Before puppies are fully vaccinated, there is risk attached to taking them to public places and putting them on the floor – you are potentially exposing them to a number of diseases that can be caught from unvaccinated dogs or their faeces…
However, the vaccination period from start to finish is around 3 to 4 weeks and as this is such a vital and formative time for a puppy, we shouldn't be wasting it by wrapping the puppy in cotton wool and staying indoors until it's 'safe' to go out!
Of course, it is important to keep your puppy safe during this time but there are loads of things you can be doing.
So here is a guide to “how” to introduce your puppy to the big wide world and a list of suggestions for you.
How to introduce your puppy to the outside world
It is very important that you do not over-face your puppy with new sights, sounds and experiences.
At this stage in your puppy's life, it is possible that if your puppy gets a big scare from a new situation, it will remain frightened forever so bear in mind the following:
Here's an example:
Often, the first time a puppy sees traffic is when it goes for its first walk on the lead. A number of factors can mean this goes well or badly!
So, what’s the best way to introduce puppy to traffic…?
During the vaccination period, carry your puppy to a quiet road, with plenty of pavement space and preferably on a dry day – take some tasty treats with you.
Let the puppy watch the traffic from a safe, calm distance giving him a little treat now and then and talking to him so that he can experience traffic at an acceptable level.
As he sees more and more, you can take him closer to the road and then to a busier road, all the time increasing the exposure but at a level where he does not get frightened – keep up the tasty treats and soon he won’t care about the noise of the traffic and this in turn will make your first walk much more enjoyable for you, and more importantly, for your puppy!
Our suggestions to help socialise your puppy
So, applying these same principles and keeping your puppy in your arms, here is a list of suggestions!
Ideal places for puppy socialisation
Lots of people will come up to see your puppy and say hello – remember the principles of not over-facing the puppy and making the experience positive!
Other considerations for socialising your puppy
There may be things specific to the type of dog you have.
If you have a dog that will need regular visits to a dog groomer, then this must be factored in to your socialisation plan!
Also getting a pup used to wearing a muzzle may pay off when they become adults!
The way to think about puppy socialisation is to consider what you will expect your dog to cope with as an adult and start putting the building blocks in place for this now! It will make your and your puppy’s life much easier in the long run.
If your pup isn't having a good time and enjoying itself there is a very good chance the experience won't be a positive one. Generally dogs don't just 'get over' things by themselves, so if your pup becomes anxious or worried about a situation, it is probably best to leave and consult a professional for help to find the best way forward.
REMEMBER: Exposure alone isn't socialisation!
When we are approached for help with behaviour problems, the first one-to-one session is very much focused on a “fact-finding” mission - a basic assessment of what is going on and why.
We have to look at the whole picture: the breed of dog, its gender, age and general nature.
Also does the client have any other pets at home?
All these aspects are important.
The session also examines the general home life of the dog, ie what is happening "within the pack"?
Dogs are pack animals. In the wild, both wolf and dog packs require law and order.
If a pack were leaderless and allowed to run amok, going wherever they wanted, doing whatever they wanted, making loads of noise and stirring up trouble, the pack would not last very long! There would be constant fights and injuries (very detrimental to the pack – prevents effective hunting of prey and prevents the protectors of the group from fighting off intruders), plus prey would know exactly where the pack was and make itself very scarce which would result in starvation for the group. No good at all!
The most successful packs are those with clear rules, boundaries and constraints; every animal knows its job and what it can and cannot do.
This presents the dog with a strong sense of security and in turn, results in a calmer and happier dog who knows exactly what is expected of it.
As we know, dogs live very well within our families because to them this equates to pack mentality.
To help dogs live with us and us to live with them, we too need to clearly outline and instigate rules, boundaries and constraints and show consistency.
Without rules, our dog often begins to display unwanted behaviours such as play-biting, jumping up uninvited, stealing and behaving like a real 'wild child'!
Mistakenly, we try to fix the actual problem but the underlying causes remain and the behaviour never really disappears.
Hence why, when people come for a one-to-one session with a behaviour problem, we look at all of these areas and will often put some "house rules" in place before beginning to tackle the presenting issue.
