Online Class Review – “Foundation Weaves, Love Them and Flaunt Them”

My dog Molly hated weave poles in the game of dog agility.   Hated.  Whenever we saw them in training or competition, she blew by them as though they were invisible.   When I recalled her to me and helped her enter them, she would stress down, sniff, sneeze and shake her head – oozing stress.   And if she weaved any slower, she would be moving backwards.

I knew when I saw Julie Daniels’ “Foundation Weaves - Love Them and Flaunt Them” class on Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, that we needed to enroll.  Straight away, I liked that the class material was available for dogs at all levels.   Beginners, in-progress or retraining.  As the class progressed, this was very much true.  The teams enrolled in a working (Gold Level) spot with Julie were from all walks of their agility life and she guided every single one of them with skill.

I also liked how versatile Julie is with the equipment required.   A set of weaves is very spendy, even if you make your own.  The downside of an online classroom is that you need to have more equipment at home, or wherever you will be training.  However, Julie has a wide variety of inexpensive equipment options that teams working in this class can use.   That is a big plus for those on a tight budget!

Molly and I enrolled in a working spot and I was very upfront about our major “weave baggage”.  Not only did Molly have a dramatic stress reaction to the weave poles, so did I.  But the course material made weaves…fun!  Yes, fun!  If I haven’t made it clear yet, this class is very versatile and so are the course materials.  There are many different ways of training weave poles and Julie brings them together, blends them, adds things of her own and then helps teams choose which path will make them most successful.   I love that!   There is nothing I love more than seeing an instructor that can rise to the challenge of acknowledging that different dogs learn in different ways.

Julie brings a lot of enthusiasm and great energy to the class, she wants her students to be successful.   She loves the subject (weave poles!) and it shows in her interaction with her students!  You can’t help but feel happy about weave poles during this class!  The course was 6 weeks long and by the end of it, Molly and I had made significant progress in our attitude about weave poles as well as Molly’s general knowledge of what her job was.   I had a dog who was really loving the obstacle, for the first time in her career.  So if you want to teach weave poles, are struggling to teach weave poles, if you need to re-train weave poles, or if you are like me and hate weave poles with every ounce of your being – check out Julie’s class.  You are going to have a wonderful experience!  (Class information as well as session scheduling can be found here.)

Happy Weaver! credit - Rich Knecht Photography

Happy Weaver! credit – Rich Knecht Photography

The Big Squeeze: Let’s Talk About Anal Glands

I love dogs and (almost) all things dog, but one thing I did not want to become an expert on is anal glands.  I think most any dog owner is vaguely aware of anal glands.   If your dog is licking their hind end more than usual, or scooting their butt all over your freshly cleaned floor, or smelling like a 10 day dead fish marinated in liquid poop…the culprit is probably their anal glands.

If you have not heard of anal glands (lucky you!), they are at the rear end of the dog.  The smelly end.  They are two little kidney bean sized glands seated just inside of the rectum, at “5 and 7 o’clock around the anus.”  The normal order of things is that these little glands fill up with foul smelling fluid and they then empty themselves out when your dog poops, leaving behind a nice reek for other dogs to sniff.  Except, sometimes they don’t empty themselves.  Sometimes things go terribly wrong.   That’s where the butt-rubbing on your carpet comes in.

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Why, dear God, why?!
The stools need to be firm enough to squeeze those glands into emptying themselves.  Firm poop, you want your dog to have it!  If the dog’s diet is too low in fiber, they can suffer chronically from too-full anal glands.  If the dog goes through a bout of diarrhea for any reason, it can leave the glands full and uncomfortable.  Dogs with chronic tummy upset and the resulting soft stools are also at risk.  Obese dogs or dogs who are not exercised frequently can also be prone to poor rear end muscle tone and that can result in the glands not emptying properly.  Some dog’s glands are simply situated “deeper” and “lower” than they should be, and this unfortunately means that when the stool passes out of the dog’s rectum – the full pressure of the bowel movement is not pressing on the glands and they are left with fluid inside.

What can be done?
Prevention!  The dog’s poop needs to be firmer.  This can mean a total diet change, either to a different kibble formula or even to a raw food diet.  It can mean supplementing the existing diet with more fiber.  Pumpkin is touted as the go to diet additive to introduce more fiber into the dog’s diet.   Always use pure pumpkin, never pumpkin pie filling.  Diggin’ Your Dog makes an easy to use pumpkin fiber supplement.  My dog and I are extremely happy with a powdered fiber supplement called Glandex.  The most important thing to remember is that every dog is different, and while it can be frustrating to find the right solution to keep your dog’s anal glands happy, it is worth the trial and error.

