Many FACE financial grants for critical veterinary assistance are awarded to owners of dogs with a serious spinal condition called intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). IVDD is a major cause of pain and paralysis in certain dog breeds, especially those with short legs like the Dachshund, French Bulldog, Corgi, Basset Hound, and Pekingese.
In IVDD, the discs in a dog’s spine can degenerate over the course of time or suddenly herniate, depending on the type of IVDD the dog suffers from. IVDD is a painful condition that often requires surgery and physical rehabilitation.
Recently, researchers at the University of California Davis have discovered the genetic mutation responsible for chondrodystrophy, which is a genetic trait that many IVDD-prone breeds share. It’s characterized by changes in bone growth, leading to short long bones (legs) and premature spinal disc calcification and degeneration.
The scientists report that dogs with IVDD are 50 times more likely to have this mutation. The gene identified, the FGF4 retrogene, was found to play a key role in bone development for dogs with chondrodystrophy. FGF abnormalities in humans can lead to conditions like dwarfism.
Identification of this mutation can help control the incidence of IVDD in dogs. The UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory offers two genetics tests for breeders and owners of short-legged breeds prone to IVDD. Breeders can test for IVDD risk in their dogs, identifying those that are carriers of 0, 1, or 2 copies of the gene.
A few months ago, we introduced you to FACE friend and supporter Linda Michaels of Del Mar Dog Training in a blog post. Linda is a top-rated dog trainer and behavior expert who created the Hierarchy of Dog Needs® approach to force-free behavior modification. Linda has expanded the ideas she outlined in the Hierarchy into a brand-new eBook called the Do No Harm™ Dog Training and Behavior Manual. The manual is a great resource for anyone interested in learning about force-free solutions for common dog behavior problems (pet parents, trainers, animal welfare workers and volunteers, groomers, and more). The book is available for purchase in pdf format HERE.
The manual covers both basic obedience and more advanced behavior issues like aggression and separation anxiety. Topics covered include advice on finding the right dog for your family and lifestyle, as well as step-by-step training how-tos for many key behavior areas, such as:
Socialization to people and other dogs
Dog safety and body language
Good manners and impulse control
New puppy training
How to avoid “treat dependence”
Teaching the basic commands
Protocols for dealing with serious behavior problems
Linda has an MA in Experimental Psychology and has worked not only with dogs, but also wolves and wolfdog hybrids in need of treatment for aggression. The foundation of her approach is to avoid the use of harsh, dominance-based training methods and aversive collar devices (shock, prong, choke). Linda believes that these methods are often counter-productive and can in fact increase aggression in dogs.
The Hierarchy of Dog Needs® concept is based on the idea that dogs (just like people) have fundamental needs that should be met both in the training process and throughout their lives. Besides basic physical needs like food and shelter, dogs also need to feel safe, secure, and loved. Linda’s training methods take these important emotional needs into account, leading to optimal results.
As Linda notes, traditional dominance training methods and devices can inflict irreversible psychological damage on our dogs. “This manual was written for ‘the heartbeats at our feet’ with their well-being and best force-free care and training practices in mind,” says Linda. “We no longer leave the door open for any justification to use aversive/punitive methods of training with dogs.” The key to effective training is the proper use of force-free methods…now easier than ever thanks to Linda’s contributions to the field!
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) sniffer dogs do important work to keep us all safe when we travel. Did you know that the TSA occasionally invites the public to adopt young dogs that failed TSA training or older dogs that have retired from active duty? Adoptions are free…you just need to make your way to San Antonio, Texas to pick your new friend up if you are one of the lucky adopters.
Purebred dog breeds used by the TSA include German Shorthaired Pointers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Belgian Malinois. You can watch a video about TSA dog adoption on the AOL news site HERE. Learn more about the TSA canine adoption program on the official TSA website.
The Humane Society of the United States recently announced the creation of their new “Humane Puerto Rico” initiative. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the U.S. and according to HSUS, there are many dogs, cats, and other animals there that are in urgent need of help. Did you know that the euthanasia rate for shelter dogs and cats is 95%, and that many thousands of homeless pets roam the streets of this island?
What will the initiative do? There will be a multi-faceted effort to improve the lives of the animals of Puerto Rico in several areas, including:
Training law enforcement officers and prosecutors on animal cruelty crimes.
Donating law enforcement evidence-gathering kits.
Cracking down on puppy mills.
A humane education program that will reach every K-12 public school student.
New tools and technology for animal shelters on the island.
Partnering with Humane Society International on low-cost spay/neuter programs.
Puerto Rican government officials signed an agreement pledging their cooperation to help solve critical issues such as animal cruelty, the street dog population, and the euthanasia rate. HSUS notes that many tourists visiting Puerto Rico have been struck by the number of homeless animals in poor condition wandering the streets, and have contacted various organizations to see what can be done.
Interested in learning more about the HSUS Humane Puerto Rico initiative? Click HERE for the original story. For an update on what’s been going on lately, including a contraception program for the free-roaming horses of Vieques, and the launch of the Sister Shelter Project, in which shelter professionals from several states will provide assistance to Puerto Rican shelters, click HERE.
We all know that a dog’s sense of smell is many times more powerful than a human’s. Not only do they have more scent receptors in their noses, but the part of the brain that analyzes scent is much larger in dogs as well. We’ve put dogs to work because of their great sense of smell for hundreds of years…but what about a little bit of fun with smell too?
Modern Dog magazine has put together a great list of scent games you can play with your dog. Here are a few simple ways to engage your dog’s sense of smell. Be sure to check out the article for full details and more games HERE.
Hide treats around the house: Place treats in different places that your dog can find by accident. You can mix up the hiding locations and types of treats you use. For even more fun, hide a treat-filled food dispensing or puzzle toy.
Play “pick the hand”: Put a tempting treat in one of your hands and place both hands out (loose fist, palms down). Move your hands back and forth and let your dog find the treat. Praise your dog when you open your hand and give him the treat.
Play hide and seek games: You can play the classic hide and seek game with your dog both indoors and outdoors. Your dog will use her sense of smell to find you. Make sure you have a reward ready when she does.
The “shell game”: Hiding a treat under one of a group of cups and then moving them around is a canine take on the old shell game. You can increase the number of cups as your dog gets better at finding the treat.
Make scent trails: Put a scent your dog likes on a ball (a small amount of chicken fat, peanut butter, or even essential oils) and play with it. Then begin hiding the ball and putting the scent down in a trail (you can use small pieces of paper) leading to the toy. Then try removing the trail and have your dog find the ball on his own.