Thursday, 28 May 2015

A tale of tails: Is docking tails bad?

Tail docking is a pretty controversial subject and I realise my views may not sit well with everyone. However, I feel a lot of people say "tail docking is bad!" without getting the other side of the story. I will try to keep this as subjective as possible and I would love to hear your comments, whether you agree with me or not!

Clearly, Maizy has a docked tail. She doesn't seem to mind.

Maizy's tail is docked. It is traditional for her breed and let me tell you, am I ever glad it is docked! I'll explain why in a moment, but before we begin I'd like to say that when I say "research" I am not talking about reading somebody's opinion on the internet, though I certainly take that into account too. I am referring to peer reviewed scientific papers.

What is tail docking? 

The definition of docking is, according to the Almighty Google: 

Docking is the intentional removal of part of an animal's tail or, sometimes, ears. The term cropping is more commonly used in reference to the cropping of ears, while docking more commonly—but not exclusively—refers to the tail.
 Many types of animals have their tail docked, including horses and sheep. Tail docking began as a way to help prevent injury to the animal: a draft horse's long tail might get caught up in machinery, or a hunting dog may have its tail ripped to shreds by thorns, or a sheep with a long tail may get fly strike. When tail docking began, it was used to protect the animal against very real threats. Today, we thankfully have lessened, but not eliminated, these threats.

In dogs, tail docking should occur when the pup is no older that 5 days. This is done by either the vet or the breeder, and is most commonly done by "banding" the tail. Banding involves placing a special orthodontic band over the tail, which then cuts off blood supply to the end of tail. It can also be done using surgical scissors and the end of the tail is simply cut off.

Sounds painful, right? Wrong. Pups at this point do not have their nervous system fully developed. If a tail is docked properly, the pup will often not even notice. The puppy should not cry out, whine, or show any signs of distress. At this point, there is no evidence (or at least, I have not been able to find it in my research) to show this has any negative impact on the puppy.

After 5 days old, tail docking should only be done by a vet while the puppy is under anaesthesia, preferably after the pup is eight months old. To be clear, I do not condone the docking of tails after the pup is 5 days old - this has the potential to cause trauma to the dog.

The longer you wait to dock a tail, the more painful it becomes. While tail docking is a "non-event" for very young puppies, it is a very painful process for older dogs. At this point it is no longer considered docking, but rather an amputation. Docking an older dogs tail should ONLY be done by a vet for medical reasons.

Why dock tails?

Okay, so we've establish what tail docking is, a brief history of why it was done, and how it is done. But why bother?

Breed History: Many people dock tails because it is traditional. The American Kennel Club says, "The American Kennel Club recognizes that ear cropping, tail docking, and dewclaw removal, as described in certain breed standards, are acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving the breed character and/or enhancing good health. Appropriate veterinary care should be provided."

Personally, I think "preserving the breed character" is a pretty dumb reason to dock a tail. This is basically along the lines of 'we have always done this, so we are going to keep doing it'. Really, this comes down to fashion. While I don't agree with this reason for tail docking, if done properly, I don't believe it is an issue.

Injury Prevention: This is why I like docked tails. Maizy is a breed of hunting dog and we spend a lot of time in the woods. That means going through all sorts of plant matter, climbing up rocks, belly crawling through thick , swimming and more. We don't just wander along well groomed trails, we get out there and adventure.

This spaniel recieved a tail injury while out in the field.
Note the amount of blood.

Working dogs and dogs that spend a lot of time "in the field" are at risk damaging their tails. Docking was invented to prevent such injuries. In this case, the old saying a "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" rings true. Tail injuries can be very nasty business and if the dog requires amputation it will cause a considerable amount of suffering to the dog.