This can be confusing to us humans – we don't always see the connection between the dog sleeping on the furniture or on the bed and the dog being aggressive with other dogs or humans; the reality is that without consistent rules at home, the dog is unclear about its responsibilities and what is expected of it within the "pack" and often behaves inappropriately.
For example, with some instances of what is thought to be "dog-to-dog aggression", the behaviour is actually the dog just trying to keep other strange dogs away from his pack members rather than out-and-out aggressive behaviour.
This of course doesn't fit with our requirements – we don't want our dogs assuming this job but by putting some sensible rules in place at home, this helps the dog to know who calls the shots in the "pack" and then we can make a start in retraining the behaviour to the client's satisfaction.
The best course of action is to sit down, as a family and agree the rules between you – write these rules down and put them somewhere visible to all (on the fridge is a good place).
The whole household must then unite and stick by the rules in order to be fair to the dog – he or she needs to have consistency from everyone in order to learn what is expected of him or her.
Here is a list of suggested rules, which should remain in place until the dog is at least 2 years old:
Without rules and boundaries, not only are you likely to see behaviour problems begin to creep in, your success in generally training your dog to do as you ask will be limited and you will not experience the true joy of a well-adjusted, well-mannered dog of which you can be justifiably proud.
The biggest mistake people often make is to treat animals like humans. We give them what we think they should have, not what they actually need. Sadly for dogs, this means we often respond and act inappropriately around them.
For example, puppies due to their cuteness, are often given huge levels of status and attention and older dogs much less so. This is the wrong way round.
A puppy that is loved, trained and shown the rules from day one stands a very good chance of growing into a happy and balanced adult.
A puppy that is spoilt and made a fool of and given no direction is more likely to fall at the first hurdle.
At best this may result in things such as the dog having to stay on lead because it has no recall or has become aggressive or, at worst, due to its behavioural issues, it joins the swelling ranks of those in rescue centres facing a very uncertain future.
The Christmas holidays are a very exciting time, especially with young children around; but it is all too easy to take your eye off what your dog is up to this time of year.
So if you are a dog owner and you would rather spend your time with family and friends, and not at your veterinary emergency clinic, then here is our guide to keeping your pooch safe this Christmas.
We humans just love to overindulge in stacks of rich, fatty foods at this time of year but these same foods can seriously upset your dog’s stomach and can even be toxic. Just because it’s good for us doesn’t mean it’s good for your dog so here are a few dos and don’ts when it comes to grub!
The trick is to be sensible and if you don’t know if it’s good for your dog or not then don’t give it. And remember, everything in moderation!
If you think you dog has ingested something it shouldn’t and is showing signs that all is not well, consult your vet immediately.
Dogs are highly curious by nature so all those additions to your decor are going to be high on the list of things to check out when you’re not looking.
All the parties and family ‘get togethers’ mean lots of commotion which might mean fun for you but not for your dog.
The noise and large numbers of people can be stressful and disorientating for them, especially if they are highly strung or of a nervous disposition.
They are best off in a crate or quiet room right out of the way throughout the frivolities and can come out again when it’s all over.
The worst that can happen then is they get a bit bored and have to do a bit of extra sleeping; or even better make sure they have a really good walk before the fun starts and then they will be too tired to care.
So many dogs get loose and run off at this time off year, usually as a result of someone not shutting a door, and some never find their way home again or are killed on the roads.
So whatever you have planned this year, please keep an eye on your faithful friend over the holiday season and keep them safe.
When training dogs, it is common to hear the terms “motivation” and “reward” mentioned and rightly so, in that they are probably the most important element and tool in our training kit when we are working with our dogs and training them to comply with us and our commands.
A motivator is basically something that gives the dog a good reason to carry out an action or behaviour.
A reward is what the dog gets when it has carried out an action or task that we have asked it to do.
So really they are one and the same – the dog is motivated by the reward that is waiting for it!
A motivator or reward must be something that the dog really likes and wants more of.
For example, tasty treats or a good game with a ball may well be very motivating to most dogs.
Breed disposition can often influence what motivates the dog – for instance, a collie or a German shepherd dog will usually LOVE to chase a ball, whereas a labrador or rottweiler may well prefer the offer of a tasty morsel! Whatever it is, it must be a worthwhile reward!
It is a common thought that use of motivational rewards is bribery and less experienced trainers or dog owners can often be concerned that use of rewards will mean that the dog will never do anything without the offer of the food or toy.
