Thursday, October 28

Roofus Goes to Jail

Last night, I took Roofus, my Old English Sheepdog, to jail. But not because he was bad.

Roofus is part of a new program called BARK - Books And Reading for Kids. The program sends dogs and their handlers to a local juvenile detention facility, where the kids (usually teens) read to the dogs. The goal is to promote literacy and confidence in the kids, and as we all know, doggie therapy is also extremely beneficial.

Last night was the first night of the program, so we had a lot of "get to know you" time. I had actually wanted to make Roofus a therapy dog, because he has the most wonderful temperament, as well as being extremely fluffy, cute, goofy, and extremely eager to love everyone. Unfortunately for him, he is a little overenthusiastic about sharing his affection, so comforting the sick or physically injured is something I decided it would be best to put on hold. However, showing these kids that he loves them regardless of where they come from or what they might have done is right up his alley.

He was amazing. Roofus does have a leash aggression problem, but he did not bark at a single dog all night. He even met his old friend Magnum, a yorkie, whom he has not seen in quite a while, and was a perfect gentleman. Two shelties came within biting distance, and while he was interested in them, he said not a word, nor showed any signs of displeasure at their closeness.

When we got our first kid, as soon as she sat down, Roofus climbed onto her lap and washed her face for her. That was pretty much the trend for the evening. At one point, he had several girls hanging on him - bear hugging him, scratching him, squeezing him - he looked up at me, absolutely ecstatic, like his most wild dreams had finally come true. No one was allowed to walk by Roofus without giving him a scratch or a pat. He simply didn't allow it. The one thing this dog has in scores is love - and he made sure everybody got some. Everyone laughed at the gigantic "lap dog" - but who wouldn't want a giant, living teddy bear smothering you with adoration?

The night was over much too soon for Roofus. You could tell he was walking on cloud 9 as we returned to our car. I thought that all that love and attention might have worn him out, but he sat in the back seat all the way home with the silliest grin on his face.

Saturday, October 23

Dax Goes Hiking

Are we there yet??!
Today I decided to try out a trail someone recommended to me, with Dax, my pint-sized Australian Cattle Dog. I wanted to also try out Merlin's pack on him, in a rather feeble attempt to tire him out, as well as give him a "job" to do while we walked. He's not quite 13 months, and the pack doesn't hold much, so all he carried was one liter of water.

Dax loves walking of any kind, so I knew that no matter what the day would be a success. We drove to Darby Creek Metro Park. I didn't have a map, of the park, so we walked around it at first just finding out where all the trails were. For some odd reason, every single trail said "No Pets." Oooooooookay. I knew there was a pet trail somewhere, so we kept walking. And kept walking. After almost a mile, we found it. And I don't think it can legitimately be called a trail. It's a path. A gravel path. About 10 feet wide. In its defense, it is over four miles long. Unfortunately for us, I realized about 1/3 of the way in that I forgot to wear my walking shoes, and I that I drank way too much water with lunch.

We did end up doing three and a half miles in all. Dax did go into a "working mode," where he was quite obedient (not that he isn't always), kept his ears pointing back at me (normally he does not - so he's finally paying attention to me!!), and did exceptionally well at a totally new place without a "comfort dog" of any kind. He did bark at one set of strangers, avoided some others, but the majority of them, he'd wait until they walked by, then run up behind them and sniff their shoes. Then come back to me and expect a treat.

Dax's tiredness usually only lasts 10-15 minutes.
What I especially love about his backpack is that I don't see how he could squirm out of it. He can get out of his collar without batting an eye, and a harness with barely any effort. The pack fastens a bit more securely, so I imagine it would take much more to squiggle free. The only time he tries to escape is when he sees other dogs. Being a bit more proactive than normal, when he would start his "frenzy fest" when he saw a dog, I would grab the handle of the pack (ironically, placed there so you can easily help the dog up the trail), and if he started trying to slip free, I'd raise him off the ground slightly. Now, I'm positive that does nothing for his doggie body language. But it keeps him safe and secure, because he can't even try to get out of it if his legs aren't touching the ground. :)

Another interesting thing of note is that he apparently wears a smaller size than my corgi. I had to tighten everything to its smallest, and the chest was still too large for him.

Thursday, October 21

Chlamydia and other Zoonotic Parrot Diseases

Some of us may remember a few years ago with PetSmart birds suffered an outbreak of Chlamydiosis. One of the more alarming pieces of information about this disease is that it is zoonotic, which means it can be transferred from animals to humans or humans to animals. The elderly, and the very young (infants, toddlers) are most susceptible, and therefore it is extremely important to have your bird(s) tested before they are brought home. A responsible bird breeder should already have done the test. before you purchased the parrot. Even scarier, birds may not show symptoms of the disease themselves, but simply be carriers - giving the illusion of a perfectly healthy bird that can infect people. Chlamydiosis may also be referred to as Psittacosis, or parrot fever.