Here's a story from a cocker owner:
Our cocker spaniel bitch Lucy was 14 months old and enjoying the experience of her first working season when the problem with her tail started in December 1996. Approximately two inches at the tip of her tail broke open leaving raw, bleeding skin. This was treated by the vet with cream and we tried our best to protect it (not easy!) for the next two months. Lucy was in obvious pain during this time and the tail would always break out whenever she was working and often when she was being exercised.
Eventually the vet recommended we have the tail amputated, which was done on 12th February 1997. This caused Lucy much distress over the next few days. She cried a lot with pain, was very reluctant to even walk and generally changed completely from the happy confident dog we knew. Eight days later she was back at the vet because the stitches were infected. The end of the tail was in such a mess, the stitches had to be removed early and she was back on antibiotics. The tail had to be bandaged for three weeks but eventually scarred over approximately one month after the operation.
Another member of our shooting syndicate had to have their springer spaniels tail amputated last year. Needless to say, I am no longer open-minded about this issue, believing now that it is cruel not to dock.
You can read more stories like this at the Council of Docked Breeds website. Please remember that Council of Docked Breeds is a highly biased source, so read with a grain of salt.

Spaniels, for whatever reason, seem to be at a higher risk. I am glad Maizy's tail is docked - it is one less thing I have to worry about. I compare tail docking to vaccination: The risk of Maizy contracting Lyme disease is not very high, but I vaccinate her against it anyway, just in case. Similarly, the risk of a dog injuring its tail is not very high, but docking prevents any possible injury.

Happy Tail Syndrome: While this sounds like a good thing, it isn't. Have you ever met one of thsoe dogs that just wags its tail constantly? You wake up in the morning to the "thump, thump, thump" of a dog eager to start the say. Your drink goes flying as Fluffy walks past the table wagging his tail. You get bruises on your legs from constantly being smacked by an enthusiastic dog.

Believe it or not, dogs can wag their tail so much that it leads to injury.

The result of Happy Tail Syndrome:
A cone of shame and a sore tail.
Gayle Hickman from PetAdvisor, describes Happy Tail very well, so I'm going to quote her on this matter:
Happy tail, sometimes known as kennel tail, is actually an injury caused when a dog wags his tail (maybe from happiness) so hard that the tail hits against hard objects, such as walls or floors. This can cause the tail to break open and bleed — very painful.
Sometimes dogs may even wag so hard that the skin and blood vessels at the tip of the tail will rupture. Wagging tails with blood slinging all over the place are enough to scare any pet owner, but thankfully the amount of blood lost is actually very little. The bad news is that even when you do get the tail bandaged and finally healed, the dog very well might start wagging all over again and re-injure himself, time and time again... As a general rule, happy tail injuries in a dog require a veterinarian’s attention, especially if bleeding cannot be controlled. Antibiotics will be needed to prevent infection. The worst-case scenario if you can’t stop constant injuries from recurring is that up to two-thirds of the tail may be removed through amputation.
As you can see, Happy Tail is not very happy at all! You can read the rest of what Gayle has to say here.

What are the cons of tail docking?

So now that we've discussed why you might want to dock a dog's tail, let's talk about the reasons why people are against tail docking.

They think tail docking is cruel: A large number of people think tail docking is cruel, but I wonder how much research they have done into the subject. Certainly, tail docking has the potential to be cruel, but if done properly between the age of 2 to 5 days, the puppy should not suffer any ill effects.

They think tail docking is unnatural: It is unnatural. Everything we do with dogs is unnatural, really. Walking on a leash? Unnatural. Eating kibble? Unnatural. Vet care? Unnatural.

They think tail docking affects how dogs communicate: I am not a vet or researcher, so I can only comment on my experiences. And in my experience, this is a load of crap. All the dogs I know with docked tails also have no issues. Maizy certainly has no trouble communicating with other dogs, despite her docked tail. In fact, her ears pose way more of a problem for her with other dogs (aka, they pull the shit out of them).

They think tail docking affects a dog's balance: I have yet to see any evidence of this, either through my research or in person. 

In conclusion...

I think tail docking has a place and it is a valuable tail. Should every dog have its tail docked? Absolute not. But some dogs may benefit from this procedure. I have yet to find any evidence showing that tail docking negatively impacts a dog.  