When your dog is scooting, licking/chewing and cannot get those glands empty…someone has to manually empty them.   This means a trip to the veterinarian’s office where the staff can express your dog’s glands, and teach you how to do so at home if you so choose.   Some groomers express the anal glands.  If you do learn how to express your dog’s glands, remember to be patient, use plenty of praise and treats (especially peanut butter or squeeze cheese that takes focus to consume.)  Have a gentle assistant help you to restrain your dog and feed him treats while you do the expression.
However! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!  Expressing a dog’s glands if they are not showing symptoms of discomfort/fullness is extremely unnecessary.  If your dog’s anal glands are working as they should be, just leave them do their job be happy about that.  Manual emptying of the glands can cause tissue trauma and swelling and there is no reason to do so unless it is truly necessary.
This will not be considered a how-to on how to express a dog’s anal glands!   I highly recommend getting an experienced veterinarian, technician or skilled groomer to show you how to express your dog’s anal glands if it is necessary.  The glands can be expressed externally or internally.  External expression is exactly what it sounds like: pressure is placed on either side of anus until the fluid expresses (if the glands are very full you can actually feel them).   It is less invasive, but in my experience, less effective – external expression does not always completely empty the glands.  Internal expression is also exactly what it sounds like: straight to the source!  Finger inside of the dog’s rectum while the thumb places opposing pressure on the gland externally with slight pressure applied until the gland expresses the fluid.

I don’t have to tell you: Manual expression is not fun for man or beast.   Most dogs are not likely to take the finger probing without a struggle.   When the fluid expresses it often shoots straight out of the rear end and it is best to stay out of the way! (TU’s Katie’s wise words: Make sure your mouth is closed when you express anal glands!)  It takes some practice to learn to express a dog’s glands, and it helps if you can grow four extra hands.

And sometimes, things go extra terribly wrong.
My dog Molly is a poster child for bad anal glands.   She came to me as a very young shelter puppy, a stray on the streets of a big city.  She always had a difficult tummy.   We tried a lot of different foods and she still had chronically soft stools as a pup, often diarrhea.  She often licked her hind end and was able to relieve her full glands this way.  She was rather tidy and efficient about it even if she was smelly - we called it “busting a gland.”  We have visited the vet or groomers countless times for manual expressions.  The vet tried to teach me how to express them myself one time and it was a miserable failure.  I DIY just about every aspect of dog care and grooming, but anal gland expression was the one thing I said “No!” to.

Molly is the perfect storm.   She continues to be very prone to stomach upset and gets soft stools rather easily from dietary changes or too many treats and she also has very deep set, recessed anal glands.  She is a challenge to manually express, even for the experienced.  It is amazing that we went 6 years without a major issue.

A few months ago my husband chose to share three chicken skins with Molly.   (Sigh.)  She had a few days of diarrhea followed by soft stools and then she was busy “bustin’ a gland” like nobody’s business.  Then she started….leaking.   Gland fluid on my couch covers, blankets, bathrobe, floor, crate padding.  On my pillow.  One night I woke up and my pajama pants had a big smelly wet spot on them from where Molly had her butt cozied up to me.   Yuck!   This was excessive, but it just felt like another chapter of Molly being kind of gross and having butt trouble.   I took her to the vet and had her glands expressed and was dismayed that the very next day she continued leaking.  This went on for about two weeks before Molly woke me up at 3am with her licking and when I turned on the light, her tail and hind end were covered in blood.   Whoah.

Back to the vet office and this time we made an appointment to see the vet rather than to just have her glands expressed.   The vet on duty that night told me he had never expressed more difficult glands on a dog, and he told me that Molly’s right anal gland was badly infected.  And let me just tell you, an infected anal gland is a pain in the butt, literally.  There is a lot of bacteria in the area, the dog is licking at it and irritating the tissue even further.  If an infection progresses without treatment, the gland can actually abscess and rupture externally.   Ouch.

