As an experienced assistance dog handler, you may consider yourself to be a total “dog person,” but that doesn’t mean you should assume it’s OK to approach every unknown dog. For me and Whistle, getting up close and personal isn’t always the best approach.
When I am out alone with Whistle and an unknown dog approaches us, it always makes me somewhat leery until I can discern whether the unknown dog is friendly or unfriendly.
Experts at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine give guidelines on various situations and say that in many cases, it’s best to not approach unknown dogs at all.
- Is the dog tethered with no person with them?
An unattended dog on a leash or tether might be more aggressive than usual. Even a wagging tail is not a surefire sign of a happy dog. It can also mean the dog is excited or aggressive. If the dog is in “his territory,” such as their yard, it could be an even worse situation, with the dog feeling trapped and that he needs to defend his territory.
- Is the dog leashed with their owner?
Always ask permission before approaching any dog, no matter how friendly they might appear. Once you have permission, invite the dog to approach you rather than vice versa. Don’t pet the dog on top of his head but offer a closed hand for him to sniff. Use a soft voice.
- Is the dog unleashed with their owner?
Whether you’re in a dog park or out on the street where the owner just isn’t following the leash law, it is not safe to initiate an interaction with the dog. In this scenario a dog might feel like it needs to protect the owner.
- Is the dog unleashed with no owner nearby?
Avoid contact with dogs in this situation. You really can’t always read the dog’s body language. If the dog approaches you and appears aggressive, you should stand still and avoid eye contact.
When I got my first assistance dog, I was trained to use my wheelchair as a buffer between an unknown dog and my service dog. And, in an extreme case, I was taught how to use my wheelchair to protect myself and my dog. Fortunately, I have only had to use this tactic once or twice during my life with a service dog partner. But, I can tell you that the aggressive dog did not like having a 200 pound wheelchair roll over his paw and it was a great diversion to give me and my dog some time to get out of that situation.
In one extreme case, my husband, Franz, had to intervene when a unknown dog came running out of a florist shop to attack Ramona when she and I were entering an outside elevator in Washington, D.C. Franz had to get aggressive with the dog in order to get him to stop the attack. It was a scary experience and it definitely had a negative impact on Ramona’s psyche. After that incident, she became more sensitive to unknown dogs.
Have you had any issues with unknown dogs? And, if so, what tactic worked for you and your assistance dog?
You may take supplements even though you eat well, so does that mean your dog should take vitamins and minerals also?
Canine nutrition is an evolving field but today’s high-quality dog foods generally make nutritional supplements unnecessary. So says the DogWatch newsletter from Cornell University. They asked Kathryn Michel, DVM, professor of nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania about the topic. Her advice?
Some dogs may require certain nutrients under certain conditions that are not provided in a commercial diet. For example, a dog with joint pain and arthritis might benefit from glucosamine and chondroitin, but this may not help all dogs.
Other supplements can pose a risk. Dr. Michel warns that people should not give their dogs the same supplements they take in the same doses. Fat soluble vitamins in particular, such as A, D, E, and K, are stored in the body and can become excessive. Too much calcium can also be dangerous.
Giving your dog a general vitamin-mineral supplement designed for dogs is not necessarily harmful, but not all the experts are convinced they will necessarily help your dog. Some say more studies are needed and that your dog may not be harmed by them, but you might be spending money unnecessarily.
Vitamin deficiencies are uncommon in the U.S. these days since dog food companies have formulated blends that will take care of “typical” dogs. But if your dog is a working dog, very athletic, or a puppy, they may have special requirements.
Things to look out for in balancing your dog’s diet can include too many treats or a homemade diet which may not be giving your dog the nutrition he or she needs. If your dog is lethargic, weak, or has a coat which isn’t healthy looking, make sure to consult with your veterinarian to rule out nutritional deficiencies.
I give Whistle a vitamin E every day. What do you give your dog?
Vitamin image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Recently my husband Franz, Whistle, and I traveled to Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado, for my annual physical and re-evaluation of my disability-related medical needs. I’ve been coming to Craig for over 10 years. They are consistently recognized as one of the top rehabilitation facilities in the country.
During my stays throughout the years, I have noticed one or two other assistance dogs beside Whistle. But during this visit, I have noticed a significant increase in the number of outpatients who are accompanied by an assistance dog.