Maizy's docked tail keeps her safe from injury while out in the brush.
It's also pretty damn cute. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Making Sense of Canine Vaccinations

Warm weather is upon us and with that comes people of all kinds bringing their dogs out into the big wide world. You go for longer walks, spend hours at the dog park and maybe even bring Fido on vacation with you. It's tons of fun, but venturing farther from home and the warm weather increase the chance of your dog contracting a disease. Thankfully, researchers have developed some great vaccines to keep our dogs safe.

Most dogs acutally don't mind
being vaccinated as long as
they are distracted by treats!
Vaccines for dogs include: Rabies, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, Parvo Virus, Leptospirosis, Lyme Disease, Corona Virus, Bodetella (Kennel Cough), and Giardi

For the average pet owner, myself included, it can be a bit overwhelming to try and make sense of what Fluffy does and doesn't need, and when Fluffy needs it. Thankfully, my family is quite medically inclined and I've had to benefit of working within the equine sector, so I feel confident is choosing what vaccinations Maizy does and does not receive. So, how do you choose?

Talk to Your Vet

The first step should always be to speak to your vet. The internet is a great place to find general advice, but it is absolutely never a replacement for a veterinarian. Like ever. I see a lot of reasons why people don't do this - "My vet isn't very good" or "They just want to make money!" being the most common. If you don't trust your vet, find a new vet. Then ask your new vet about vaccinations.

Here are some good questions to get the discussion started:
  • What vaccinations do you suggest for my dog?
  • How often do the vaccinations need to be repeated?
  • What vaccinations are required by law?
    • If they have suggested you vaccinate your dog for vaccines that are not required by law, ask them why they made that suggestion.
    • Most places will require, by law, a rabies vaccination
  • What are the risks of vaccinating my dog?
Your vet should be willing to discuss these questions with you. Do not feel pressured to give your dog vaccinations right away - if you need a week or two to think about it, your vet will understand.

Examine Your Dog's Lifestyle

Believe it or not, your dog's lifestyle will impact what type of vaccinations it should recieve. Take Maizy for example: Maizy is a healthy, young adult dog who meets lots of other dogs, swims in ponds and lakes and goes on a lot of hikes. These factors helped determined what vaccinations were appropriate for her. In addition to the "standard" vaccinations, Maizy gets vaccinted for Lyme Disease and Leptospirosis. Lyme is spread by ticks which can be picked up in tall grass or wooded areas. Leptospirosis is a bacteria that commonly lives in puddles and ponds, where Maizy loves to drink and swim.

Your dog's age is also a factor in choosing appropriate vaccinations. Puppies and older dogs are more susceptible to disease, so may require more vaccinations. If your dog is elderly with declining healthy or a dog with chronic health issues, your vet may even suggest not vaccinating the dog.

Dogs who swim and drink from puddles and natural bodies
of water may benefit from a leptospirosis vaccine.

Is it dangerous to have my pet vaccinated?

The short answer: No.

The long answer: No, most of the time. Talk to you vet.

Vaccinations are extremely safe. That does not mean they are perfect. Most dogs will have little to no side effects after being vaccinated; After receiving 4 vaccinations at once, Maizy was quite sleepy for the rest of the day but then was back to 100 the next day.

Some pets may have severe reactions to a vaccination. This is rare. Talk to your vet if you have concerns. If you pet does have a severe reaction, your vet will be able to determine why and what precautions to take in the future.

If you don't want to vaccinate your pet...

If for whatever reason you decide not to vaccinate your pet, you are:
  • Putting your dog at risk for disease
  • Putting other dogs at risk for disease
  • Putting humans at risk for disease (rabies)
If you don't vaccinate, please do not bring your dog to public places like dog parks. If you want to put your dog at risk, that is your choice. However, it is not fair for you to impose your decision on other pets and their owners.

So that's my two cents on vaccinations - clearly I am in the "pro-vaccine" camp. There has been a outburst of ticks this spring and I am so glad that Maizy is vaccinated for lyme - it allows me enjoy my walks and trail rides without worrying. 

My final thoughts on vaccines? When in doubt, talk to your vet. 

Monday, 25 May 2015

Jump Around, Jump Around!

This weekend's theme was jumping.

