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Minnesota Veterinary Hospital Blog

How an Investment in Training Can Improve Your Relationship with Your Dog

1/8/2017

 

Excessive barking, hyperactivity, chewing up household items, and pulling on the leash when going for a walk are all common dog behaviors that can frustrate their human family. Unfortunately, this makes some new dog owners become decide that having a dog is not for them. They relinquish the animal to a shelter, give it to a friend, or abandon the dog outdoors, which is the worst possible outcome. The dog's problem behavior only grows worse, making things even more difficult for the next potential owner.
 
Before you give up on your dog, you may want to consider professional training. This is an especially good time since January is National Train Your Dog Month sponsored by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

Why Do Dogs Misbehave?
What you see as misbehavior may be your dog's only way of coping with stress. By working with a professional dog trainer, you can get to the underlying cause of the problem behavior and devise a plan to correct it. People sometimes take their dog’s behavior personally by assuming he is expressing displeasure with them or somehow retaliating. However, dogs are incapable of vengeance and other decidedly human behaviors. Permanently modifying your dog’s behavior should be the goal of any training session.
 
Operant and Classical Conditioning
Professional dog trainers use a combination of operant conditioning and classical training to teach your dog more appropriate ways to act. Operant conditioning involves modifying canine behavior through both reinforcement and punishment. While sometimes controversial, this technique distinguishes between voluntarily and purely reflexive behavior. 
 
The premise of operant conditioning is to reward your dog each time she performs a desired behavior. Eventually, you scale back rewards for every action and praise just the best ones. This encourages your dog to work hard for the reward and to please you. Dog trainers refer to this as intermittent reinforcement. Negative punishment need not be physical to be effective. You simply take away something your dog enjoys, such as a toy or treat, in response to undesirable behavior. 

Classical conditioning is another name for associated learning. For example, most dogs learn early on that their owner picking up a leash means they get to go for a walk. By associating certain items with a desired action, you can have a better-behaved dog. In this instance, your dog allows you to put the least on and get ready to go outside. 

Challenging dog behavior takes a toll on the entire family. It is also a vicious cycle because your dog responds to the negativity by acting even worse. When you reinforce professional training at home, your dog learns to trust and obey you. Eventually this results in you and your dog having a more rewarding relationship. Please let your veterinarian at Minnesota Veterinary Hospital know if you need help with a specific behavior. 
 

Photo credit: MachineHeadz / Getty Images

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Understanding Feline FIV

12/22/2016

 

Cat owners are often confused about the difference between feline FIV and feline FeLV and what a diagnosis means for their pet. Feline FIV, which stands for feline immunodeficiency virus, is the equivalent of the AIDS virus in humans. Feline FeLV, on the other hand, is a leukemia virus. Approximately two to four percent of cats in the United States has one of these viruses. Both are retroviruses and can be fatal. That means a cat can live with the virus for many years before becoming seriously ill.

Feline FIV First Identified in 1986
Although the disease has existed for decades, veterinarians first labeled it as Feline FIV a mere 30 years ago. It depletes infected cats of white blood cells, which in turn makes it more difficult for them to fight off infections. Since it is such a slow-acting virus, most cats enjoy a normal lifespan. The reason cat owners tend to panic at the diagnosis is its association with AIDS in humans. However, cats with FIV rarely develop the severity of symptoms that people with the AIDS virus do since they already have a shorter lifespan. Additionally, the strain of each virus differs considerably.

Transmission and Symptoms of Feline FIV
A cat infected with FIV has the virus in his blood, saliva, or both. Biting is the main method of transmission from one cat to another. Outdoor cats who get into fights with other cats are most at risk of becoming infected. The incidence of infection is highest in feral cats and male cats who have not been neutered. If your male cat does go outside, make sure that he is neutered to prevent wandering behavior and fighting. Fortunately, the HIV virus cannot survive long outside of a cat’s body and it cannot be transmitted to humans. It also cannot be transmitted indirectly, such as through contact with food bowls and bedding.

Some cats with FIV remain asymptomatic throughout their life span. Those who do become ill may display some or all of these symptoms:

• Poor appetite and/or weight loss
• Disheveled fur
• Diarrhea
• Fever
• Inflammation of the gums and mouth
• Hair loss
• Non-healing wounds
• Behavior change
• Frequent urination and straining to urinate
• Discharge from the nose or eyes

Please contact Minnesota Veterinary Hospital to schedule an evaluation for your cat if you notice any of these symptoms. We will conduct a blood test to determine the presence of the virus and notify you when the results come back from our laboratory. Your cat’s regular veterinarian will then develop a treatment plan to address her individual symptoms. 

Photo Credit: Bill Oxford / Getty Images
 

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December is Safe Pet Toys and Gifts Month

12/12/2016

 

One of the joys of being a pet owner is watching your dog or cat enjoy playing with a toy that you picked out especially for him. Toys help meet your pet's need for stimulation while also providing him with exercise and entertainment. An added bonus is that having a decent stash of pet toys keeps your dog or cat from becoming destructive with your personal or household belongings. It's also important to keep in mind that your pet needs toys for different reasons, such as activity, comfort, and distraction.
 
Selecting Safe Dog Toys
Since dogs can range from a few pounds to more than 100 pounds, you need to make sure that the toy you choose is appropriate for your dog's size. Additionally, make sure the toy doesn't have small parts that are easy to swallow, such as buttons, strings, and plastic eyes. We recommend avoiding toys with polystyrene beads or nutshells as these present a choking hazard.
 
Hard rubber toys, rope toys knotted at both ends, and tennis balls all appeal to your dog's instinctual need to chew. Kong or busy box toys that hide a treat inside will keep your dog motivated to interact with the toy until she uncovers the treat.
 
Toys to Give Your Cat
Cats are easily entertained, so don't feel like you have to spend a lot of money on toys. If your cat is like most, he may be more interested in the box the toy came in than the toy itself. According to International Cat Care, the two things a cat wants from a toy are that it moves and that it gives her an opportunity to interact with her owner. Homemade items, such as rolled up newspaper or the cardboard center of a roll of paper towels, work just fine.
 
A fishing-rod type of toy is a great choice for any cat. You hold one end in your hand while dangling the other end containing a small toy just out of your cat's reach. Batting at the toy allows him to release energy while feeling like he has successfully captured his prey. Flashing a light on the wall and having your cat chase it can also prove entertaining. Toy mice containing a small amount of catnip should inspire even the most dedicated napper to get up and swat it around a few times. It is especially important for indoor cats to have access to a variety of toys to alleviate boredom and help them get their exercise.
 
Order Safe and Fun Pet Toys from Our Online Store
 Did you know that we offer gifts for dogs and cats from nine different categories in our online store? Skip the hassle of shopping at a crowded discount store or pet store this year and have your pet’s gifts delivered to your home instead. 
 
Minnesota Veterinary Hospital wishes you the happiest of holiday seasons. 

Photo Selection: absolutimages / Getty Images

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