However, this is incorrect. The young or untrained dog NEEDS to have a reason to work with us and learn our language.
Imagine doing your job and working really hard in the belief that it was going to be worth your while – then at the end of the month you find that all you get is a pat on the back and nothing in your bank account!
Would you continue to work after that? We doubt it very much!
Ultimately, once the dog is trained, the reward can be reduced or changed as behaviours are learned and set.
We would never advocate removing reward completely as everyone and everything needs reward and encouragement to maintain behaviour but the requirement changes. It is no longer necessary to reward so quickly and frequently.
This is probably the most common and easiest way to reward a dog for giving us the right response. It is easy to manage, carry and quick to give immediately the dog complies with our request. It is the best form of reward to give within a class environment as use of toys in a group of dogs can cause over-excitement in all of the dogs whereas use of food means that your dog concentrates on you, not the surrounding handlers and dogs.
When we talk about food reward or tasty titbits, we do mean tasty! It’s the difference between paying someone minimum wage (ie giving the dog a piece of dry kibble from his normal daily food) or a nice big fat wage (ie a really tasty bit of food that he doesn't get in his everyday dinner bowl – examples of recommended tasty treats are below).
The higher the wage, the more attention the dog will give you, enabling you to carry out your training with the greatest benefit.
Recommended tasty training treats:
Before you use any treat, make sure it passes the “Three Second Test” which means:
a) does the dog really WANT it
b) can the dog actually eat the treat and be ready for the next in less than three seconds?
If yes, use it! If no, then give it a miss.
As a quick reference, the “give it a miss” group of treats includes any sort of biscuit – the dog will need to crunch and chew a biscuit.
This means that firstly it is unlikely to be completely consumed within three seconds and secondly, often the dog drops crumbs on the floor which then means its attention goes there, rather than back to you!
Other examples of “treats” (and we use the word loosely) that have been brought to our classes in the past and have not been high in the motivation stakes are:
You should always make sure that you have more than enough treats for your training session. It doesn’t matter if you have too much – you can always put them back in the fridge to use the next day (because of course, you should be carrying out your training on a daily basis!).
Remember as well that the dog should be hungry for the treats before you start your training. It is not sensible to feed your dog his normal dinner and then expect him to work for food rewards.
Finally, we always get the argument that people are worried their dog will get fat. Well, if you are training regularly, walking the dog at least once a day (and training during your walk) then the dog is getting plenty of mental as well as physical stimulation and it is highly unlikely that he or she will get fat.
But if you are worried, you are better off reducing their normal dinner slightly so that they can get their full quota of training treats – if you have a pup or a young dog, you will NEVER get this time again! Don’t waste it!
The ball is probably the most common toy used to motivate a dog. Dogs generally like balls as they are comfortable for the dog to pick up and they move really quickly! Great to chase!
And let’s be clear about what we are dealing with when we have a dog that loves to chase a ball.
Basically, this is the dog behaving naturally and being a predator! The ball is the prey, running away as fast as it can and the dog is chasing it, hunting it down! And remember, the faster the ball moves, the better the dog likes it.
So this means that if you are training out in the field on your own, then a good long ball throw is a bigger and better reward for your dog than a little short boring one. Once the dog really gets into this game, your recall also starts to improve dramatically as the dog realises that the quicker he gets the “prey” (the ball) back to you, the quicker it will begin to “run away” (the throw) again! Everyone is a winner!
Use of the toy is the same as with food - we ask or lure the dog into a position or into carrying out an action for us and when the dog complies, we IMMEDIATELY reward the dog with the ball throw.
Some dogs may not be motivated by the “chase” but may like a game of “Tug of War” and this too can be used as a motivational reward by using a ragger or another type of “tug” toy.
A lot of terriers like this kind of game BUT you do need to train a controlled “Leave” before you utilise this method of reward. It is also important that the dog “wins” the game sometimes, otherwise it will cease to be fun!
Finally, whatever method you use to motivate your dog, you must be prepared to reward frequently – a generous trainer whose timing of the reward is swift and relevant will make fast and rewarding progress and earn the trust and willingness of their dog, thus the dog will consider them to be the most important person to be with and strive to please at every opportunity!
Enjoy your dog and your training!