If you don't get this reference, you need to check out
Hyperbole and a Half right now.
Friday night I abandoned left Maizy to relax at home so I could get some serious riding done. Maizy is an excellent farm dog and I am allowing her more and more freedom at the barn, but sometimes I need to just focus on the horse.

Lilly, my 8 year old TB who I just got back from a lease, recently had a bone infection which really should have killed her, or at least left her with some permanent damage. She had an abscess in her hoof which went up the leg instead of coming out - thankfully after months of wrapping, soaking, bandaging, heavy medication, lots of x-rays and excellent vet work, Lilly is 100% back to normal. I'm just starting to bring her back into work (we had to be extremely careful even after the infection was gone, because she had - and still has - giant holes in her hoof).

I've been popping her over the occasional little x-rail, but Friday was our first day jumping an actual fence. It was not very large - less than 3' - but still a pretty good accomplishment. I'm so excited to have her back under my care.

Not bad considering neither of us have really jumped in about 6 months!
One of the things I want to work on is improving my leg and core strength, which will help me have a more effective and secure position over fences. My position isn't horrible, but it's not great either.

Saturday I was not feeling well, so Maizy and I spent most of the day snoozing. We went to the park and played fetch in the morning and in the afternoon, and then I took her for a walk in the evening. She was more than happy to laze about and watch TV with me.

After our restful day, Maizy and I were up and out the door by 8:30 on Sunday. We headed to the park and played fetch for an hour. Then we headed to the barn.

We started off the day by doing some "agility" practice. This is great for cardio, teaching Maizy to focus on me and my body language, and reinforcing off-leash control. Plus it's super adorable to see her go over the horse jumps.

The ears give her extra air time. #Adorable
After playing around over the jumps, I tacked up Lilly and we hit the trails. We did lots of trotting, so Maizy had to run to keep up with us. She absolutely loves it - such a pleasure to have on trails. I really don't think there is anything more enjoyable than heading out with my dog and my horse for an hour or so ride. After riding, we hung out at the barn for a while. My friend, who rides and competes my other horse, brought her dog too.

The Spaniels are taking over the barn!
After all of that, we headed to a tack shop about 45 minutes away. I realised just as I was getting on the highway that there was a hornet in my car, so that was a terrifying drive. Thankfully it didn't bother me or Maizy. We spent about an hour looking at saddles (Lilly needs a new one as my butt is too large for her old one) and then headed home. Maizy was out and about from 8:30 till 4:00, so she promptly passed out when we got home, and I did the same thing!

A very good weekend, in all. I have a post about vaccination that I've been working on for a while coming up next, so look out for that in a day or too.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Fit Dogs, Horses and Humans! Oh my!

This blog is, and will continue to be about dog fitness, training and all that other good stuff. However, there are two other members of Maizy's family who also need to get fit - well, in Maizy's case, she just needs to maintain her level of perfection, but I digress.

If only we could all be as fit and skinny as Maizy! #SuperModel

First up to the plate is... drum roll please... me! Surprise, surprise, I do not get enough exercise. A desk job combined with a chronic disease does not bode well for my fitness levels. I am certainly not fat (though I could stand to lose 5 or 10 pounds) but my overall fitness isn't great. Creating an exercise plan is quite difficult. People say to start with "light" exercise, but what they don't realise is that there is not such thing as light exercise for me - heck, some days I can barely walk. Thankfully, those days are getting less frequent and I'm able to do more, more often.

I also hate exercising. I don't get the whole gym thing, and you won't find me out for a run. However, I am VERY good at playing with animals. Maizy is the perfect for forcing me to get my butt into gear. Some days all I can manage is a 5 minute walk, and other days a 3 hour hike. Most days about 30 minutes to 1 hour of walking with the dog is reasonable.

Maizy and I took an hour long stroll around
the Hamilton bayfront this weekend.

My goal is to increase me overall fitness and well being. Pretty vague right? I'm not going to diet like crazy, I'm not going to hit the gym, I'm just going to go outside and play with my critters and we'll see where that gets me. While it may not seem like much, compared to how I used to live when my fibro was not managed this is a HUGE step.

