Friday, October 8, 2010

OSPCA Debate Continues

OSPCA fallout. Back in May more than 100 animals were culled at the Newmarket office OSPCA. Protesters came out every day to show their annoyance at what was happening. File Photo

Klees retables motion to examine authority's powers

The long debate over OSPCA law reform continues to push forward. Newmarket-Aurora MPP Frank Klees has re-tabled his motion for the provincial government to review the powers and authority of the OSPCA.

“(Ontario SPCA) agents are endowed with police powers and are authorized to lay criminal charges,” he said. “But they receive less training than shopping centre security guards. That’s unacceptable.” The animal agency is an arm’s length organization of the Community Safety and Correctional Services Ministry, but Mr. Klees wants the newly appointed minister Jim Bradley to support a resolution calling for the shelter’s powers to be reigned in and under government scrutiny. After a ringworm outbreak that resulted in 102 animal euthanizations at the York Region SPCA branch in May, Mr. Klees called on former minister Rick Bartolucci to intervene. Since then, thousands have signed petitions in support of the resolution, which are being sent to different ridings throughout the province, Mr. Klees said.  There have also been numerous complaints against the organization, ranging from gross mismanagement, incompetency and abuse of power, Mr. Klees added.

“I want residents to know, this issue is very much alive,” he said. “It’s not going away. We’re hoping this government will act. But if this government chooses to ignore it, it’s on our agenda and action will be taken.”

The shelter is still undergoing cleaning and decontamination procedures.  It is expected the shelter will re-open in about three months, shelter spokesperson Alison Cross said. “We are not rushing to open,” she said in an e-mail. “The Ontario SPCA is as eager as everyone to have the facility open and serving the community. We are restructuring and aren’t commenting beyond that at this time.” Mr. Klees’ resolution will be debated in the legislature Nov. 18.


A Fantastic Article On Separation Anxiety By Guest Blogger Andre From "When Hounds Fly"

Separation Anxiety 101

As a dog trainer, separation anxiety is one of the more common behavioral issues I get calls about.  It doesn't take a lot of time for me to help clients learn how to manage it and treat it, but it can take a long time and a lot of patience and work for dog owners to address.  The following are some of the key talking points I share with owners when I meet them.

1.  Does My Dog Suffer from Separation Anxiety?

A dog that chews furniture or eliminates in the house while left alone may not have separation anxiety.  They may just be bored, or not fully housetrained, or simply left inside for longer than they can physically hold it in.  Signs you have a dog with true separation anxiety include:

- Whining, pacing, sweaty paws, and panting as you are about to leave and when you return
- Destructive behavior at the point of exits (damage to the door where the dog sees you leave from)
- Vomiting or self-mutilation (excessive licking of paws)
- Lack of interest in high value food left behind when you leave (the dog does not eat the steak filled Kong you left behind until after you return)

2.  What Causes Separation Anxiety?

The causes for separation anxiety can be extremely varied.  Ultimately, why it happens is not important, as the treatment plan is the same.  But to satisfy our human need to know "why", here are some:

- Lack of experience with being left alone as a puppy or an adult (i.e. people who work from home a lot and rarely leave their dogs alone)
- Moving to a new home
- Changes in the family unit (a family member moves out and leaves for college)
- Traumatic experiences while alone (i.e. something falls off a bookshelf while you are gone, spooking the dog, or someone tries to break into your house)
- Changes in the dog's health and well-being (i.e. medically ill)

It is typically not caused by a lack of obedience training (although this can help improve a dog's overall well-being, because obedience training is great mental exercise).

3. Managing Separation Anxiety

First, let's define management.  Management is the process of reducing harm and damage to the dog while you are treating it.  Management does not improve the condition of the dog - it simply is meant to keep the dog and your property safe.  Management is an extremely important part of any behavioral treatment plan.  Every dog, family, and home is different, but here are some ways you can keep your dog safe when you have to leave them alone.

- Using dog walkers and dog daycares to minimize or eliminate alone time during treatment.
- Crating your dog while they are left alone, as long as they are crate trained and are comfortable in their crate.
- Alternatively, confining them to a dog proof area in your house - although, doors, moulding, and other things can be damaged - this should be considered very carefully.

4. Secondary Treatment Strategies for Separation Anxiety

There are dozens of little things you should do as part of a separation anxiety treatment plan. Here are the top 5.

