What You Need to Know About Spaying and Neutering Your Pets

What You Need to Know About Spaying and Neutering Your Pets

Spaying or neutering is one of the best things that can be done to benefit the lives of cats and dogs. In addition to helping to curb pet overpopulation, it can help make your pet healthier and help to reduce poor behavior. In an effort to spread the word about the benefits of spaying and neutering, the HSUS, the Humane Society International and the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association runs its annual World Spay Day campaign.

Observed on the last Tuesday of February, World Spay Day brings awareness to the impact of affordable, accessible spay/neuter options to save the lives of companion animals, stray/feral cats, and stray dogs who may otherwise be put down in shelters or killed on the street. This year will be the 23rd annual World Spay Day, and will be observed on February 28, 2017.pexels-photo-133069

In honor of World Spay Day, we’re taking a look at some of the invaluable benefits that spaying and neutering your pets can bring:

Reduce the number of homeless pets killed – There are an estimated 6-8 million homeless animals entering shelters every day. Barely half of those animals get adopted. Unfortunately, more than 2.7 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters each year.

Improve your pet’s health – Pets who live in the states with the highest rates of spaying/neutering also live the longest, according to this USA today study. Neutered males dogs live 18% longer than un-neutered male dogs, and spayed female dogs live 23% longer than unspayed female dogs. The reduced lifespan for unaltered pets can be attributed, in part, to their increased urge to roam, exposing them to fights with other animals, running out into the roads and other mishaps.animal-cute-kitten-cat.jpg

Also to consider is the reduced risk of certain types of cancers. Unspayed female cats and dogs have a far greater risk of developing pyrometra (fatal uterine infection), uterine cancer and other cancers of the reproductive system. Male pets who are neutered eliminate their chances of developing testicular cancer.

Reduce poor behavior – Unneutered dogs are much more assertive and prone to urine-marking than neutered dogs. Although this behavior is most-commonly associated with male dogs, females can do it too. For cats, the urge to spray is extremely strong in an intact cat. The simplest solution is to have yours neutered or spayed by four months of age, before there’s even a problem.

Neutering solves 90 percent of all marking issues, even in cats that have been doing it for a while. It can also minimize howling, the urge to roam, and fighting with other males. In both cats and dogs, the longer you wait, the greater risk you run of the surgery not doing the trick because the behavior is so ingrained.

Other behaviors that spaying and neutering can alleviate include:

  • Roaming, especially when females are “in heat”
  • Aggression; studies show that most dog bites involve dogs who are unaltered
  • Excessive barking, mounting or other dominance-related behaviors

And despite what many may think, while getting your pets spayed/neutered can help curb undesirable behaviors, it will not change their fundamental personality, like their protective instinct.

Given these reasons, it would seem that it doesn’t make sense to not have your pet spayed or neutered. But still, many pets are left unaltered. One of the most common reasons that people skip out on this critical part of their pet’s health is due to cost. What many may not consider, however, is the costs of caring for litters of puppies or kittens, medical costs for cancers of the reproductive system, and the medical costs associated with fights involving unneutered or unspayed pets. In the long run, having your pet spayed or neutered is more cost-effective.

If you or someone you know is looking for an affordable option to spay or neuter a pet, the Humane Society can help you identify low-cost options in your area.

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For more information on World Spay Day, visit http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/spay_day/

Will You Be My Valentine? 10 Reasons Why Pets Make The Best Valentines

This year, why not skip out on all of the fancy dinners, expensive wine and stress of planning the perfect evening? Here’s a fool-proof plan for the perfect Valentine’s Day: spend some quality time with your pet! Keep reading to learn 10 reasons why pets make the absolute best Valentines.

1. They are pretty cheap dates. Your pet won’t expect to eat at the fanciest restaurant in town, or to be given extravagant Valentine’s Day gifts. All they’re looking for is some of their favorite food and snuggles from you!dog.jpeg

2. They’ll let you pick the movie. As long as you’re snuggling on the couch right next to them, your pet doesn’t care what you guys watch. So, bring on the Rom-Coms!

3. No reservations required. Skip out on the hassle of making reservations, or dealing with overcrowded restaurants. Your pet is happy just hanging out at home with you or taking a stroll through the park!

4. Forget the fancy clothes. You don’t need to buy a new dress or put on the three piece suit to impress your furry friend – they won’t ever judge your outfit choice!