Next up is Horse #1, Lilly. I will be taking her back from a lease as of June 1st, and then it will be time to get her butt back into shape. Lilly has always been a very fit horse and she is currently in excellent weight. However, last summer Lilly developed an abscess in her hoof that came and went, came and went and then turned into a full blown bone infection in November. The bone infection required her to stand in a stall for over 3 months, so you can imagine what that did to her muscles. Lilly is back in light work now and should be ready to start serious conditioning in June! Woohoo! Very excited as we weren't sure if she would even live, let alone be able to be ridden again.

Lilly, back when she was super fit. Look at those butt muscles.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

6 Boredom Busters to Keep You Dog Busy

From the moment I get home from work Maizy wants attention. Now I am more than happy to give it to her, of course, but she expects playtime from the moment I walk in the door until I go to bed. That's 5 hours of the dog equivalent of this:

Maizy gets LOTS of attention and exercise, of course - she certainly is not hard done by in the that area. Her incessant need to interact with me is one of the things I love best about her, and one of the reasons I picked a "velcro" breed. Springers love nothing more than to be with their people.

However, sometimes I do want to be able to sit down and have a cup of tea without Maizy hovering over my shoulder.

"Hi. Sorry to pop in on you like this. I know we just came back from a
walk and you're relaxing but... we should go for a walk." - Maizy, always.

So without further ado, here are my favourite distractions or "boredom busters" for dogs:

PetSafe Busy Buddy Tug-A-Jug Meal Dispensing Dog Toy
Price: 16.99 from

Description: "The Busy Buddy Tug-A-Jug provides a multi-sensory appeal to keep dogs interested and motivated to play. It stimulates your dog’s sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste, making the Tug-A-Jug the ultimate solution for interactive play. He can see and smell the treats and hear them rattle. Dogs are positively rewarded when treats or kibble dispense from the jug's opening."

Why We Love It:
  • Keeps their interest. Maizy's kibble and a few stinky treats in the Tug-A-Jug will keep her busy for about 30 minutes. 
  • Durable. We've had this toy for almost a year and although the plastic bottle has some scratches, it's in otherwise perfect shape.
  • Brain game: Dogs have to think to get the treats out. Difficulty can be increased by using large kibble, and vice versa. 
  • Plastic bottle is quite noisy on hard surfaces

Puppy Maizy demonstrates how to use a Tug-A-Jug

This and That Split Antlers
Price: 11 to 23 dollars, dependent on size

Description: These all natural antler chews contribute to your dogs health more than you think! They're a high source of protein, calcium, glucosamine and chondroitin to give your canine that extra boost he needs. They're also perfect for pups with sensitive stomachs or allergies. 

Why We Love It:  
  • Mess free, scent free, stain free
  • Healthy, natural
  • Last forever
  • Maizy loses interest in the antler after a few days of chewing
  • Pretty expensive

Bones! Plain old bones.
Price: 4 to 10 dollars, size dependent

Description: It's a bone. Marrow bones, hock bones, kneecaps... Bones! We like the "Barnsdale Farms" brand.

Why We Love It: 
  • Inexpensive
  • Always a hit
  • Keeps teeth clean (No seriously,  I get so many compliments on Maizy's teeth)
  • Sometimes re-useable: I fill old marrow bones that Maizy has cleaned with peanut butter
  • Natural
  • Larger bones will last a few days
  • Can be stinky and greasy
  • Chance of bone splintering so choose your bones carefully
  • We go through A LOT of bones
  • You will stub your toe when your dog leaves a bone in the middle of the room. Ask me how I know.

Price: 6 to 10 dollars, available at Walmart

Description: Rawhiders is the original 2-in-1 treat & toy combo for dogs that features a delicious rawhide treat molded into several fun and tasty shapes. But there's a lot more fun when the treat is done because hidden underneath that tasty treat is a durable nylon chew bone that soothes dogs and helps clean their teeth. 