This information is designed to help you reduce the impact and fear of fireworks and loud noises, such as thunder and gunshot, for your dog or puppy.
When dogs are exposed to loud and unpredictable bangs, crashes and flashes of fireworks, they can get very confused and scared.
As we are all aware, the old adage: “Remember, remember, the 5th of November” no longer applies; fireworks are let off for all number of celebrations and are being manufactured to make much louder bangs and produce bigger flashes and showers of sparks. It is no wonder that our dogs become frightened and disoriented at this time.
Firstly, do not attempt to reassure/ stroke/ pat your dog when he shows signs of fear, stress and anxiety at the sound of bangs and loud noises. If you do, you will simply be rewarding/ praising him for being frightened. The reassurance tells the dog that he is RIGHT to be scared and that he should carry on being frightened and stressed! You must show that you are not concerned and carry on as though nothing is happening.
In preparation for fireworks, you could purchase a desensitisation CD. These CDs contain noises of different types of fireworks, gunshots, etc and should be played to the dog on a daily basis (probably best in the evening when the real thing is more prevalent) for a few weeks prior to the firework season.
Start playing on a low volume and gradually turn the volume up until the CD is quite loud and played for a reasonable length of time. It is important that you remember NOT to reassure your dog if he shows signs of anxiety when the CD is played. Do not begin to turn the volume up on the CD until the dog is coping with the current volume level. Have PATIENCE!
Whilst playing the CD, it would be an excellent idea to try and create a POSITIVE association with the firework noise – for example, feed the dog some tasty treats, do a titbit training session, give the dog a new and different chew or play with him and his favourite toy.
This may take a little time to encourage the dog to eat, train or play when he is nervous and anxious BUT if you begin with the volume low and don’t try to rush the dog, it will be possible. Have PATIENCE!
A Safe Place
If the dog wishes to take himself off and hide in a dark space, allow him to do so. Dogs often try to hide behind the sofa, under the bed, in the bed, under the stairs and many more places.
We get concerned or irritated and keep hauling them out, making their fear and anxiety worse. Think about what an animal in the wild would do – it would find the smallest safest and darkest space it could to hide in until the “danger” was over – this is only what your dog is trying to do. In fact, giving the dog a “safe space” or a “den” to retire to is an excellent idea.
If you use a crate, make sure it is in a place as far from the fireworks as possible, cover it with a blanket, put more blankets or bedding in the crate and let your dog settle down in there with a chew. Make sure that the crate is open so that he does not feel trapped. Otherwise, if the dog goes behind the sofa or under your bed, providing he is not doing any damage, leave him there!
Take your time to see this from your dog’s point of view and make life easier for him. Have PATIENCE!
You may also have heard of DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone). This is a plug-in device available from your vet which releases calming pheromones in to the air. It should be plugged in, in the room where the dog will likely spend his time during fireworks events and switched on all day every day for approximately two weeks before the fireworks really get underway.
These can help some dogs to settle more effectively but it is not a miracle cure. The other steps should also be followed.
Finally, once the fireworks really begin, make sure that you have walked your dog earlier in the day so that you are not caught out on a walk when the noises begin. If you are out later in the day, make sure that you keep your dog close and if necessary keep him on lead – you do not want him to bolt in fear. Check that his “safe space” is accessible to him and is covered over and comfortable.
Brief the family on how they must behave if the dog starts to show signs of anxiety – remind them that although they may think it cruel to ignore him if he looks scared, they would be doing more harm than good by reassuring him.
And remember, when dogs are stressed they can become unpredictable and behave out of character. This may involve the dog growling or snapping or panicking. Make sure that they do not have access to anything potentially dangerous and ensure that doors to the outside are shut. At no time should you scold the dog when it is feeling anxious or frightened as again, this will only serve to heighten the fear.
If you experience problems or are unsure about the steps involved, please contact us. We will be happy to help and can arrange for you to have a consultation and be personally guided through the training.
You wont be surprised to hear that, on average, the most common “call for help” that we get is centred around RECALL!
“My dog is always running off into the bushes or woods after rabbits/ squirrels/ pheasants when we are out on a walk and won't come back when I call”
“When we are out on a walk, my dog runs off to play with other dogs that he sees and won't come back when I call”
“My dog has selective deafness when we are on a walk – if he has found an interesting smell and I call him, he pretends he can’t hear me”
These are comments that we hear almost every day from people who are frustrated that their dog is rushing off, making up his own form of entertainment when out on a walk and simply will not come back to them, when they call.