This particular disease is shared in any number of ways - with dusty birds like Cockatiels and Cockatoos, most humans inhale the particles from feather dust. The symptoms in humans are similar to that of the flu. It can be treated for both parrots and humans with a trip to the doctor or avian vet, but prevention is the best policy. Have all new stock tested and quarantined (we recommend at least 45 days) before adding to the aviary. Keep cages clean, keep an appropriate ratio of bird to cage space, feed a healthy diet, and see your avian veterinarian regularly, especially for breeding birds. The incubation period in birds for Chlamydiosis can be years, so simply quarantining a bird is not an adequate step by itself.

Another zoonotic disease parrots have is Salmonella. It's much more common to obtain Salmonella from eating an infected bird than from your personal pet bird, but there is still a risk, so it's worth mentioning. And it's not an unusual disease in pet parrots like you might think. Salmonella is treated with antibiotics, and can be difficult to diagnose in parrots, because you won't find it in every dropping. That just reiterates the idea that you need to regularly see the avian veterinarian, to establish baseline readings and to keep checking for diseases that may not show up the first time. Birds can and do die from Salmonella, and symptoms are similar to a human's, with diarrhea (bloody or not), vomiting, lethargy - pretty much like food poisoning.

One zoonosis I've had experience with is Colibacillosis, or E. coli. People tend to get themselves worked up about E. coli, but E. coli is found in the intestinal tract of animals. Including humans. It's completely natural. The problems begin when you have an overabundance or an infection of E. coli. Symptoms in birds and people generally start with diarrhea. Of the diseases I've listed, this one is probably the most common, and frequently overlooked as so many bird breeders don't properly check their stock.

Other zoonotic parrot disease of note include:
  • Avian Tuberculosis
  • Campylobacteriosis
  • Newcastle Disease
Most of these diseases are easier to simply prevent in the first place - checking all new stock, quarantine, routine vet visits, sanitary conditions, and avoiding overcrowding are all key in prevention. Unfortunately, mass breeders, backyard breeders, and on more than one occasion, pet stores, are unlikely to responsibly test their birds for overall health, let alone specific diseases, particularly in the case of "low cost" birds like budgerigars, cockatiels, lovebirds and canaries. It is therefore the smartest course of action, whenever bringing any new pet home, to have it thoroughly examined by a proper veterinarian, which in the case of birds, is a certified avian vet.

Wednesday, October 20

Gone Hiking!

This past weekend, my husband and I took our Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Merlin, and our Old English Sheepdog, Roofus, to Hocking Hills to do some hiking. We've never really taken the dogs hiking before, but we were excited to find a pet-friendly cabin (Good Earth Cabins) and happily spent three days exploring various caves, cliffs, and woods.

I was truly surprised by our corgi. I've always said that they can do anything big dogs can do - but Merlin went above and beyond that. There were plenty of spots where my own short legs had trouble, and as I turned around to tell my husband to grab the corgi by his handle (he wears a backpack like any respectable hiker), there would be a blur of red as Merlin ran past me and on up the trail.

In fact, because Merlin does agility regularly, and Roofus's sport is rally, he was much better suited to all the jumping and strenuous conditions than Roofus. That's not to say Roofus had any trouble - but Roofus was much more tired each day (and is still sleeping soundly, as a matter of fact), than the corgi was. And I would say that Roofus has a higher stamina for exercise than Merlin. That just goes to show how much an active dog sport like agility can condition your dog for activities like hiking. Roofus is no slouch in the exercise department - but being a giant breed dog, I do not do much jumping or climbing with him. However, I believe that some light agility-type of exercise would probably benefit most dogs (always check with your vet first), especially if they do a lot of hiking. The trick is to determine how much is the "right amount," so you don't overdo it, particularly with giant breeds and dwarf breeds.

Tuesday, October 19

Pet Ownership versus Pet Ownership

Today, I wanted to blog about the different types of pet ownership, and how some folks hide behind this idea to try to cover up irresponsible pet ownership.

I am the type of pet owner who takes their birds to the vet. I don't see that as super responsible, I see that as the bare minimum of owning a bird. See, birds naturally hide illnesses, often until it's too late to do anything about it, because they have evolved to hide their illnesses to avoid being picked off by predators. So, it just makes natural sense to take a bird to the vet regularly, particularly if it's a brand new bird. Head off problems before they start, ya know?