In addition to service dogs, I also was excited to take a peek at the recreational calendar for the week to see what fun things were happening. Every day there was one or more different therapy dogs who were visiting both inpatients and outpatients. I met a lovely volunteer named Connie. She was accompanied by Heather, a former guide dog who had developed some health issues and had to be retired. Heather made a perfect therapy dog.
We also got to stop by and meet four-month-old, yellow lab Otis. Otis is a Canine Companions for Independence puppy in training. He was nestled under the desk of his puppyraiser and Craig employee, Jeni Exley.
There is also Emil, a yellow lab that works with his partner, Becki, in Follow-up Services. The first thing Whistle and I noticed was Emil’s luxurious bed that was in the patient waiting area.
Everywhere we’ve turned this week I’ve heard wheelchairs bustling through the hallways and the beautiful sound of collars jingling as service dogs and their human partners are busily traveling the Craig Hospital corridors. Thank goodness for innovative medical facilities like Craig that truly understand and support the role assistance dogs play in the independence of the patients they serve.
Guest blogger Katherine Schneider, Ph.D, Senior Psychologist Emerita, Counseling Service, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and Author of “To the Left of Inspiration: Adventures in Living with Disabilities” has written this blog post for Working Like Dogs. You can find more of her musings at her blog: http://kathiecomments.wordpress.com.
I’m heading off to train with my ninth Seeing Eye dog and that’s put me in a reflective mood. In a couple years I will have had a Seeing Eye dog for half the time the Seeing Eye has been in existence. That entitles me to be philosophical, right?
The first thing I know for certain is each working dog is a unique gift; no two alike! The first dog often changes one’s life so much that second dog suffers by comparison. After you realize that of course they’re different and have different strengths, you can still honor that first dog and go on to fully embrace number two, three, etc. Each dog does their job, but the fun and sometimes frustrating part is to figure out how to work with that individual dog so he/she shines.
Each of my working dogs has built my character in different ways. My first dog taught me to be positive instead of crabby when my expectations were not met. My soon to be retired dog showed such courage in telling me that she needed to retire by refusing to work when she thought she could not safely do so because of a vision problem, that I am in awe of her. Then there are the funny little things they do that show you they definitely do think. For example, I’ve taught each of my dogs the words “up” and “down” so when we go into a building they’ll find the stairs for me. As they reached middle age (about seven), each one started showing me the elevator instead of the stairs.
I’ve learned from retiring dogs that it’s never easy no matter how many times you do it, but you will get through it and you will love again. I grieve the decision to retire a dog, the actual retirement, and eventually the grief of the dog’s death. Like with any grief, rituals like a retirement party and writing a bio for the family who adopts the dog help. Coaching friends to treat it as seriously as they would a death or divorce may be necessary. A few empathic souls “get it” that working dogs are very different from pets and do the right things like listening and showing up to help with the transition or just bringing a dish, but I’m convinced more would if they realized this dog is my best friend, my eyes and my key to safe transportation.
I’m still learning from my dogs that you can be joyful in greeting each new day, quick to love and forgive, enjoy the little things like fresh water and a bowl of food and that a wagging tail wins a lot of friends. I wonder what I’ll learn from Young and Foolish.
My second service dog, Morgan, really suffered from allergies. How common are food allergies in the canine population? Experts think that from 10 to 20 percent of all dogs are affected at some point during their life.
Signs of food allergies can be itching, gastrointestinal problems, or both. Occasionally dogs can have seizures and arthritis. These symptoms do not appear suddenly, but can start gradually and become more intense.
Constant itching can then lead to hair loss, skin wounds, and then infection. Gastrointestinal problems can include vomiting, soft feces, and weight loss. That’s why it’s important to seek help before the symptoms progress too far.
Even if you have been feeding the same food for a long time, an allergy can develop, although a new type of treat can also be the cause.
Take your dog in for an exam with your vet. Even if a food allergy is strongly suspected, other causes of skin problems or digestive problems must be ruled out to make a correct diagnosis. Your dog could be affected by pollen, flea bites or some other reason for dermatitis.
Next an elimination diet may be recommended. This should be supervised by your veterinarian. The new diet must be fed with no treats or other types of food being introduced. If your dog is allergic to the usual food that was being fed before, then as the weeks go by on the new diet, the symptoms of allergy should diminish
When all the signs of allergy have been completely eliminated, the vet will then decide how to one by one introduce suspected allergens from the original diet. These are often the protein sources from the original diet since most canine allergies are traceable to the proteins in the food such as beef, pork, lamb, and chicken.