And let’s face it, when we decide to have a dog in the family, a huge part of the “vision” is enjoying lovely long and relaxing walks in the countryside, with the dog off lead having a super time.
When the dog keeps rushing off and disappearing, this is a major blow to that vision.
Walks become far less enjoyable and often get to the point where the dog is kept on a lead throughout. In fact, walking the dog becomes a chore – not a pleasure; and that wasn't the vision at all!
If you are reading this and thinking “Oh yes, that’s my dog all over”, you probably need to get some help (obedience classes, one-to-one training) to make sure you start your training at the right level.
You have some work ahead of you – training to correct problems takes structure, time and effort on your part - but it can be done.
However, this article is aimed at those people who have a new puppy... a blank canvas if you like, because, as in most things, ‘prevention’ of the problem is far better than ‘cure’ once the problem is present.
Walking your puppy
Walking a young puppy is where your recall progress (or lack of progress, as the case may be) begins...
Firstly, as soon as your pup has had his jabs and is ready to go out, take him to a safe environment (not somewhere near to a road and not where there are lots of other dogs who may charge up to him and scare him) and get him off lead.
At the early age of 10, 11 or 12 weeks, your puppy will still want to stay close to you as the big wide world will still be a bit awesome to him.
If you keep your pup on lead until he is 5, 6 or 7 months old and then let him off, he will be much bigger, more confident and being off his lead will be a huge novelty! He is much more likely to run off at the slightest distraction at this age!
Take some tasty treats with you and his favourite toy. Whilst he is off lead, call him back frequently, using encouraging and happy tones.
When he comes flying back to you, give him a treat EVERY TIME (don’t be mean with the treats!) or play with him and his toy. Praise him! Tell him what a super pup he is!
The pup needs to get the idea early on that when he returns to you, great things happen! He gets some quality food or he gets an exciting game! YOU need to be the centre of his world – the most interesting thing out on the walk and the nicest person to be with.
Coming back to the “vision”... In your mind’s eye is probably this wonderful picture of a person walking, braving all the elements, wrapped up in their own world and thoughts whilst they de-stress after a busy, hectic day – their dog never goes further than about 40 feet away and is running about having a great time – never ONCE does it disappear at a 100mph in the opposite direction to harass someone else’s dog, chase a rabbit or investigate what that pinprick object is on the horizon!!!
That’s what most people envisage and what most of us want and ultimately, yes, that’s exactly how it can and should be.
BUT... for the first 18 months (at least!) of your dog’s life, you actually have to put some effort in, in order to achieve that vision!
Interacting with your dog
INTERACTION with your dog, when out on a walk, is the key to the dog paying attention to you and returning when you call him.
When you are walking your pup/ young dog, you MUST interact with him. Don’t leave him to his own devices and let him go exploring on his own. If you do that, you must be prepared that as he gets older and more confident, these expeditions will become more intrepid!
He will go further and further away and at a much faster pace! Of course, he needs to explore his environment but you must do that WITH him!
Invite him to come with you to investigate hedgerows, ditches, little streams, etc and keep chatting to him! Make yourself an interesting walking partner! Not someone for the dog to just catch sight of now and again when he feels like it!
Again, call the dog back to you frequently and give a reward (food/ game/ praise). If the only time you call your dog is when it’s time for the lead to go on and go home, he is unlikely to respond very quickly to you!
If the only time you call your dog back to you is when you see something that you know the pup will run to or be heavily distracted by, the pup will soon get the idea and as soon as you call, he will start looking for the distraction, rather than coming back to you!!
Play Hide & Seek with the pup (only choose safe places to do this!) – for example, if the pup has become engrossed with something and isn’t looking at you, quickly zip behind a bush (make sure you can still see the pup but he can’t see you very easily, so that you can keep an eye on him), when he looks up and starts looking around for you, leave him a few seconds and then call him!
When he finds you, big reward, lots of praise! After a few times of doing this, you will find he will be less inclined to become too engrossed in other things and will keep his eye on you in case you disappear again!