- Focus on improving the overall health and well-being of the dog.  This includes addressing all outstanding medical and health issues through working with your vet, working with a nutritionist to ensure the diet of your dog is compatible (poor diet is the cause of many behavioral issues), and ensuring the dog has a comfortable and quiet place to rest.  

- Obedience training using positive reinforcement (leash corrections and punishment only increase stress in a dog) will help a dog use it's mental faculty and tire them out - consider taking a basic obedience training course and moving into dog activities like Rally Obedience, Agility, Tricks, Flyball, or any other activity that gives your dog a job.  Physical exercise also helps reduce overall anxiety.

- Holistic and non-medicinal treatments can help reduce anxiety.  This might include using products like Rescue Remedy, DAP Diffusers, Thundershirts, or all-natural anti-anxiety supplements.  Also, don't rule out the use of prescription medications from the vet to assist during treatment.

- Crate training your dog (teaching them to love to be in their crate) can make it a safe and comfortable place to stay while they are left alone.

- Puzzle toys and boredom busters left behind (i.e. Kong Wobblers, Sir Bob-a-Lots, and other food puzzle toys where a dog must work to release the treats) can preoccupy a dog while they are alone.  For many dogs, this should be the only way they get nourishment so that every calorie goes to good use.

5.  Primary Treatment Strategy for Separation Anxiety:  The Planned Departure

Planned departures can help almost every dog get over separation anxiety.  Here's the truth about them:  It takes a lot of time and effort on the part of the owners, and a lot of owners are just not willing to put the time into doing them.

In brief, a planned departure is a "fakeout", where one goes through all the steps of leaving home (including going out the front door), but returns home before the dog has a chance to become stressed to the point of panic.  For some dogs, this might mean leaving home and coming back within 30 seconds.  Each time you leave and return and the dog manages to remain relatively calm, you are desensitizing your dog to the experience of being left alone and also teaching them that you always come back.  As a dog develops a tolerance for being left alone for a fixed duration of time (i.e. 30 seconds), you slowly start increasing that duration (perhaps to 45 seconds).  Each time you are about to leave the front door, you can leave a yummy treat (or a food stuffed kong) behind so that the dog associates pleasant things with your departure.

It may take a few hundred repetitions over multiple days and weeks as you build duration and tolerance for being alone, so it does require tremendous patience and time, but it works.

In summary, once you've determined that your dog is actually suffering from separation anxiety, it's your job to ensure they are safe when they are alone, and that you invest the time to help them get over their condition.  The suggestions listed above are generic, and as each dog, family, and home is different, working with a trainer or behaviorist that uses science-based, punishment-free techniques is highly recommended.  A tailored management and treatment plan is the best way to ensure the time and effort you put in is effective.

About the Author:

Andre Yeu, head trainer and owner of When Hounds Fly! is proud to be Toronto's first Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA CTP). When Hounds Fly! is conveniently located in Downtown Toronto West, and offers puppy socialization, basic obedience, and private lessons to dog owners in our community.  For more information, visit

