Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know By Stanley Coren, W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (July 16, 2012)
  • Seton, E. T. (1909) Life-histories of northern animals : an account of the mammals of Manitoba, part II, New York City : Scribner, pp. 749-788
  • Lopez, Barry H. (1978). Of Wolves and Men. J. M. Dent and Sons Limited.ISBN 0-7432-4936-4.

Photo Credits:

A Guide to Choosing the Right Toys for Your Dog

 

Choosing the right toys for your dog may seem like an easy task, but have you ever asked yourself if you are really choosing those toys for your dog or for yourself? It’s easy to fall into the trap of choosing what appeals to us, after all, we are the buyers with money in hand and toy manufacturers know that. Even manufacturers of dog treats manipulate our choices, making dog treats with shapes and colors that are appealing to buyers, but that dogs could care less about. Let’s face it, if your dog was doing the shopping, he would ignore aesthetics and would head for the smelliest, albeit ugliest, dog treats on the market. Choosing the right toys for your dog entails putting yourself in your dog’s shoes and being aware of  marketing ploys that often trick our minds, often at an unconscious level.

A red toy is easy for us to see, but what about Rover?

Choose the Right Toy Colors…

Color is often not kept in consideration when choosing the right toy for dogs, but it should as it plays an important role in how your dog interacts with the toy. Dogs do not see colors in the same way we do. If we want to put ourselves in our dog’s shoes, we can say that our dog’s color vision is roughly similar to that of a person who is red-green color blind, the technical term would be a deuteranope.  

If dogs were shown a green and red apple, they would have a hard time to discriminate between these two colors. You can see how a dog sees apples or a rainbow in a previous article, how do dogs see colors?

Dogs may therefore not be able to tell well the difference between red and green, but they have a better time detecting blue and yellow.

So what does this mean for dog owners? Based on these findings, it means that we should choose toys that are easier to notice such as blue or yellow (not coincidentally the colors often seen on dog agility obstacles), which is not  that easy considering that many popular dog toys are orange or bright red. Colors that may be appealing to us, but not to our dogs!

So yes, whether you are choosing a Frisbee or a ball to play fetch, your choice of color is important if you want it to stick out, especially for those dogs who love to retrieve toys for you. Choosing a red toy that is hard to distinguish from the green grass of the dog park can make life difficult for Rover.

“Overall, if we want dogs to distinguish between colors, the best colors to use are blue and yellow.” Dr. Sophia Yin, D.V.M, M.S

But Be Ready for Toys Being Torn Apart

When you look at a dog toy, you may see it as something cute or appealing, but again you are likely looking at it from a human perspective. As humans we are stuck into thinking that toys must look appealing and cute perhaps because they remind us of when we cuddled with these toys at night.

Well, this may sound like a a harsh wake-up call, but from your dog’s perspective toys are perceived like prey animals to tear apart. No, dogs don’t play with their Barbie dolls as we do, nor do they cuddle with their toys to feel less scared at night and fall asleep.

Dogs want to chase toys and chew toys with their chompers as if they were prey animals they just caught. They enjoy to the whole evisceration and dissection process. So dog owners should not be upset if Rover manages to behead a teddy bear the first night and “de-guts” it to get all the stuffing out.

This is therefore something to keep into consideration before shelling out a bunch of money on a dog toy. Not surprisingly, sometimes the most fun objects are free, and dogs are often happy to shred boxes and paper just as cats are happy playing with a ball of tin foil.

” I often stop local thrift shops and Salvation Army stores to pick up a few small plush toys which are usually sold for less than a dollar. These are then sacrificed to my dogs who proceed to tear off their heads and limbs and scatter their filling about, much to my wife’s dismay.”~Stanley Coren

Keep Safety Always in Mind…

With a dog’s propensity to tear toys apart in mind, it’s also important to consider safety. Some toys may be OK for small dogs or dogs who aren’t too destructive, but they still require close supervision.

If your dog has a history of ingesting foreign objects skip toys that have pieces that can be torn off and swallowed or toys that can be ripped apart. Also, be aware of the dangers of squeakers.

When working for a vet a few years back, toys with squeakers inside where a big hit, but sadly many dogs managed to get the squeakers out  and ended up ingesting them. This practice often led to blockages requiring expensive surgical intervention. I still remember as of today a dog owner complaining about how a two dollar toy ended up costing her almost a thousand dollars in surgery to get it out.

Sure, not all dogs eat toys when they break them apart, but for those who do, it can be very problematic. So if your dog has a Hoover reputation, look for toys crafted with sturdiness and safety in mind. They might not be as fun, but hey, safety is always paramount. Some toy companies are so confident their toys are sturdy, they have even started to offer money back guarantees if your dog manages to break them apart.