There are many ways of proactively and positively interacting with your dog on walks. Again, as early as you can, enrol in puppy classes and learn lots of little training exercises – you can practice these when on your walks, rewarding your pup with his tasty treats for everything he does for you.
Well, there are lots of "Do's"... now a couple of "Don'ts"
DON’T encourage your pup to chase rabbits when out – people often see rabbits and then say to the pup “Where are the rabbits? Where are they? Get them!” – the pup rushes off all excited, sees all the little white bobtails flashing and yes, admittedly has a super time chasing them off into the bushes.
In fact, the simple act of the rabbit running away is an enormous reward for the dog – it certainly doesn’t need any encouragement or praise from you!
We see this quite often and it always ends in unhappiness... at best, the dog starts chasing the rabbits further and further and disappears from sight, worrying the owner silly and often making them late whilst they trudge around, calling their dog and waiting for it to finally give up trying to catch bunnies and come back. Frustrating, inconvenient and embarrassing!
Or there are much more serious consequences, such as the dog getting run over or causing a traffic accident as the rabbit heads across the road with the dog in hot pursuit.
Another example (and this happens more frequently than you would suspect) the dog mistakes another smaller dog (such as a Yorkshire Terrier) for a rabbit and chases that down instead – very distressing for the dog concerned and most upsetting for both owners.
DON’T expect your dog to behave like a programmed robot! Dogs have their own minds and they will make mistakes. There will be times, however hard you have worked, when they will forget themselves and whizz off to investigate something and appear to ignore your calls.
This happens! That’s life with a dog! Just redouble your efforts to be an “interesting and interactive” owner and give yourself a swift kick up the backside for not being alert enough to notice that your dog had spotted something interesting! And DON’T scold your dog when he does come back to you – if you are shouting for him to “Come” and he does eventually run back, however cross you are, telling him off at that point will not aid your cause!!
Finally, DON’T walk your puppy for too long! Don’t be tempted into thinking you need to physically exhaust him in order to get a bit of peace and quiet!
Too much physical exercise on those soft puppy bones can be damaging – puppies need more in the way of environmental learning and stimulation at this stage and this in itself will be tiring for them.
Take advice from your breeder, vet or trainer as to how long you should be walking your particular breed of dog in order to safeguard their health.
So, the simple message is DO be INTERACTIVE, PROACTIVE AND POSITIVE when out on a walk with your dog and you will reap the benefits and achieve the 'vision' when your dog is older and knows that the best place in the world to be is at your side.
Happy walks everyone!
We can probably safely assume that if you are reading this then you are dog lover... and as such would probably do all you can to try and catch a stray dog if you saw one.
However, even well-socialised dogs can get nervous and anxious if they are away from their familiar environment and folk that they know. When an animal is in this anxious or frightened state, it can easily behave out of character.
This might include running away from you when you approach it.
Remember that if a dog feels it is being pursued and begins to run, it could run out in front of a car, causing an accident and being hurt in the process. A nervous dog may also snap at you, if you try to take it by the collar or grab at it.
Here are some tips:
Okay – so, any one of the following may now have happened:
BUT WHAT DO YOU DO NOW?
It is the responsibility of your Local Authority (Dog Warden) to catch and deal with any stray dog so, unless you know who the owner is and can contact them to collect the dog from you, you should ring your local council.
Topdog's local councils are Braintree District Council and Uttlesford District Council:
(covering Braintree, Witham and Halstead)
If you are ringing outside of Office Hours, you should follow the pre-recorded messages which should result in the Dog Warden on call being contacted and then making contact with you.
(covering Dunmow, Felsted and Saffron Walden areas)
If calling outside of office hours, ring 01223 257455 for advice.
What Is A Hot Spot?
A hot spot refers to a specific area of skin that becomes infected and inflamed. The cause of the infection is usually self-inflicted by the dog excessively scratching, chewing or licking in one area.
It is similar to when a child has an itch; they scratch and they make the skin sore and they continue to scratch to try to alleviate the discomfort. It is exactly the same for the dog.
Often the dog will work relentlessly at the area, and the damage and infection will spread very rapidly.
A hot spot is sometimes known as moist dermatitis.
You can try to alleviate the problem yourself to begin with, but if you fear your dog has a major problem, then seek veterinary advice.