5. Pets are easy to shop for. If you want to surprise your pet with a little something, you won’t have to search high or low for the perfect gift. You know what your pet likes, but they will also love anything that you give them.

6. No need to share your chocolate. Actually, don’t share your chocolate with them! Chocolate poisoning is harmful for both dogs and cats, so you can keep that giant heart-shaped box of chocolates all for yourself.

7. There’s no way that you’ll feel awkward, or suffer through small talk. Unlike a blind date or new crush, your pet is your best friend. You’re totally comfortable together and hanging with them on Valentine’s Day is sure to be a stress free time.

8. They’re good for your health! Studies have shown that pet owners exhibit decreased blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels – all of which can help minimize your risk of having a heart attack down the road. Not to mention the impact your pets can have on your overall mood and happiness.

9. They give the BEST snuggles. Want to curl up on the couch and watch a season of your new TV addiction? There’s no one better to snuggle with than your furry friend.

10. They love you unconditionally. Valentine’s Day is all about celebrating the people (and animals) that you love. Pets will love you unconditionally (as I’m sure you love them), and what a good way to spend your Valentine’s day!

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So, put on your favorite pair of sweatpants, turn on a Rom-Com (or thriller, it’s up to you!), snuggle up with your pet and get ready for the best Valentine’s Day yet!

 

 

Advice from the Cookie Lady

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I hear it all the time, “My dog will do anything for you because you’re the cookie lady.” It’s true and it’s wonderful! I take pride in being a what Kathy Sdao calls “a good feeder.”

Let’s stop the shame game. There is no reason to be embarrassed for treating your dog for good behavior! I recall so many times walking through our local parks with my wonderful Pumpkin, happily heads up heeling by my side—his gorgeous amber eyes looking into mine as we passed a barking lunging dog. The owner of the other dog notice the treats I was delivering and shouted out, “I see your dog has you trained! How many treats does he eat?! That’s bribery” followed by derisive laughter. Well, laugh away I say. If I hadn’t been busy focusing on my gorgeous good dog I would have retorted, “It’s not a lure, it’s reward—big difference.” And I would have been happy to go into details had he been a willing listener. Instead I smiled, nodded and moved on. Now I have time to explain if you’re willing to listen.

Lures can sometimes be used initially to get a behavior started. With a lure, you are using the food (or toy) to manipulate the dog’s behavior. Common are pulling a treat above the head to get a “sit” and bringing a treat from the dog’s nose to yours to get eye contact or a “watch me” cue. Lures precede the behavior. They can get a behavior started but must be faded out quickly or the dog can become dependent on seeing the treat in order to perform the behavior. A reward on the other hand comes after the behavior is performed. Rewards too will be lessened in time, but perhaps never faded out. Before you panic– That wasn’t a typo. Let me explain.
If your employer stopped issuing you a paycheck, how long would you continue to work? Generally speaking, regardless of how much we enjoy our jobs we won’t work for free. Neither do dogs. Gasp! Yes I am saying dogs don’t work simply because they love us. Much of what we ask of dogs is completely unnatural and it is indeed work. Heeling, staying, leaving a treat on her paws and more—very unnatural. We all know how much work it is to modify our own behaviors such as eating healthfully, saving money, or quitting bad habits. Science tells us for humans and animals a reward system increases success in behavior modification programs. Look at your bank or credit card company. Does getting rewards increase your use of the card? Does your employer offer a gift for perfect attendance or safety records? We get tokens, points, and various other rewards for repeating certain behaviors. Dogs get treats and toys. There is no shame in rewarding good behavior! In time, we do put the rewards on a variable schedule so they will not be constant but that’s another topic.

Speaking of rewards, remember it should be something the dog wants. Not what you think is nice. Dry cookies are rarely motivating enough for any dog besides the biggest chow hounds. Having spent decades in human resources, I think of compensation scales. The more complex the work, the higher the pay. I apply the same to dogs. Sit at the door may equal a piece of kibble. Walking past another dog may equal a chunk of fresh chicken. Yes, fresh chicken—from the frig. I often chuckle that the same wonderfully caring clients who labor over reading labels and research the very best food to feed –insisting it have fresh human grade ingredients– are appalled at the thought of using “people food” as treats. Food is food. Fresh, healthy food is a nice reward and addition to your dog’s diet. Be a good feeder. Use food wisely. So often we give dogs table scraps or special treats just because we love them. While there’s nothing wrong with that, simply reserve them for extra special behavior!