“Because we think that dogs perceive toys in the same way that wolves perceive prey, they prefer toys that either taste like food or can be torn apart, however the latter can cause health problems if the dog accidentally swallows some of the pieces.”~John Bradshaw

And Consider Joining In the Fun.

According to a study published in the journal Animal Cognition, 16 Labrador retrievers between the ages of one and eight were provided with different types of toys of  different colors, and with different smells. The toys were given to each dog one at a time until the dogs stopped interacting with them and then were swapped with a different toy.

All dogs in the studies showed interest in the toys, but the interest was rather short-lived. The results suggest that dogs are prone to exploring new objects in their environments, but they quickly get accustomed to their sight, smell and feel, which leads to boredom and little further interest.

What do the results of these studies mean for dog owners? They suggest that dog toys need to have some elements to keep that interest alive. One of the best ways to bring a toy “alive” is by using it to play fetch or perhaps attaching it to a flirt pole.  Balls that bounce around attract because of their unpredictability, Frisbee and tug toys encourage dog and human interaction. Dogs love interaction with their humans and becoming part of the game allows owners to spend quality time with their dogs which also helps with bonding.

““For an animal as social as a dog, toys only become really excited when they are part of a game with a person. Few toys will sustain a dog’s interest for long if the owner is not around to offer encouragement.” ~Bradshaw

And Don’t Forget: Variety is the Spice of Life!

Being too stingy in the toy department may translate into dogs who grow easily bored of their toys. If your dog’s toys are getting dusty, chances are there is not much variety going on.

Choose dog toys of different textures, producing different sounds and with different shapes and sizes, while keeping safety in mind. Then rotate these toys randomly so that they preserve an element of novelty.

This means you might want to keep them out of sight for some time and then bring them back out so that your dog gets to enjoy them again and again. Another idea is to get creative and change a bit how your every-day dog toys look or smell.

You can try to stick some toys in your dog’s bag of kibble for a few hours so they get impregnated with its taste and smell, or if feasible, you can try sticking a toy inside another one and letting your dog work on dislodging them. You can also hide your dog’s favorite toy under a blanket or bench and let him find it, or turn it airborne by hanging it to a rope by a tree. Just think outside of the box and get creative!

“Instead of leaving toys out all the time so that they lose their appeal, toys can be put out of sight. Old toys can be rotated back into sight as somewhat ‘new’. Like old Seinfeld re-runs.”~Julie Hecht

Did you know? According to 2015-2016 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, dog owners spend an average of $47 annually for dog toys.

 

References:

  • Habituation and dishabituation during object play in kennel-housed dogs, Anne J. PullenRalph J. N. MerrillJohn W. S. Bradshaw Animal Cognition , Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 1143–1150
  • Patricia Kaulfuß and Daniel S. Mills, (2008). Neophilia in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) and its implication for studies of dog cognition. Animal Cognition, 11 (3), 553-556.
  • Scientific American, Studies Find Dogs Prefer New Toys, But You Can Make Old Toys New, retrieved from the web on January 23rd, 2016

Photo Credits:

  • Flickr Creative Commons, sailn1, I haz many toys, CCBY2.0

What’s Up With Dogs Chewing Through Drywall?

 

Dogs may chew and eat the oddest things, and the behavior of dogs chewing through drywall can certainly be classified as one of dog’s most peculiar behaviors. Why would a dog chew through drywall? It might not make sense to us, but when we see things from a dog’s perspective, chewing and even eating the drywall, may start to make sense.. Well, perhaps we should say, it becomes a tad bit more understandable. If your dog is chewing through drywall, you may be wondering why he does that, and how to fix it. So what’s up with dogs eating through drywall, and dogs chewing up the baseboards or pulling off wallpaper? And most of all, what can be done to stop your dog from remodeling the whole house?

Busting the Boredom

Let’s face it: dogs have teeth and those chompers just happen to be in search of something to chew on. In the great outdoors, dogs often find handy things to chew on, perhaps a branch, a little twig or some bone some other animal left behind, but in a domesticated setting, dogs often don’t have much assortment of things to chew on.

This lack of sensory enrichment leaves a vacuum for fulling this natural desire to chew.

Then one day, it could be your dog happens to be sitting next to the drywall, bored and with nothing else to do, and he may happen to casually lick the corner of the wall, and next thing you know, he’s chewing on it.

In this case, chewing on the drywall provides sensory reinforcement, in other words, it just feels good. And when something feels good, dogs will want to experience it over and over, so soon the habit puts roots and next thing you know, you’re walls will start looking like Swiss cheese!