Common areas where hot spots are seen are around the back area, top of tail, on the paws, neck, chin or behind the ears, although in theory a hot spot can appear anywhere on a dog's body.
Signs And Symptoms That Your Dog Might Have A Hot Spot
Common signs of hot spots on dogs include:
Early stages of a hot spot are small abrasions on the skin, caused by the dog scratching the surface of the skin and damaging it.
It is not uncommon for some dogs to become quite snappy if you try to inspect the worrying area. This is due to the discomfort the dog is feeling and therefore prevention is better than cure. Check your dog over, regularly, particularly if you see them scratching; check the area where they are scratching.
Contrary to the name for this, hot spots don’t just happen in hot weather; they can happen at any time of the year.
The word spot is to do with an indicator of an area, not spot-like.
Causes Of Hot Spots
Determining what is the underlying cause of the hot spot appearing is essential to preventing them reoccurring, but it can be difficult to stop if it has become a habit for the dog.
Something very simple and trivial may have led your dog to lick or scratch an area of skin, then this has turned into a habit or routine which sees your dog compulsively licking and chewing his paws, legs, bottom or scratching his head and ears, until the habit itself becomes the real problem.
Check for parasites of any kind, eg mites, fleas, insect stings
Dogs can suffer allergic reactions from a variety of causes; one of the main contributors is diet. Make sure the diet you are feeding is right for your dog.
Often when a dog has had an injury, they lick at the area to alleviate the pain. Licking releases endorphins which causes pain blocking. This can create a problem of its own.
Some dogs have been known to cause a hot spot because they are simply bored and lick or scratch at themselves to relieve the boredom.
Some pets could be stressed and try to relieve that stress by licking at themselves. For example a dog suffering separation anxiety, noise phobias, etc. could trigger licking which may create a series of different problems.
How To Treat A Hot Spot
When you notice any kind of dog skin irritation, you should always consult your veterinarian.
Since there is a possibility of more serious skin infections, it is advisable that you seek some guidance from your vet as soon as possible.
Because hot spots can increase in size quite rapidly, you need to take action as soon as you become aware of the problem.
Here are some steps that you can follow to alleviate a hot spot problem at home, after you have consulted your vet:
Shaving coat from the area that has been affected by the hot spot is not necessarily the best option. However, it may allow you to examine the area more closely. Sometimes shaving the coat can irritate the dog and actually encourage them to scratch more. Try treating the area without shaving first and see how the skin responds to treatment.
Hot Spot Treatments
If the infection is very severe, your veterinarian will usually prescribe topical drying sprays, medicated shampoos and oral antibiotics that must be regularly administered to your dog.
Some products that dog owners have found success with include:
If the underlying cause is tangled or matted hair or trapped dead hair
Put the dog on a regular grooming schedule either at home or at a grooming salon.
Collies, Old English Sheepdogs, Shih-Tzu’s, Tibetan Terriers and other breeds with long hair that tangles easily should be groomed at least twice a week so that snarls and mats do not form.
Clip mats if you cannot easily comb them out, and make an appointment for professional grooming every four to six weeks if you cannot keep the dog mat-free on your own.
In my opinion, matting or a tight coat is the most common cause of a dog developing hot spots due to the dog scratching the coat to dislodge it.
If the underlying cause is allergies
Begin an aggressive campaign to rid your home and yard of fleas and work with your veterinarian on a plan to reduce allergy triggers for your pet.
Household dust, plant pollen, lawn chemicals and diet can all cause allergies or can build to a crescendo of allergies if the dog's sensitivities cross a threshold.
Leaving shampoo in your dogs coat after bathing, ie not rinsing properly, can also cause excessive scratching.
Frequent vacuuming, supplements to keep the skin and coat healthy, air purifiers and baths in skin-soothing herbal or medicated shampoos with aloe, oatmeal, jojoba or eucalyptus can help.
Next step is over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl or Atarax — with a veterinarian's approval.
If these don't work, then steroids to reduce the inflammation and the immune system reaction to the allergen and perhaps antibiotics to cure the infected hot spot are the next course of treatment.
If the underlying cause seems to be behavioural
If your pet doesn't have allergies or fleas or a more serious skin condition - but is so bored, stressed or lonely that he maims himself with constant licking or scratching, he may need more exercise, playtime and attention.