A friend I see only seldom comments how her dog will do things for me that she does for no one else even though I may see her only twice a year. And I don’t have to give her treats. But as my friend points out, “she remembers you as the cookie lady.” Yep, she sure does. I have a history with this dog of being a good bet that she didn’t forget.

So my advice to you? BE THE COOKIE LADY!! Or COOKIE MAN! Enjoy the rewards YOU get—good behavior! 

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Positive reinforcement training. You hear it all the time. You know it’s a good thing. But what exactly is it?? Unfortunately it has become a marketing buzz word. This term is thrown around quite freely—and often quite inaccurately. You need to be in the know before you sign up with someone who claims to use positive reinforcement training. So let’s talk terms and get you caught up on the four quadrants of operant conditioning.

Here’s a short recap of the scientific terms you need to know:

Positive sounds, well positive, right? Happy, good!! Not necessarily! In scientific terms of operant conditioning, positive simply means something is ADDED.
There is positive reinforcement. After a behavior occurs, reinforcement (something the dog enjoys like food or play) is added. The dog sits, he gets a cookie. The dog comes, he plays tug. Reinforcing behaviors with something the dog enjoys increases the likelihood they will occur again. The dog WANTS to repeat the behavior on the chance of earning a treat or toy. This is what is meant by those of us who truly use positive reinforcement in training.

But positive doesn’t always mean good. Remember, positive means “adding” Another quad is positive punishment. After a behavior occurs, punishment (something the dog dislikes) is added. The dog barks, he gets squirt with water. The dog doesn’t come when called, he gets shocked with an electronic collar. Punishing behaviors with things the dog dislikes serves to decrease the behavior will occur again. The dog doesn’t want to repeat the behavior in order to avoid the unpleasant punishment. The side effects of punishment can be great and cause irreversible damage.

Now let’s get into the negatives. Negative reinforcement. It almost sounds contradictory doesn’t it? Remember in scientific terms of operant conditioning negative means to take something away. In this case, it is taking away something unpleasant that was put onto the dog. An example is choking the dog until he stops what is seen by the human as bad behavior. When the dog stops the behavior the choking is released—reinforcing him with something he likes—the absence of pain or normal breathing , for acting what we consider correctly. A human example we are all familiar with is the seat-belt. The annoying “ding ding ding ding” continues until you perform the proper behavior of buckling up. The last quad is negative punishment . Remember, negative means take away. Most “positive trainers” use some negative punishment as well. Here the dog is being punished by removing something the dog likes. An example is you are playing tug with the dog and his teeth hit your skin so you stop the game. You have just used negative punishment. You took away what the dog liked (play) thus punishing him for the behavior you did not like.

Bottom line, positive trainers primarily use positive reinforcement—rewarding the dog with something she likes. A good trainer always sets the dog up to succeed so this is the primary tool . But we do use punishment sometimes—in the form of taking away something the dog likes. Remember positive isn’t equivalent to permissive! But Never, ever do positive trainers add discomfort or pain to get the dog to comply.

Now you know! It is always wise to ask many questions and if possible audit (watch without your dog) a training class before you enroll.

Happy training!

Great Expectations

No, it isn’t about the classic novel of which I barely remember. I’m talking about the illusions we have when adopting an adult shelter dog.

I sit here now watching my newly adopted 3 or so year old girl as she lies in front of the window barking softly in her sleep and twitching her feet. I wonder what is in her dreams? I wonder what she thinks of me? Of her new life here? I wonder what her previous life was like? I wonder what life together will look like 6 months from now? I have a thousand questions that will remain unanswered. What I do know is I must forever stop and remind myself that our relationship is much like the garden planted not too long ago. Seeds full of possible potential that will need careful tending to germinate and flourish. And some of the hopes like some seeds may never see daylight. Or may take years to germinate! I tend our relationship with time; building trust; management; play; and training.

I don’t do it purposefully or consciously—none of us do—but yet I can’t help but notice the stark contrast between my new shelter dog and the dog I lost to cancer. Or maybe it is a current dog you have that you unconsciously compare. I have to remind myself constantly that Winny doesn’t understand well—pretty much none of what I say. We’ve lived together 4 weeks so training has been minimal. Yet, I am conditioned after more than a decade of being able to communicate with a mere glance or tiny gesture that my dear Pumpkin would understand. Things that are meaningless to Winny. Yes, I admit I sometimes feel frustrated. Friends and family seem to have the same failing I do. And as a trainer I KNOW BETTER. But knowing and feeling and over a decade of conditioning are very different things. Habits are hard to break. She comes with luggage and so do I. Patience in discovering the great space between us as we unpack will bring us together. We are learning to live together.

