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Archive for October, 2009

My Dog Growls When I Go Near Her Food Bowl

October 30th, 2009 4 comments

Training Your Dog Not to be Aggressive at Feeding Time

Lucy is a sweet-natured, playful dog who has never had any hesitation to share toys and beds with her adoptive brother Frankie, another Labrador retriever mix of about the same age.

But My Dog Doesn’t Want to Share Her Food Bowl

Growling at People is Unacceptable

Growling at People is Unacceptable

In fact, she doesn’t even want Frankie anywhere near her food while she’s eating.  She growls in a threatening manner if he gets too close, and he usually backs away.  (He is the type of dog who likes to pick at his food anyway, so there typically is not much conflict.  He never really tries to take any of her food away from her.)

Growling at Other Dogs

Most dog trainers feel that it is not a cause for alarm when a dog tries to protect his food from another dog.  After all, dogs have an instinctive tendency to protect their food when another animal gets too close.  Among dogs, protecting one’s food is a way to ensure one gets enough to eat.  It is also part of the competitive process of establishing one’s place in the pack.

In Lucy’s case, add in the fact that she was rescued from near-starvation, and it seems only natural that she would want to keep every kibble in her food bowl for herself.

The simple solution is to feed the dogs in separate bowls and to perhaps place the bowls a distance away from each other.  Each dog will feel he has his own space for eating.

Training Your Dog Not to Growl at People

The real problem arises, according to dog trainers, when the dog growls at people.  In the book The Well-Mannered Dog, the authors explain that dogs who show aggression when their humans get too close to the food bowl are forgetting their rightful place in the pack.  That is, they are trying to assume the lead position in the pack over their humans.  As the authors state, “Food aggression can be a problem because it invariably leads to other kinds of aggression.”

Dog Training Techniques to Stop Food Aggression

There are several dog training tools that owners can use to modify their dog’s aggressive behavior at feeding time.

  • The dog should never be fed first.  In a pack, the leader eats first.  The leaders are the humans in the family and the dog should not be fed until after having watched the humans eat.
  • The dog should be given a training task or two to perform prior to receiving her food bowl.  It could be something as simple as a sit or a down command.  But a training task will focus the dog’s mind and emphasize the idea that the human is the pack leader.
  • Reward the dog with the food only after she has performed the training tasks.
  • Stay with the dog while she eats.  The authors of The Well-Mannered Dog note that leaving the room while the dog eats can give her the idea that she is entitled to be left alone with her food.  Staying with her reinforces the human’s status as the pack leader.

Train Your Dog to Understand that You are the Leader of the Dog Pack

Make the Dog Sit and Wait for her Food

Make the Dog Sit and Wait for her Food

These training tips for aggressive growling behavior around feeding time seem to be working with Lucy.  In the past few days, I have done the following, without hearing any growling:

  • Gave her sit commands and made her earn a couple of hand-fed kibbles before putting down her food bowl.
  • Held the food bowl in my hands for the first minute or so after she started eating.
  • Moved the food bowl a few inches after putting it down.
  • Stood over her while she ate.
  • Promptly removed the food bowl after she finished eating.

I think Lucy is catching on to the fact that I am the leader of this dog pack, and she is a well-loved but subordinate member of it.

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Depriving Puppy Mills of Profits One Rescue at a Time

October 27th, 2009 2 comments

The Joys of Adopting a Shelter Dog

There are so many good reasons to adopt a shelter dog.

  • When you adopt a shelter dog, you know you’ve saved a life.
  • The love and companionship of a shelter dog are unmatchable.  These dogs just know they’ve been given another chance at life.
  • You’re giving a good home and a healthy environment to a dog that may have been abused, neglected or abandoned.
  • Your adoption of a shelter dog has deprived a puppy mill of any profit on the sale of a mistreated dog.

Lucy came into our home on June 23, 2009.  She was found starving to death and we also suspect she may have been physically abused by someone in her past.  We adopted her through Animal Friends Society of Tampa, a wonderful all-volunteer no-kill shelter.

After only four months of constant love, proper veterinary care and a healthful diet, Lucy has gained almost 20 pounds (approximately 9 kilos).  She is a year-old Labrador Retriever mix, and she is now a perfect 55-pound (25 kilo) whirlwind of energy.

Here is Lucy the day we brought her home.

And here is Lucy today!