This can be the easiest or the hardest treatment to implement because there's no pill or ointment for long-term success; the requirements are time, consistency and perhaps an investment in training books, an obedience school, a dog sitter or an animal behaviourist.
You should keep in mind that hot spots are extremely painful and to be avoided at all cost. It is your job to keep up the maintenance and needs of your dog to avoid this nuisance for your dog from developing.
I hope you found this article helpful. Your feedback is always appreciated. Thank you.
Julie Hindle 2017
So, you have decided to get a puppy! A really exciting time but also one where some careful thought is required. There are hundreds of different breeds out there but this is a situation where you must be ruled by your head, not your heart!
Many people are struck by the "look" of a dog or they know somebody or regularly see someone out for a walk, with a beautifully behaved dog.
CONSIDER CAREFULLY YOUR LIFESTYLE, HOME ENVIRONMENT AND EXPECTATIONS
Do you have enough room for a dog?
Be honest with yourself. If space is limited, then a large and/ or very lively breed is going to cause some problems.
Do you have the time to spend with the dog, training and exercising it?
If time is tight now, when your dog arrives, it’s only going to get more difficult. You may love the look of the weimerraner that you see out with its owner every morning but unless you have plenty of time to devote to its needs, this is not the dog for you!
Have you had a dog before?
If not, think carefully before you get your pup. You may admire the brains of the border collie but it is a misconception that these dogs are “easy to train”. In inexperienced hands, the dog is so bright it actually trains the owner, resulting in undesired behaviours! We would also steer you away from the “guardy” breeds, for example, the rottweiler, the doberman, the German shepherd dog – all fantastic breeds of dog but not for the inexperienced or the faint-hearted as these dogs are strong in both body and will!
Do you have a family, with young children?
Puppies and children aren’t always a great mixture! If you do have a young family, be prepared to train your kids how to behave around the dog and to provide the pup with a crate where it can get some “time out”!
Very small breeds of dog are not always the best choice here as children can be rough – labradors are, in the main, a very tolerant breed of young children but like all puppies will get VERY excited when children are running around, playing, yelling and getting very upset when the pup has just eaten their favourite toy!!
Does everyone in the family want a dog?
If your partner is very neat and tidy and is not keen on having a dog, getting a hairy breed that is going to shed coat everywhere and bring plenty of dirt into the house is probably going to lead to break-downs in the relationship! You may want to consider a dog that does not moult too much, eg poodles, labradoodles etc.
If everyone wants a dog, do they all have the same expectations of it?
Does one of you envisage long walks in the country and the other want a ‘home’ companion for cuddles and company? Often, these different expectations cannot be met by the dog, leading to confusion and disappointment.
Have you considered the financial implications?
If buying a pedigree dog, these do not come cheap! The initial outlay is quite substantial. Then there is the ongoing costs of feeding a good quality diet, vaccinations, insurance for public liability and vets fees (which should be considered a “must have” these days), equipment (ie lead, collar, grooming kit, bed, crate, toys, etc).
And you must budget for training your dog – classes (and remember, one puppy course is not enough to responsibly train your dog) and maybe one-to-one help if you encounter any specific problems.
If you have decided to go to a rescue centre and give an unwanted dog a home then the same applies with the exception of the initial outlay of buying a pedigree puppy. However, most rescue centres do charge for you to take a dog so you still need to check out how much this will be.
DON’T BE TEMPTED TO GET TWO PUPS TOGETHER!
Firstly, whilst one pup can be quite stressful, two is double-trouble!
Secondly, the pups will bond together, often leaving you out of the picture. Training is much harder and you will miss out on the wonderful relationship that can exist between man and his dog.
Thirdly, litter brothers and sisters can, in a lot of cases, end up disliking each other intensely which leads to fighting and heartache for all. Think about it – nature does not intend brothers and sisters to remain together – there is too much equality in size and age. With dogs, equality usually leads to lack of clarity regarding pack position which in turn leads to fighting.
So, the key is... DO YOUR RESEARCH! Before you get your puppy, speak to breeders, people who have the breed of dog you are interested in, buy a dog magazine – often these have helplines about the various breeds OR, surprise surprise, speak to dog trainers who work day-in, day-out with many, many different breeds and who can give you some professional guidance.
Kerry & Rob
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