It is also much more difficult for us as humans with an adult dog. As humans, we are somewhat hardwired to melt at an infantile face. The puppy breath gives us an oxytocin rush. We expect puppies to pee, poop, bite, and generally misbehave. While we may know better, it is harder to accept such things from an adult.

So what can you expect?

Expect Nothing. Expect absolutely nothing. I respect shelters and rescues who do temperament testing. But in the end, behavior is context dependent. There are no guarantees. Do you act the same in the office as you do at a game? There is a wonderful booklet out called “Love Has No Age Limits” by Patricia McConnel and Karen Overall. Check it out and read it. She talks of the rule of 3’s. For most dogs, their behavior will be very suppressed in a new environment for the first 3 days. You will have a different dog in about 3 weeks as their confidence grows. And it 3 months maybe another entirely different dog..and likely one who has adjusted to your routine. Treat adult dogs like you would a puppy. Expect he knows nothing & build good behaviors—taking nothing for granted.

Observe everything. While you cannot predict the future, you can make educated guesses about what’s to come if you carefully observe your dog’s body language. I assume the dog has every possible issue and work proactively training for it. Write down what you see. It will be valuable information later on for you. Don’t wait as I did when memory starts to fail! Know it is normal to feel panic or regret. The “what did I get myself into??” This isn’t a foster where there is hope your life may resume to normal. You panic at the thought of 10-15 years of your life upside down forever ahead. I still question it. I imagine I will for months to come. Forgive yourself. Change is hard! It is hard for us too. But let’s remember we KNOW what’s going on. The dog doesn’t. So try to remember as difficult as it is for you, it’s probably 10x so for your dog.

Know it will likely get better! You will have more success than you know. It may not seem so in comparison to your currently trained dog or past dog, but remember everyone starts at the beginning. Track accomplishments and watch them grow!

Adopting an adult dog is new adventure offering much to learn . Enjoy your journey!

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There is a great misunderstanding perpetuating—even from veterinarians—that “tough” dogs like Pits need harsh training. Nothing could be farther from the truth! All dogs deserve to be taught with patience and respect. Linking an animal’s physicality to his cognitive learning abilities is simply illogical. Should college students be sorted into separate classes based on the size and shape of their bodies? What about temperament you ask? If you’ve taken time to get to know any Pit you know most of these strong muscular bodied dogs have an ooey gooey sweet center. In fact, they are one of the highest scoring dogs in the American Temperament Test Society Inc’s rankings. The UKC description of heir characteristics reads: “the APBT is not the best choice for a guard dog since they are extremely friendly, even with strangers. Aggressive behavior toward humans is uncharacteristic of the breed and highly undesirable.”

Positive reinforcement training is scientifically sound and successful for much larger and stronger animals that bully breeds! Lions, elephants, walruses, rhinos and more are all trained using positive reinforcement. Could you even imagine trying to put a training collar on a walrus & physically manipulating it?! How about trimming the nails of a 400+ pound male lion? The same nails that are his natural weaponry and could shred you in seconds? It is regularly done using positive reinforcement! Please don’t fool yourself that your bully breed or other “tough dog” needs a harsh hand.

Then the question is: do you want to physically punish your dog via pinch, choke, or shock your dog? Besides, physically you cannot control your dog when he is not wearing the aforementioned. Your dog is likely stronger & definitely faster than you. Always. Really.  So then what? What happens when your dog isn’t wearing the collar? You cannot correct him. In over a decade of training, I have heard countless people say “I don’t want to hurt my dog” The good news is you don’t have to, not even for your Pit Bull.

Rather than physical coercion, we want mental cooperation. We want a dog who is willing—downright happy to comply! That is achieved through working his mind. Pits are described in the UKC standard as “this breed does very well in performance events because of its high level of intelligence and its willingness to work. “

I will absolutely agree that physically strong dogs do make leash walking & manners more difficult. Though I’ve known many a small dog that can pull your shoulders out. While developing your working relationship and mental compliance with your dog, there are tools that can gently help you physically manage your strong dog on leash. Thankfully there are many no-pull harnesses on the market that work wonderfully.

