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Prescription and Veterinary Diets–Are They Medicine? Are They Worth the Added Cost?

by Don Hanson Pet foods sold as “prescription” or “veterinary” diets are typically promoted as treating medical issues like skin allergies, kidney disease, cancer, and more. They usually are much more expensive than regular dog food. For example, an 18.7 lb. bag of one company’s kidney diet sells for $104, while a 15 lb. bag of its regular dog food costs $46, half the price of the “prescription” diet. These alleged medical diets are often sold by veterinarians or outlets that will only sell you the food if you provide… Continued

Eye Drops for Dogs, the Premack Principle, and Stationing on the Stairs

Students often ask me, “When can I stop training my dog.” That’s when I reply, “I never stop training.” By continuing to train, I keep my dog engaged, her life enriched, and my skills sharp. For example, my continued training with Muppy helped me quickly address a new behavioral challenge related to her health. Last spring Muppy was seen by an eye specialist and was prescribed eye drops that she requires every morning. Dr. Blackwood explained that one of the drops might sting and could cause Muppy to be less… Continued

Halloween Tips for People with Pets

Halloween can be very scary for our pets and very dangerous. It is that time of year when many children and even some adults like to dress up in costumes that make them look different and often scary. They may also take on the stilted walk or the pseudo-terrifying vocalizations of the character they portray. Think about Halloween and all the shenanigans it entails from your pet’s perspective. Was your dog ever socialized/habituated to anything remotely like Halloween? Is it likely that they will find groups of people behaving weirdly… Continued

How to Interact with a Dog – Respecting Personal Space

While many people recognize and address the physical health of their pets, the same cannot always be said for their pets’ mental well-being. Sadly, I’m not surprised, as some people fail to recognize the importance of mental health in humans, believing behavioral issues are character flaws rather than symptoms of illness or distress. Behavior problems with pets are on the rise. Often, they occur due to an aspect of a pet’s mental health and emotional well-being. Feeling Safe Every dog, like every person, has a personal space bubble. Each person… Continued

What Is Canine Kennel Cough?

Symptoms & Prevention* Canine cough, or kennel cough, are lay terms for Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (CIRDC). There are many bacteria and viruses which can cause this illness. However, the most prevalent of the bacteria that cause this illness is Bordetella bronchiseptica. This illness involves an inflammation of a dog’s trachea and upper bronchi, similar to bronchitis in a human. The air flowing over the inflamed tissues can be very irritating, which causes the dog to cough. *Editor’s note: This information does not replace the advice or instruction given to… Continued

The Dilated Cardiomyopathy and Grain-Free Pet Food Debacle

Was It Bad Science or Shameless Greed and Fraud? by Don Hanson There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that feeding your dog grain-free or BEG (boutique, exotic ingredient, grain-free) diets puts them at increased risk for dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), according to an update on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website (FDA, 2022). This is excellent news! People can now feed their pets a grain-free or BEG diet without fear. However, it is also tragic news, as how this investigation was handled was a travesty. It… Continued

Winter Weather Tips for Pets

Like people, some pets love the winter snow and cold, and others hate it. Our dog Dulice was not deterred by the snow but found a terrier’s dream as it allowed winter burrowing. My current dog Muppy, a rescue from Mississippi, hated her first seven winters in Maine. However, Muppy enjoys a good roll in the snow today as long as the temperature doesn’t drop below 30 F. Our cat Boomer enjoys outdoor journeys on a harness and leash and lying in the summer sun, but when it comes to… Continued

Pets, Emotions and Anthropomorphism

by Don Hanson Emotions are complicated and messy. So much so that as a youngster watching Star Trek in the 1960s, I was attracted to the Vulcan ethos of suppressing all emotion and replacing it with logic. However, I eventually learned that without emotion, we are devoid of joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love. But, unfortunately, the price for those positive feelings is negative emotions such as anger, emptiness, frustration, inadequacy, helplessness, fear, guilt, loneliness, depression, feeling overwhelmed, resentment, failure, sadness and jealousy. The fact… Continued

Fire Safety for Pets

We have all heard news stories about tragic home fires where the pets did not survive. Sadly, incidents where the pet woke the family, and everyone was spared are the exception. A fire is scary for everyone involved but listed below are several facts that are especially important for those of us with pets.​   Approximately 80% of all fires occur in a private home; therefore, if your pet encounters a fire, they are most likely to do so in your home. We often leave pets alone in our homes,… Continued

Pet Insurance – How to Choose a Provider

When we decided to purchase pet health insurance for Muppy nine years ago, there were far fewer options than you will find today. However, that means choosing a plan may be more complicated today. Then, there were fewer companies, and it was easier to find independent and unbiased reviews online. Today several major insurance companies are offering policies for pets as they see this as a financially lucrative market. Their participation could drive prices up or down. Unfortunately, how plans are marketed does not always make for an easy, apples-to-apples… Continued

Pet Insurance – Why It’s a Good Idea

My wife and I decided pet insurance was worth investigating when we adopted Muppy in 2013. We had several unplanned vet bills with previous pets requiring emergency surgery or because they were treated for chronic issues for many years. So when we adopted Boomer (the cat) that fall, we also purchased a policy for him. Nine years later, I believe it was a wise investment. Health Insurance for Puppies In the fall of 2020, I started talking about pet health insurance with students in my Puppy Headstart-ONLINE class. It follows… Continued

Determining If Your Dog Understands SIT

Students often ask, “How can I tell if my dog understands what I’m teaching him or her?” How we assess a dog’s training can vary with what we’re teaching, the environment where we are testing them, and the dog and their physical and emotional status at that particular point in time. Below you will find one method you can use to assess how well your dog understands a simple behavior like sit. You will give your dog a single visual or verbal cue and look for them to respond in… Continued