Thankgiving Safety For Dogs: Stuff The Turkey, Not Your Dog

Ahhh, the aroma of a fresh, mouthwatering, roasting turkey in the oven, Mom's cornbread stuffing cooling on the counter, sweet, spicy pumpkin pie tempting your passions. But don't forget the happy, little furry-feet, following your every move! Yep, its Thanksgiving! A time to be thankful for all we have, for those around us we love, including our canine friends. Many people share the family feast with their dog in an offering of thanks and love. While this is an innocent and seemingly gracious and loving gesture, the truth is, it's more loving not to share your holiday meals with your dog. While it may seem that a little bit of turkey skin here and a little bit of stuffing there wouldn't hurt, we know how quickly the pounds can add up over the holiday season. The same rules that apply to us apply to our pets. A diet high in fat and being overweight is very unhealthy for them. Pancreatitis is just one of the problems that occur with a high fat and unhealthy diet. The "typical" pancreatitis victim is middle-aged or older and overweight. It's common in both sexes, and very often the family has just had a party or a big holiday meal when this disease strikes. So, if your pet is often one that gets a table scrap here, a potato chip there, extra caution should be taken, as his possibility for an accute pacreatitis attack could already be high. However this doesn't OK you to indulge him if it's "just this once" or "just for the holiday." Things can turn bad quickly and with the hustle and bustle of the holidays; you may not be as alert to the first symptoms, or may pass them off as just nerves, stress or having a little too much turkey or all the family at the home for the holiday. The pancreas produces digestive enzymes that break down food so the body can digest it. These enzymes are carefully handled by the pancreas in order to prevent them from damaging the pancreas itself or surrounding tissue. If they break down for any reason, the result is leakage of enzymes, which damage the pancreas and any surrounding tissue they reach. This breakdown is called pancreatitis. Symptoms include loss of appetite, severe and frequent vomiting, diarrhea that may contain blood, reluctance to walk, weakness, pain, crying, restlessness, irritability, or refusing to eat. Many people know their dog is sick, but may be confused as to whether or not it's serious because of a lack of symptoms or symptoms being vague and mild. Pancreatitis may occur only once in a dog's life or it can become chronic, a condition that returns over and over again. It can quickly become fatal or just be a mild attack of pain that is over in a few hours or a day or so. It can cause serious side effects including shock, blood clotting disorders, heart arrythmias, and liver or kidney damage. So if your pet exhibits ANY of these signs, even if mild at first, get him to your vet immediately! Of course with it being a holiday, many animal clinics may be closed - another VERY valid reason to not be so sharing with your pets this Thanksgiving. And just in case, make sure you have an emergency number for your vet or the emergency vet clinic number handy for when your vet's office is closed. Make sure your pet has no access to any food left on the counters or tables when no one is around. After you're done cleaning up the kitchen, make sure you take the garbage out, and dispose of it in a secure place where no pets can get into it. Even the best behaved, well trained pets may be too tempted with turkey bones, the string that tied the turkey legs together, and what little of what was left of Mom's stuffing in the trash.
Other Holiday Food Dangers

Besides table scraps being dangerous to your pets because of the high-fat in some of them, there are still other reasons to not share your holiday feast with pets. Cooked turkey, duck, geese and other bird bones are dangerous to your pet. They are hollow and break and splinter easily. Also, because they are so easily breakable, dogs usually won't chew them thoroughly. The results are sharp pieces that can choke the dog or block, tear the intestines. A pet that has a bone or fragment of one lodged in his intestine may not even show symptoms for a few days. When they do occur they may include loss of appetite, depression, vomiting, or diarrhea. Sometimes the bone will pass by itself; other times it may need to be surgically removed. So make sure all left overs and throw away and out of your pets' reach.
Chocolate and your dog

Yet another danger to dogs is chocolate. It contains a xanthine compound called theobromine. Theobromine is highest in dark chocolate, but even milk chocolate contains theobromine. Chocolate can be fatal to your dog! Bowls of candy, or pieces dropped by guests or children, may go unnoticed by you for hours, but pose a real risk to your pets.
Bloat is a medical emergency!

One last word of caution on holiday meals and your pet is "bloat." Bloat is a gastric condition that can be deadly and is an EMERGENCY for you and your dog. Bloat is most commonly caused by too much gas or fluid in the stomach. This gas can extend the stomach causing gastric dilation. If the stomach partially rotates it is called gastric torsion. If it fully rotates its called gastric volvolus. Each can be a life threatening problem. Usually, large, deep-chested dogs are the victims, but it has occurred in some smaller breeds and puppies that have been allowed to eat too fast. While the causes of bloat are varied, gulping of food and water, a common behavior at excitable times when yummy treats are given and then exercise, such as the excitability and playfulness a lot of pets experience during busy times like holidays and family gatherings, may be a serious threat to a lot of pets.
Bloat is a deadly condition that gives you a very limited amount of time to act. Symptoms include abdominal distention, salivating, retching, restlessness, depression, lethargy, anorexia, weakness, or a rapid heart rate. Any of these symptoms, even if mild at first, should IMMEDIATELY be attended to by your vet. The stages and manifestations of this condition can happen rapidly once started, so no time should be wasted in seeking advice and care, even if there is a little doubt. Things to avoid are not allowing your pet to overeat, even his own food. Instead of 1 or 2 large meals a day, try 3 or 4 smaller ones. Do not feed your pet at high excitability times, or when he's nervous, such as when you have a house full of company. Many dogs will gulp down their food as a "defense" to keep these "strange intruders" out of it. Calm your dog and feed him at quiet times of the day. Do not allow vigorous exercise before or after your pet has eaten. Be careful with your pets this holiday season, and be truly thankful for them by keeping them healthy!