Dealing With Anxiety 

A dog chewing through drywall isn’t always a bored dog, sometimes the behavior may stem from anxiety. If your dog is anxious about noises in general or scary events such as thunderstorms or construction workers drilling holes in an apartment nearby, he may experience intense anxiety and fear.

If your dog is in a small room or if he hides in a closet, his panic may cause him to dig or chew the drywall in a desperate attempt to escape the threatening situation.

Another common anxiety trigger in dogs is being left alone. Dogs who panic when their owners leave a room or the home may scratch at doors, chew windows and drywall in hopes of being reunited with their owners.

“I’ve seen them go right through windows, and chew through doors, drywall, even chain-link fences, breaking off their teeth and nails. They get into such a level of panic that they just aren’t thinking.” ~Stephen Blake, holistic veterinarian

Searching  for Critters 

Is your dog staring intently at walls and sometimes sniffing and whining in the evening? Most likely your dog is not sensing the paranormal and hunting for ghosts, rather, it’s more likely that he’s sensing the presence of some nocturnal critter who is likely living in your house.

What critters may be making themselves at home? It can be mice, snakes, lizards, crickets or even termites. You might not detect them, but your dog with his powerful sniffer and sensitive ears can, and chewing through the drywall may be his attempt to get to them.

Keep in mind that critters may be hiding in your attic, under the deck, in the garage, in a closed closet and inside the walls.

Grabbing Some Attention

Some dogs may resort to chewing things in hopes of getting attention. Dogs who are bored or enjoy social interaction with their owners and feel socially deprived, may resort to all sorts of behaviors in hopes of getting their owners to interact with them. Sometimes, bored or socially deprived dogs will even try things that lead to negative attention such as being scolded or pushed away just for the sake of getting their owner to stop watching television and start interacting with them.

So if chewing through the drywall gets your attention (and it certainly does!), this moment of brief attention, even if of the negative type may reinforce the wall-chewing behavior. And if you fail to provide attention immediately, your dog will likely chew for longer in hopes of eventually getting it (extinction burst). Not always though the attention has to be of the negative type though. If your dog is bored and every time he chews on the drywall, you play with him to distract him or take him on walk, next time, he may chew in hopes of play time or a walk.

Dealing with Pica

In some cases, chewing through drywall may be a sign of pica. Pica is a condition where dogs become attracted to eating nonfood items like rocks, wood, drywall, socks, and coins. Basically, affected dogs will eat objects that are not considered part of a normal dog’s diet. It is still not well understood what exactly may trigger pica. Is it boredom? A health problem? A behavioral one?

Some theorize that it may stem from nutritional deficiencies; however, no nutritional studies have ever backed up this theory. Also, with most of today’s current commercial dog foods being balanced and complete, it’s  unlikely for dogs to have nutritional deficiencies, explains veterinarian Dr. Heindel. 

It could happen though that dogs remain stuck in an “oral phase“from when they were puppies, she adds. Other possible causes are underlying digestive disorders or  metabolic disorders, which explains why it’s a good idea for owners of dogs fixated with eating nonfood items to start with a vet visit to rule medical conditions out.

“Dry wall contains gypsum which is a mineral congomleration which includes a large amount of calcium sulfate. Very similar to bone! So, some dogs will chew dry wall because they discover it is like bone. Have the blood tested. You might find a low calcium level.” ~Dr. Ralston

Tips to Stop Chewing Through Drywall

As with many other dog behaviors, it’s important to go to the root of the problem and tackle the underlying cause. A vet visit may be a good place to start just to ensure there’s nothing going on in the health department.

With health issues ruled out, then it’s time to roll up sleeves and put on an investigative hat to pinpoint the problem. This is best done with the help of a professional, even because certain underlying causes of chewing the wall may require professional intervention as tackling these issues may not be easy.

For instance, if your dog chews through drywall because he is anxious, you will likely need to get help from a professional to implement a systematic desensitization program. Whereas, if there are critters in the wall, you will need to enlist the help of a local exterminator.

Bored dogs, or dogs in need for attention, benefit from being provided with more exercise and mental enrichment. Provide several safe chew toys of different textures for sensory enrichment and don’t forget to rotate them to keep a sense of novelty. Chewing dogs should be blocked from gaining access to the drywall area while the dog is trained to learn that other behaviors garner attention such as calmer, more desirable behaviors garner attention. With energy drained, the introduction of interactive toys and attention provided only when desirable behaviors take place, the drywall will become less and less attractive over time.

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