Lucy (left) and Frankie Were Both Rescues

Lucy (left) and Frankie Were Both Rescues

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Categories: Frankie and Lucy

Pet Safety and Protection Act of 2009

October 23rd, 2009 2 comments

Bill Seeks to Ensure that Dogs and Cats Used by Animal Research Facilities are Obtained Legally

Representative Michale Doyle (D-PA) has introduced the Pet Safety and Protection Act of 2009 (H.R. 3907).  The measure would amend the Animal Welfare Act to ensure that all dogs and cats used by research facilities are obtained legally.

Dogs and Cats Used by Research Facilities Must be Obtained Legally

Dogs and Cats Used by Research Facilities Must be Obtained Legally

Dogs and Cats Used for Animal Research or Educational Purposes

The new law would specify the sources from which research facilities, including federal research facilities, may obtain dogs and cats for “research or educational purposes.”  Under the Pet Safety and Protection Act of 2009, a research facility may obtain dogs and cats for research and educational purposes only from:

  • A licensed dealer who bred and raised the dog or cat.
  • A registered public shelter or pound that is otherwise in compliance with federal regulations and that obtained the animal from its legal owner, other than another pound or shelter.
  • The legal owner of the dog or cat, if the owner is donating the animal and if the owner bred and raised the dog ro cat, or if the owner has owned the animal for at least one year.
  • A federally licensed research facility.

Nothing in the measure would require a pound or shelter to sell, donate, or offer a dog or cat to a research facility.  The bill would carry a fine of $1,000 for each violation in addition to any other applicable penalty.

What Does the Pet Safety and Protection Act Mean?

As a practical matter, the Pet Safety and Protection Act would prohibit “Class B” dealers and unlicensed individuals from selling dogs and cats to research laboratories.  According to an urgent alert issued by the ASPCA:

Class B Dealers are people who collect dogs and cats to sell to the research industry.  They sometimes obtain their animals through illegal or unethical means, such as by responding to “free to good home” ads in newspapers, falsifying records to keep the true origins of the animals unknown and stealing pets kept outside in yards.  They also buy animals in bulk from “bunchers,” whose methods are even more questionable.

Eliminating Class B dealers would take away the profit motive from “bunchers” and ensure that pets are not stolen or acquired under false pretenses and sold to facilities that conduct laboratory tests on animals.

What’s Next for the Pet Safety and Protection Act?

The measure was introduced in the House on October 22, and has been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture.  It amends the Animal Welfare Act which was put in place with the stated purpose of insuring “that animals intended for use in research facilities or for exhibition purposes or for use as pets are provided humane care and treatment.”

In the meantime, the ASPCA is urging concerned citizens to contact their senators and representatives in Congress and ask them to support and co-sponsor the bill.

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Categories: Dogs and the Law

Service Dogs for Veterans Act Passes Congress

October 23rd, 2009 3 comments

Service Dogs for Veteran’s Act

Senator Al Franken’s (D-MN) first piece of legislation, the Service Dogs for Veterans Act, has passed the Senate.

Service Dogs for Veterans Act Will Provide Trained Dogs to Assist Wounded Veterans

Service Dogs for Veterans Act Will Provide Trained Dogs to Assist Wounded Veterans

The bill requires the “Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a pilot program to assess the feasibility and advisability of using service dogs for the treatment or rehabilitation of veterans with physical or mental injuries or disabilities.”  The program will provide about 200 trained service dogs to disabled veterans and will set up a multi-year study to determine the costs and benefits involved.

Cost of the Program to Provide Service Dogs to Veterans

The cost of the program is about $5 million out of the $680.2 billion 2010 Defense Authorization Bill.  The cost of training each service dog is about $25,000.  Although there are a number of charitable groups that raise the money and provide training for service dogs, the waiting list for trained service dogs is long, reports the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

The funding for this bill is not intended to take the place of the work nonprofits do.  Its goal is to study the feasibility of government funding for service dogs in the treatment and rehabilitation of wounded vets.

What is Next for the Service Dogs for Veterans Act?

The bill was approved in Congress on Thursday, October 22, as part of the Defense Authorization Bill. The legislation was co-sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA).  Representatives Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Ron Klein (D-FL), championed a companion version of the bill in the House.  It now awaits the signature of President Obama to become law.

S. 1495 – Service Dogs for Veterans Act, as introduced.


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