Pets – Who Cares for Them When You Cannot? (Part Two)

Before you entrust the care of your pet to anyone, you should ask them the following: Have you had formal training in pet first aid, and can you apply first aid if necessary? What experience do you have with pet health issues such as diabetes, seizures, and bloat? Do you have experience giving pets medications such as pills, ointments, drops, or injections? Have you had training and experience supervising interactions between pets that do not regularly interact with other pets? Are you familiar with canine and feline body language? Do… Continued

Pets – Who Cares for Them When You Cannot? (Part One)

As much as we would like to have our pets with us at all times, that may not always be possible. Sometimes life throws us a curve ball that will require you to leave your pets in the care of someone else. For example, you may need to travel for work, a family healthcare crisis, or a funeral. In addition, you may need to evacuate your home due to a natural disaster where you will not be able to take your pets with you. Planning Ahead Perhaps you’re staying home… Continued

Dogs and Automobiles – Part 2: Aversion and Motion Sickness

A Dog May Suddenly Refuse to Get in the Car for Several Reasons   The vehicle may have become a predictor of something unpleasant such as a trip to the veterinarian. Or perhaps the dog was  in the car during a traumatic event such as a crash or a thunderstorm. If the dog was injured getting in or out of a vehicle, they might also become anxious about the car. Nausea due to motion sickness is one of the biggest reasons dogs learn to dislike traveling. This may be due… Continued

When Can I Stop Training My Dog?

My students often ask when they can stop training their dogs. That’s when I ask them, “When do you anticipate you will stop learning?” My point is that we are still learning as long as we are alive. The same is true of our dogs. If dogs are awake, they are learning from both us and the environment in which they live. Since the environment is vast and almost always available to our dogs, it provides more learning opportunities than we do. For example, a child in a high chair or… Continued

Pets & Automobiles – Part 1: Safety

Cars, trucks, mini-vans, basically any automobile are often as much a part of our pets’ lives as they are ours. It’s how we brought them home the first time and how we transport them to all types of activities. We have all known someone who has a dog that the mere mention of “car ride” has the dog leaping in ecstasy. However, some dogs are or become terrified of riding in a moving vehicle. Some cats enjoy car rides, but many find the crate and car a predictor of getting… Continued

Don Hanson Reviews Dr. Conor Brady’s “Feeding Dogs”

Feeding Dogs: The Science Behind The Dry Versus Raw Debate by Conor Brady, Ph.D. will hopefully end the debate over how to feed our dogs for optimum health.   Dr. Brady spent 10 years examining what the scientific literature tells us about canine nutrition, answering such questions as: Is the dog a carnivore or omnivore? What are the problems with feeding kibble? Why are so many people pro-kibble and anti-fresh food despite evidence to the contrary? And how to feed a dog a species-appropriate diet for optimal health. In addition,… Continued

A Relationship Built on a Lifetime of Kindness, Mutual Trust, and Joy

When we bring a pet into our home, it marks a new beginning. It is an opportunity to create something beautiful – friendship with another sentient being. Friendship with another person often begins when we discover similar interests and values. We can share those interests because we easily communicate with one another. We speak the same language, but we also take ample time to listen and watch one another. Friends don’t always agree, but we have learned to communicate and compromise because we trust one another. We treat each other… Continued

Knowledge for Life

A review of Puppy Socialization: What It Is and How to Do It by Marge Rogers and Eileen Anderson The greatest gift my parents gave me was a love of reading and a thirst for knowledge. It was a gift given out of love, knowing that it had the potential to benefit not only me but those around me. I believe it was the greatest gift I have ever received. It has nurtured my life-long love of learning, a character trait essential for any professional. What we have learned about… Continued

Understanding, Identifying, and Coping with Canine Stress

Just like us, our dogs can and do experience stress. And just as stress can make us feel afraid, hyper, edgy, or irritable, it can do the same to our dogs. As a pet behavior consultant, I have observed that most behavior problems with pets, especially the more serious, such as aggression and separation anxiety, are related to one or more stressors in the animal’s life. It is a well-established fact that chronic stress can have a detrimental effect on our behavior, health, and overall well-being. If we want our… Continued

Alone Training

By Don Hanson Dogs are social animals, and most will actively seek out our companionship. They can quickly become accustomed to having their people around all the time (especially during these pandemic times when many of us are spending more time at home than usual), but this is not a necessarily good thing if they will need to spend some time on their own at some stage. And as much as we might want to believe we will always be with our dogs all the time, that scenario is improbable.… Continued

Managing an Aggressive, Fearful, or Reactive Dog

By Don Hanson When you have a dog that is exhibiting aggressive behavior, you have a responsibility to keep yourself, your family, your pets, and your community safe. A dog that is behaving aggressively is experiencing some form of emotional stress, so it is your responsibility to identify and keep him away from the stressors that trigger the behavior while working with a professionals who can help you. #1. Get Help from an Accredited Professional as Soon as Possible Helping change aggressive behavior is not a Do-It-Yourself project, nor is… Continued

Building a Shock-Free World for Pets

By Don Hanson Trainers, behavior consultants and pet professionals, the Shock-Free Coalition needs your help! Specifically, we need your help in educating your clients, colleagues, friends, and family members about the benefits of using reward-based training and the dangers of using a shock collar as a training tool. Our goal is to prepare you so that you can ask pet owners and pet care professionals, especially veterinarians and their staff, animal shelters and rescues, and other dog trainers to sign the Shock-Free Pledge. Pledge Drive The Shock-Free Coalition will be… Continued

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