  • Maizy really likes them, but won't eat other types of rawhide
  • Keeps her busy for 45 mins to 1 hour
  • No smell, no mess
  • Maizy has never played with the "toy" after the rawhide part is done.
Maizy attacking a RawHider

Eurocan Bullwrinkles
Price: 3.50 to 9.99, depending on size

Description: We know there's nothing like these real dried bull and steer pizzle sticks, that's why dog owners never run out! These chews are so much more than a great taste and crunchy texture. They're low in fat for dogs that are watching their figure, have dental benefits for dogs who like to smile, and they're highly digestible for dogs that love to run!

Why We Love It:
  • Maizy goes nuts over them! 
  • XLs last her an hour or two and she will chew them consistently for that whole time
  • Natural and healthy - More digestible than rawhider
  • Did I mention Maizy loves them?
  • Stain free, clean and I can't smell them
Okay, for Maizy and I there are no cons but...
  • It's bull penis and that freaks some people out. Maizy and I couldn't care less and it makes for some great jokes.
  • Some people say they stink. I have a messed up nose (thanks concussions!) so I can't smell them.

Kong Toys
Price: In the 8 to 25 dollar range, depending on the size

Description: "When you're away, simply stuff the hollow interior with treats or paste. Extracting the contents becomes a "hunt" that keeps any pooch happy and busy all workday long. Chewing Kong's helps promote strong jaws, clean teeth, and general oral health. Even aggressive "power chewers" will find it hard to bite through carbon-formula Ultra Flex, and dogs with separation anxiety or problem behaviors like barking and digging will especially benefit from the mental and physical stimulation."

Why We Love It:

  • Kongs come in a variety of shapes, sizes and difficulties
  • Very durable
  • Fill it with whatever: Treats, Peanut Butter, Yogurt
  • Freeze it for an extra long lasting treat
  • Maizy doesn't like the Kong Filling or treats, and prefers just regular treats or peanut butter. This is actually kind of a bonus because it's cheaper, but we have Kong fillings and treats simply wasting away
  • Hard to clean any left over filling out.

Why I don't like homemade / DIY toys
Okay, getting on my soapbox for a moment... You might be thinking, "Some of these things are kind of pricey. I saw a homemade toy graphic on Pinterest, I can just do that." And you can do that, but I don't recommend it. I see lots of people making toys out of things like old shirts, old socks, plastic bottles and other household items. And why not? It's cheap right? Well let me tell you, getting a sock removed from your dogs bowel is NOT cheap. Homemade dog toys are not always the safest - the materials are not meant to be chewed up by Fluffy. Additionally, it's hard for your dog to differentiate between "the sock toy" and your actual socks.

That being said, Maizy does get to play with cardboard boxes that we have lying around. This has led to Maizy stealing every box she sees. There are usually one or two stolen boxes somewhere in the yard! 

Monday, 11 May 2015

What's for Dinner, Part 2: We love Acana!

So last time we left off, I was lamenting the fact that Maizy was not really into her Acana dog food anymore. She would eat it, eventually, but I was tired of seeing the food sitting her bowl for hours on end. I know she'll never be like a garbage truck- er, like a lab, but some interest in her food would be nice.

So I took to Twitter and said Maizy wasn't finding her Acana Duck and Bartlett Pear very palatable anymore. I wasn't expecting a response, but I did get one - they offered me simple, but very helpful advice. As a result, we're sticking with Acana.

The new game plan is to mix up her food between the different types of Acana Singles. This will be super easy to implement as switching between the foods if quite easy. The usual long drawn out transition period is much shorter, taking only a few days to allow the dog to adjust to the new protein source.

Acana has three versions of their "Singles" formula.
Now I'll admit, I have yet to actually implement this plan but I'm quite certain it will work well for Maizy. Mostly, I'm just happy I don't have to switch from Acana because I love their food. As I noted it "What's For Dinner, Part 1" I get a little bit crazy when it comes to selecting dog food.

Why Acana?

So why did I choose Acana for my dog, after hours of research and whining to my friends about how I couldn't find the right food. Well...