Surfers ride with the wave, not against. Train with your dog’s intelligence, not against it! Rather than punishing your dog for doing something “bad” show them what they SHOULD be doing instead and reward the good behavior. Don’t want your dog to jump? Teach them to sit under distractions. Don’t want your dog to eat something or sniff something he sees? Teach him a “leave it” cue. Telling the dog what to do and rewarding his correct choice will yield you much greater results.

In the end, ask yourself one simple question: “how would I prefer to be taught?”  That is your answer.

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On this holiday weekend, as we contemplate and celebrate the very concepts of freedom and heroism, we want to share with you the inspiring rescue story of a mother dog and her four pups who were most likely destined for the fighting ring, or worse, to be used as bait dogs. She has paid her freedom forward in a way nobody could have imagined.

 

Flashback: DAYTON, OH 5/31/13:  Twelve dogs, suspected of being part of a dog fighting ring in a still ongoing investigation, were rescued from a filthy house on West Fairview. They had been abandoned with no food or clean water and were chained to fences or swing sets. Responding officers said a mother dog and her four puppies, not even 2 weeks old, were covered in their own urine and feces.  They were all taken to Montgomery County Animal Resource Center .  This is where the story of our heroine Penelope begins, you see she was that mother dog and those were her four puppies.

On June 5, 2013 Miami Valley Pit Crew came in and changed Penelope and her pups lives forever when they provided them rescue and an incredible foster family stepped up to offer them love and a safe haven.  After only two days of being in the safety of loving and sheltering arms, Penelope, who had been very protective of her pups and understandably suspicious of people, began to transform.  She began to wag her tail when her foster mom came in.  A few more days into her freedom Penelope’s true nature continued to reveal itself.  “It gives me such an unbelievable feeling of joy to see Penelope start dancing when she sees me” says her foster mom,  “She comes running down the hall at top speed and then jumps up and hugs me with her paws just to make sure that she will not miss any kisses”.  Her babies continued to grow and became happy, healthy, and well adjusted puppies.  If this were a play you  might think this would be the moment the standing ovation came in.  But our heroine was not quite ready to take a bow just yet.itty bitty pitties

On June 13, 2013 the Humane Society of Greater Dayton contacted Miami Valley Pit Crew about a litter of small pit mix puppies, only one or two days old at the most, who had been dropped off at the shelters front door. No mother, just the pups. They were so newly born that they still had their umbilical cords attached. Once again, MVPC came to the rescue.  Understanding that there is no substitute for the protection offered young puppies in mother’s milk and since there was no mother to nurse, their thoughts turned to Penelope. Would this Mama Lion- who had herself been abandoned with no food or water just two short weeks before – be willing to share the life giving food source of her own puppies?  Penelope’s disposition had revealed itself to be one of a loving nurturer so they decided it was worth a try. As her foster mom brought the puppies in to her wrapped in a towel, Penelope began to cry, almost to the point of becoming frantic.  As the towel with the puppies was presented to her, she began to root around with her nose and then she did something that shocked everyone.  She went to her “nursing corner” the place where she nursed her own puppies, then proceeded to roll over on her back and waited for them to put the puppies on her so they could nurse.  Mama Lion was in fact Mama Lamb.  And how do the new siblings feel about sharing their mommy and home with these new little puppies? The pictures leave no doubt – they not only accepted these little itty bitty pitties but truly love them as if they were their own littermates.

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Penelope feeding her hungry blended family

So now you see why we have chosen the lovely Penelope as our own Dayton Hometown Heroine.  The dog who was rescued a little over a month ago from a life of unimaginable sadness and fear has already rescued others in need.  We are hoping that you might be willing to help us write the ending to her story. While two of her own puppies already have adoptions pending, the remaining two puppies are still searching for forever families.  In a few weeks  Penelope and the three itty bitty pups will be needing a home of their own as well. The question “Who Rescued Who?” is usually an easy one to answer for those of us who have adopted rescues, however in Penelope’s case, it takes on a whole new meaning.  Could you be the family who will stand up and continue to pay it forward for Penelope and her pups?   Please share her story again and again, and let’s all lend a hand so that we can end this amazing tale with… AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

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Happily ever after….

If you are interested in adopting Penelope or any of her pups, please contact Collette at Miami Valley Pit Crew at collette4mvpc@gmail.com.