Unfortunately, then there are people who don't take their birds to the vet. The little birds are fairly inexpensive, and avian vets are pretty darned expensive. I'm not sure if these people think that it's not a good "investment," if they don't see birds on the same level as dogs, or if they just don't know any better. There aren't a whole slew of avian vets out there, after all, and a lot of the older generation didn't take their dogs to the vet, let alone exotic pets.

To me, not taking a pet to the vet (especially when you first get it, regardless of age), is tantamount to neglect. Why *wouldn't* you want to do what's best for the pet? If it's a matter of affordability, I've always been part of the "if you can't afford the vet, you can't afford the pet" crowd. A brand new animal should always go to get checked out, for peace of mind if nothing else. It's definitely not "throwing your money away," and it should be within the budget before the animal is ever bought or adopted.

Saturday, October 9

Click, Click, Click Away!

With the addition of Dax, I recently began clicker training most of my dogs. Previously, I had scoffed at this training method - I mean, come on, you can use the word "good" or "yes" as a trigger even more easily, without having to know where your clicker is constantly. However, it does work extremely well. I believe it's likely because you use your voice to talk to, and talk around, your dog every day, so you saying "good" is nice, but the clicker is ONLY ever used when the dog is about to get a treat. That makes the clicker a higher value, regardless of the treat used with it. No wonder you can find greater success with a clicker than without.

I've also become a huge fan of kikopup on YouTube. Her videos are awesome - she shows you exactly how to teach tricks and behaviors, from the beginning to proofing the behavior, all with the clicker.

The only dog that's not very "clicker friendly" in my house is Merlin, because he doesn't like being clicked at, no matter how many treats he gets for it. Previously, he was terrified of even being in its presence, so this is a huge step up for him. Today while I was training the other dogs, I was click/treating him with the clicker behind my back, and he was fine. So we may be down to being afraid of the visual of the clicker. I do mute my clicker with copious amounts of masking tape, because clickers are naturally obnoxious and I just don't think that's necessary. :)

Some things my dogs worked on today with the clicker -

Popper - Heel, stay, go touch a target, leave it

Roofus - Heel, sit from a down, leave it, distance downs

Dax - Heel, stay, touch with paw, four on the floor (he jumps and bites when he gets excited), nose targets (for agility), roll over

The girls, of course, do not do training, and couldn't hear a clicker anyway. :)

Clicker training has been especially beneficial with Dax, because he's hyper. Sometimes he'll only perform a behavior for a second, and I can click it before he stops doing it. He's improved DRAMATICALLY in heeling and four on the floor, because I can capture the behavior so quickly.

I don't know if clicker training has helped Roofus at all, he is extremely stubborn and can be difficult to train - indeed, it usually takes him a lot longer to learn things than the other dogs. I try not to use the clicker while we are doing Rally Obedience, because I cannot have a clicker on me during trials, but I can use my voice.

Sunday, October 3

Fido Fest

Today was Worthington's Fido Fest. It sounded like a great time, and they had microchipping for $15 from RASCAL unit, so I packed up Dax and Popper and away we went. Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy, so I ran past most of the booths. In fact, the majority of them were for services or rescues, and I don't need any services, and six dogs is more than plenty.

I did need to get Dax microchipped though, because he is the type of dog that might get out and then get lost looking for me. I took him over here and back, but he was really quite nervous and I feel like a huge jerk for taking him. He's been clinging to me the entire night, more so than usual, and not his normal insane self.

Popper had a great time. I brought the clicker, and after I got him calmed down and he realized I had treats, he did marvelously. He got to sample some treats, and I bought him, Dax, Blossom and Merlin new bandannas. Merlin's has Brutus Buckeye on it. :)

Friday, October 1

Doggie Nicknames

I have a LOT of nicknames for my dogs. While it would be impossible to think of every single one, here's a list for each. Some are amusing :)

Dax - Daxall, Daxall Pie, Dax Dax, D Man, the puppy, the annoying one, white speckle, the cattle dog, the insane dog, ants in his pants

Popper - Pop, pop pop, poppy, the baby, rusty, squeakers, bipolar dog, poppity pop pop, da pop pop, mean butt, battle dog

Merlin - corgi, corgs, lin lin, win win, short butt, snuggy wuggy poo, merby, merwin

Roofus - Roo, Boo, Roo bear, Boo bear, Mt Dew Bear, Ruby, Ruby Tuesday, da boo boo, mommy's boo bear, woo boo, fuzzy butt, bear, Roofus Bob, Mommy's big bear, fuzzy wuzzy (his name just rhymes with everything :) he LOVES being called anything but Roofus - usually we only call him Roofus if he's in trouble!!)

Blossom - B, B dog, spots, annoying old dog (she is deaf so we don't usually call her anything as she can't hear it!)

Murphy - murph, smurph, murphy brown, smurphy, the old dog, old butt