  • Made in Canada. This is hugely important to me, both because I like to support the Canadian economy and because it helps me sleep at night. Dog food regulations are stricter in North American then in a country like China.
  • "Biologically appropriate". Sounds fancy right? In the professional world, I (sadly) don't get to play with doggies all day - I'm in marketing, and one of the things I look at most is how a product is described. The right descriptors are what really snags the customer, but often times these claims, while never outright lies, don't tell the whole picture. I approached the term "biologically appropriate" with a bit of apprehension, but I'm pleased to say Acana has made me a believer. Quite simply, they use fresh meats with high protein. 
  • No "extras". Their ingredients are fresh, with no added preservatives and delivered daily. They look for meat suppliers that are humane and that promote sustainability. 
  • Grain Free. Okay, I'm not sure I actually buy into the whole grain free movement. I do believe you can have a good quality dog food that has grains. However, I want the best for Maizy, so at this point we are on the grain free bandwagon.
  • A detailed website. I didn't have to hunt for the information I wanted. Ingredients, nutritional info, and feeding rates were all right there.
  • No fish. This is a personal thing for my dog - she gets a bit stinky when foods have a lot of fish. However, fish is a great source of Omega 3 and overall, is a good dog food ingredient.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

What's for Dinner: Finding the right dog food.

Okay, I will admit I have a bit of a problem. I obsess over my animals food - nutrition labels are carefully examined, brands are compared, calcium levels checked. I go a little nuts. Mostly it impacts the dog and the horses, but the rabbits and cats aren't immune to my obsession either. Me on the other hand? Bring on the McDonalds.

In her 1 year of life, Maizy has been on three types of food. While that isn't a huge number, you aren't seeing the hours of research I pour into finding the perfect food.

We started on Iams because, well, we got a free bag. While she seemed to do okay on it, there was no way I was feeding her Iams long term - it simply doesn't have the quality my princess requires. (Did I mention I'm insane?)

Then we switched to Go Fit and Free Puppy Food. I have to say I really loved this formula. So why did we switch? Maizy occasionally gets a stinky fish butt, and I suspected she may be allergic to fish. A vet we spoke to said fish did indeed make some dogs stink.

So that lead us to Acana Single Duck and Bartlett Pear. Now let me tell you, when I came across this food the heavens opened up and the angels sang - finding a fish free dog food is NOT easy. So we brought home a bag and Maizy seemed to enjoy it... for a time.

Maizy has never been super interested in her dog food. She would much rather eat well... anything. Literally, this dog will eat anything - pickles, spicy doritos, apples, whatever. You open up a bag of chips and she teleports to your side. Doesn't she know I spend hours slaving away, trying to find her the perfect food?

Sticks, horse poop, bones and
scraps would be Maizy's ideal diet.
PS: Puppy Maizy was tooo cute.

Maizy does eventually eat the Acana food, but it's clear that she could take it or leave it. She definitely does not usually eat the recommended amount most days. That being said, she is at a perfect weight and her body condition is amazing.

I don't think she will ever be the type of dog to wolf down her food, but showing a bit of interest would be nice. Looks like it's back to the drawing board - I'll update when I do find her a new food.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Dog Park Ettiquette

Maizy and I had a super active week - we checked out a few new hiking spots and polished of the week with a long trail ride on Saturday. We got lots of compliments on how well behaved Maizy is, which is one of my favourite things in the world!

Yesterday and today are rest days, though not really by choice. I could feel my fibromyalgia brewing yesterday and hoped a somewhat relaxing day would fend it off. Alas, today I feel like absolute shit (pardon my french). Thankfully I have Maizy snoozing at my feet, which makes being basically stuck in bed much easier to handle.

But I digress! This post is going to talk about the highly controsversial dog park... get your torches and pitchforks ready! There are a lot of people that hate the dog park, stating that it is a magnet for bad owners, poorly mannered dogs and disease. And you know what? It is. But Maizy and I love the Dog Park nontheless.