The treatment for Molly’s infected anal gland began with several courses of different oral antibiotics and warm compresses to the anus.  I soaked a washcloth with hot water, wrung it out and placed it right underneath Molly’s tail and applied gentle pressure for 5-10 minutes each evening.  We visited the vet weekly for manual anal gland expression to evaluate Molly’s progress.   I groaned every time I saw blood fly out onto the exam table – that meant the infection was not going away.  When the first two rounds of (different) oral drugs did not work, we moved on to direct “infusions”.   Infusing the anal gland involves using a small catheter to access the anal gland’s emptying duct and packing the gland full of antibiotics directly.  The rectum has to be pulled out slightly in order for the vet or tech to be able to access this duct – not very fun for the dog at all.  Molly’s infection took two rounds of infusions before the fluid that was expressed was a mixture of blood and regular fluid.   It was the first sign of improvement!  Another infusion, and the next week, all regular fluid.  It took nearly two months to resolve.  I did not think it would ever resolve.

For the first month after the infection cleared up, I was instructed to express the glands weekly.  By now I had gotten over my shyness of doing Molly’s gland expressions myself.  I wanted to be able to keep an close eye on that gland fluid to be certain that the infection was not returning.  Weekly expressions are definitely not necessary anymore – if I notice Molly “bustin’ a gland” I take her into the bathroom and express her glands for her now.  And if she is not fussing at her hind end, we leave well enough alone.   Less manipulation to the tissue back there is best.

If infections or abscesses become a recurrent issue, it is possible to surgically remove the anal glands.  This was very much a Last Resort decision as far as I was concerned.  The anal glands are uncomfortably close to the nerves that control the anal sphincter.  In other words…if there is a complication your dog could become unable to control their bowel movements.  I am hopeful that Molly and I will never have to face that sort of decision, and that her anal glands stay happy and empty for many years to come!

Class Clown to Champion – Molly’s Agility Story

My pitbull Molly and I started our agility trialing journey in February 2013.  I was going to write a post on this blog about that.  About my very first agility trial with my very first agility dog.  That post probably would have been, “Molly ran circles around me, the judge probably needs rotator cuff repair surgery for all of the faults that he had overwork his shoulders to signal, and all of my classmate’s dogs behaved normally and got qualifying rounds.  The end.”  I was supposed to write a post about our second agility trial but that post probably would have been, “Molly NQ’d all eight runs, made another judge eligible for rotator cuff repair surgery, helped me understand that “contact fly off” was more than just a term I had heard, and all of my classmate’s dogs behaved normally and got qualifying rounds.”

From the very beginning, Molly and I were behind other teams at our experience level.  Woefully, painfully, embarrassingly behind.  I knew two things: it was surely all my fault and Molly was a maniac.  After all, I adopted Molly from a shelter that she landed in first as a stray at only 2 months old, and then adopted and returned back to the shelter in only one week for being “too much.”  In agility class, Molly humped me and nipped my arms for the crimes of confusing or frustrating her.  Molly was not a dog who was going to make a green, inept handler look good.  There are dogs like that, and I have watched plenty of them.  But that was not Molly.  Molly was a fast running dog, she needed a handler who could work and think even faster.  I was not that handler.  Molly was moderately reactive.  She could be around other dogs in many situations, but at agility trials she fluttered over and under threshold throughout the day and the result was usually a stressed up dog and our time in the ring suffered for it.  We had so many problems.  It felt like we had every problem.  “Too Much”, indeed.

credit – pooch smooch photography.

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K9 Bakery: Honey-Cranberry Oat Cookies

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On occasion, I love to bake little treats for my dogs.  It takes a some time, but I enjoy it and I know that they appreciate it.  Sure, they also like to eat deer poop and paper towels, but I like to think that somewhere inside of their brains (or mouths), they register my home baked cookies as slightly more delicious than those things.

This time around I decided to make Honey and Cranberry Oat Cookies for them.  The recipe is modified from the “Honey Dog Cookie” recipe in Cooking with Your Dog by Ingeborg Pils.

You will need:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups oats
2 tsp baking powder
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
2 eggs
2/5 cups milk
1/4 cups dried cranberries
Apple Cider Vinegar

Mix flour, oats and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.

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Add two tablespoons of honey
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Allow your dog(s) to clean the honey measuring spoon.  DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!

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Add butter (I melted mine because that’s just easier.), eggs and milk!
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(Optional) Add splash of Apple Cider Vinegar.
ACV has plenty of doggie health benefits, my favorite of which is that it is a natural parasite repellent when added to the coat or ingested.   In my opinion, we can’t have enough ACV so into the cookies it goes!