There are many benefits to the dog park that can be had difficult to replicate in other settings. The park is an excellent place to practice your training with a high number of distractions. It also gives Maizy the ability to interact with dogs of all sizes, personalities and ages. That's not to say there aren't issues - we've left a few times when owners or their dogs made me uncomfortable. Maizy is also very submissive; her reaction to meeting new or old friends is to flop down on her back and be thoroughly sniffed over. Because of this, I have to make sure she does not get overwhelmed by dogs crowding around to get a sniff in. Once she has been inspected by the other dogs, she is up and running, ready to wrestle.

Maizy leads the pack at the local dog park.

Is your dog suitable for the dog park?

While it would be lovely to think that all dogs are dog park material, that unforunately is not true. Don't bring your dog if...
  • Your dog is a young puppy. Seriously, the park is not a place for your 8 week old puppy (and I have unfortunatley seen this!). Bringing a very young pup to the park is a recipe for disaster. Puppies at that age are very easily injured and are highly suspectible to disease. Not everyone at the park will vaccinate their dogs appropriately so it is imperative that your puppy has all of it's shots before attending. Attendionally, the dog park is a highly rough and tumble place and its not appropriate for socializing puppies. At best, they will end up overwhelmed. At worst, they can be severly injured. Want to socialize your pup? Bring it to an appropriate puppy class.
  • Your dog is not spayed or neutered. At the park I go to, the rule is "no dogs in heat", but I really wish it was "no intact dogs". To be clear, I have absolutely nothing against a dog being left whole when appropriate, but hormones can quickly turn a scuffle into a full on fight at the dog park.
  • Your dog is aggressive towards other dogs or towards humans. This one really should be a no brainer, but sadly it isn't. Your dog will be exposed to rude humans AND dogs; people who will grab at Fluffy as she runs past or dogs who will shove their nose up Fido's bum uncermoniously. Your dog needs to be handle these less than polite interations.
  • Your dog has not been socialized elsewhere first. Bringing a dog or puppy who has had little interaction with other dogs is like teaching somebody to swim by starting off in the ocean.
  • You are unable to understand that there will be fights and scuffles between dogs and that there is potential for your dog to be injured. Shit happens, unfortunately, and while we do our best to avoid it you can only control YOUR dog's actions.
Your dog must be good with other dogs of all shapes and sizes.

Dog Park Do's and Do Not's

Okay, so you think your dog is the perfect candiate for the dog park. That's great! Here are some tips to keep everyone happy.
  • DO introduce your dog to the park slowly. At one of the parks I attend there can be upwards of 50 dogs in attendance. This can be hugely overwhelming, so scope out the park before you bring your dog and avoid peak times at first.
  • DON'T micromanage your dog. Some owners jump in at the slightest growl. Dogs at play growl, bite, bark and wrestle. Familiarize yourself with what aggression looks like vs play.
  • DO talk to others about their dogs. The dog park can bring a great sense of community for dogs and people alike. People love to talk about their dog. You'll also learn lots about the park - which owners are crazy, which dogs get along best, which dogs can be aggressive.
    Toys can be fun if the dogs play well.
    When in doubt, leave toys at home.

  • DON'T bring toys. Okay, okay, I'll admit this is a rule I break on occasion. However, toys can cause major problems at the park - dogs can become possesive and that can quickly lead to a fight. If you do bring a toy be prepared to A) share the all the dogs at the park and B) to put your toy away at the slightest sign of trouble.
  • DO make sure your dog has all its vaccinations before going to the park.
  • DON'T bring food or treats into the park.
  • DO leave if you feel uncomfortable, for whatever reason. Put your safety and your dog's safety first.
  • DO ensure your dog has basic obedience down before going to the park. I've had to call Maizy away from potential problem dogs many times - a strong recall is a must.
  • DON'T expect the worse. Most dogs and owners are great. They are there to have a good time, just like you.
  • DO expect the worse. You're probably going "but you just said!..." and you're right. 99% of the time things will be just fine at the dog park. However, things do happen. If you are not prepared for the chance that your dog may possibly get hurt at the park - whether a fight breaks out or a big dog gets a bit too rough with a little dog - the park is not perfectly safe. Most of the time disagreements between dogs (or owners) are easily broken up, but in some cases a vet visit has been required. Evaluate if the risk is worth it for you. 

The best of friends can be made at the dog park.