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Mix in dried cranberries
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Don’t look now, you are probably being stared at.
IMG_3368This batter is very sticky!  You can ball it up and make round shaped cookies or shape them with a cookie cutter.  What worked best for me was to get a large glob of the batter and plop it directly onto the cookie sheet and then work the cutter into the batter and remove the excess.
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Bake cookies in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes

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During that time, clean up your kitchen!  Get your spoon clean!
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Get your bowl clean!  Aren’t you glad you have a dog to do all of your cleaning for you?

IMG_3395Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool thoroughly before feeding to your poor, starving and likely grateful dog.   No judgement if you give one a taste, too!  After all, they do smell amazing.  Enjoy!
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Read-a-Bull

Reading books is one of the top ten things that I enjoy.  Dog books are among my favorite reads, and if you give me a dog book featuring any of my favorite breeds I am a happy camper.  Since my heart (and couch) is owned by Molly the Pitbull, I do love to smile (and sometimes cry) over good books about pitbulls.  Here are some that I have read and enjoyed!

onegooddogOne Good Dog by Susan Wilson. 

Great little novel about a businessman (and non dog lover) whose world is turned upside down when he loses his job.  His life takes a dramatic change in every way possible and that includes having his heart stolen by an down-on-his-luck pitbull.   It is a sweet, can’t-put-it-down quickie that was recommended to me by a dog loving coworker.

 

220px-Book-IncredibleJourneyThe Incredible Journey by Shelia Burnford. 

The bully-type dog in this book isn’t properly a pitbull, but I appreciate enough “pitbull” characteristics out of his character that I wanted to include this classic.  Bodger the Bull Terrier is a member of a mismatched band of three pet animals who travel the wilderness in search of their master.  I have to be honest that it has been many many years since I cuddled up with this book and I may have to remedy that in the near future.  Of course worth mention is that the famous Disney movie Homeward Bound was based on this book (though Chance the American Bulldog was far different of personality than Bodger.)

 

wallacethepitbull2Wallace by Jim Gorant.

I absolutely adored this book, it is everything that a pitbull lover could want.  Wallace is a pain in the ass, higher than high drive pitbull who ends up in a shelter.  Fortunately, he captures the hearts of Roo and Clara, married couple and shelter workers.  Through their dedication, a dog who was headed for euthanasia in a no-kill shelter not only finds his place in the dog sport world, he excels there in a big way.

 

imagesCA9KG75ESalvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward.

I spied this one advertised on Amazon and picked it up for my Kindle.  The book is about a poor family in Mississippi whose home and lives are threatened by an impending hurricane, and it is moreso about their lives than about pitbulls directly.  I list it on here because ever present in the family’s lives is puppy momma and fighting pitbull, China.  This was in no way a feel-good book about pitbulls, but a realistic portrayal of the (regrettable) lives that some pitbulls live.  It was interesting and a quick read, though it left me feeling a little bit sad for both human and dog alike.

lostdogsThe Lost Dogs by Jim Gorant. 

Caution: will bring tears to your eyes.  Gorant writes a no nonesense account of the seizure and rescue of Michael Vick’s pitbulls from beginning to present day.  I felt like I learned a lot while reading this book, I felt a huge variety of emotions, and I felt so very proud of the resilience inside the heart of so many pitbulls.  This story needed to be told and Gorant has delivers in a big way.

 

And on my ‘to read’ list are even more pitbull related books:
The Pit Bull Placebo: The Media, Myths and Politics of Canine Aggression by Karen Delise.  I have not read this yet, but TU member Michelle has written an excellent review of this book (click here to view!)  The book details how pitbull (and non-pitbull) attacks are poorly represented and sensationalized in the media.
Love Like a Dog by Anne Calcagno.
Four Feet Tall and Rising: A Memoir by Shorty Rossi. Rossi is known for his Animal Planet TV show Pit Boss.  I was excited to see this book on my library’s New Release shelf, and mentally promised to read it.  I love a good memoir, especially one written by a pitbull lover.
The Dog Who Spoke With Gods by Diane Jessup. Fiction story about a pre-med student who happens upon Damien, a “lab rat” pitbull.
The Angel On My Shoulder: My Life with an American Pit Bull Terrier by Jolene Mercandante. 

Studious Molly

Well, what are you waiting for? Get reading!

Our Favorite Useful Everyday Cues

Patricia McConnell recently did a short series on her blog where she talked about some of her/her readers’ favorite “non-traditional” cues (which is to say cues that fall outside of the standard litany of sit-down-stay-come.) Her post started a conversation within the Team about the cues we’ve taught that have been the most useful for us in our everyday life-with-dogs. Here are some of our favorites!

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