Dogs Play Because It’s Fun, But Is It That Important?

Dogs love to play. 

Why?

Because it’s fun!!

Just imagine: running around, squeaking toys, solving puzzles, all while feeling carefree and independent! That sure sounds good to me.

Puppies learn from the world around them by touching, smelling, hearing, and even mouthing anything that crosses their to better understand their surroundings, much like human children! A puppy who plays, is a puppy who gains valuable life experience that will benefit them for years to come.

Life experience that is acquired as a puppy in play includes:

  • Problem solving
  • Higher functioning motor skills
  • Better awareness of their body
  • Understanding social cues among dogs and humans
  • Methods to relieve stress and anxiety

Dogs who do not experience adequate play during puppyhood and adolescence are more likely to develop some behavioural issues as an adult. 

Note: I would like to mention that not all behavioural issues are major. The behaviour scale to me feels more like the colour scale than plain black or white.The intensity of a behaviour can be caused by a combination of several smaller issues.

Some of the behaviours one may find as a cause (but not limited to) a lack of play in early life be be; excessive anxiety, pent up energy, a lack of manners, and a higher likelihood of finding their own sense of entertainment. Entertainment they find without human guidance comes with its own set of complications as you may find them redecorating your living room with pillow stuffing!

When a dog plays with other dogs, it strengthens the bond between them and opens up the opportunity to develop better social skills. Dogs have a wonderful form of communication which is primarily focused on body language. From a very young age, their mother begins to communicate these unspoken rules and shape the pup’s manners as best she knows. Because of this, playful puppies become more well-adjusted adults who understand the social boundaries of others better than those who do not get taught through play.

The benefits described above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the importance of play to a dog. So to answer the opening question, yes, play really IS that important to a dog!

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Diabetes in Canines: Mellitus and Insipidus

Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is caused by abnormal or lack of production of insulin or from an incorrect response from the cells to the insulin that is being produced. Metabolism is the process that allows use of nutrients in the body such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins, while insulin triggers the digestive conversation to turn these nutrients into glucose in the bloodstream. Vasopressin (also called Antidiuretic Hormone or Antidiuretic Vasopressin) is a hormone produced in the pituitary gland and has effects in the kidney, stimulating the release of insulin so an incorrect response can cause issues directly relating to diabetes. Canine diabetes has two types, similarly to that of the human versions, Diabetes Mellitus and Diabetes Insipidus. 

Diabetes Insipidus is a much more rare form of diabetes. It is commonly developed as a result of trauma to the brain, tumor on the pituitary gland, birth defect, or idiopathic (cause unknown). Symptoms of diabetes insipidus include polydipsia (increased thirst), polyuria (increased urine production), dehydration, incontinence, hunger, weight loss and lethargy. This type of diabetes has a lack of response from the cells receiving the insulin. Part of the kidney’s job is to maintain the balance of water in the body by appropriately excreting and re-absorbing. Absorption requires the antidiuretic hormone (ADH), also known as Arginine Vasopressin (AVP) to be at an adequate level for efficiency. 

Diabetes Mellitus is often referred to as “sugar diabetes” and is the result of disrupted pancreas function and the abnormal regulation of blood sugar within the dog’s body. If the kidney is not functioning properly it will result in a shortage of insulin being produced. Without insulin an accumulation of sugar builds in the blood and spills into urine, this is why this type of diabetes is referred to as Sugar Diabetes as sugar in the urine produces a sweeter smell than normal. Sugar levels in the brain control a dog’s appetite, so without insulin the brain becomes sugar deprived so the dog may feel hungry constantly. However, even if the dog is hungry and eating more, it may still become underweight due to improper use of nutrients from it’s diet. Symptoms for diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus are similar and many do overlap including; increased thirst and urination, vomiting, weight loss, increased or decreased appetite, lethargy, depression, weakness and loss of muscles,  and  dandruff. 

Both diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus can affect a dog of any age however it is more commonly occuring in middle-aged to senior dogs. There is no cure, and treatments include weight loss, diet and possibly daily insulin shots from the dog’s owner if there is a lack of insulin naturally being produced. Dogs with diabetes are more likely to develop secondary health problems such as cataracts, blindness, bladder infection, kidney disease and nerve deterioration to name a few. Diabetes is very manageable and many dogs, cats and humans alike can continue living a relatively normal and uninterrupted life as long as the condition is monitored and treatments vary as needed. 

If your dog is exhibiting any of these symptoms, contact your local veterinarian and talk to them about treatment options.

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Why Quality Pet Food Important to Your Dog’s Health

Why is Quality Food So Important:

Consuming quality food filled with the right mixture of nutrients, protein and water content is important for a dog to maintain proper bodily functions. These bodily functions include meeting appropriate energy levels, maintaining a healthy muscle tone, and controlled weight. 

Just like when we eat junk meals, low quality food for our dogs means their hunger is not satisfied like a balanced meal would. Let’s be real, we’ve all eaten like trash for a week and felt tired, run-down, still hungry and also a little gross. Imagine your precious dog feeling this way every day of their life, living on the same low-quality diet for every meal. Not so nice, is it?

For a species-appropriate food, it should include the following characteristics:

  • Animal-based protein (some plant protein can be used, but primarily animal is best)
  • A high moisture content
  • Little to no starch content
  • Animal fat content
  • Vegetables and fruit 

Note: If you are looking at changing your pet’s diet, be sure to research which brands and type of food are best suited to your pet’s age, size, activity level, and specific health/nutritional needs. I would also advise you contact your vet for support in your decision, especially if you notice any new behavioural or physical issues in your pet.

What are a dog’s nutritional needs?

Protein, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, fats, and water.

  • Protein comes from plant and animal sources and is required for muscle growth and repair. Dogs have different protein requirements depending on age, activity levels, previous requirements and metabolism. Protein becomes more difficult to digest the higher quality it is.
  • Carbohydrates are not required in diet but provide a great source of energy. They are digestible and are easily absorbed into the bloodstream through the digestive tract.
  • Minerals are inorganic substances. They are used for muscle contraction, cell signalling, and nervous system functions.
  • Vitamins are organic substances that are absorbed into the intestine with dietary fat. They are needed to maintain healthy skin and coat, to strengthen their teeth and bones and provide overall energy.
  • Fats are used for energy, growth and metabolism. They provide the most energy out of all components in a dogs’ diet and are easy to digest. Too much fat in the diet may result in obesity, especially in less active dogs, and too little fat may cause dryness in the skin and coat.
  • Water is a vital part of a dog’s diet. It hydrates the body and is used to aid in digestion as well as carrying important nutrients in and out of cells. Water makes up 70% of the body’s mass, so dogs are likely to die from dehydration sooner than they would from starvation.

What to look for in your pet’s food:

Pet food companies are required to list the ingredients on the packaging of their food. The most important component of your dog’s diet should be protein provided by an animal source. The ingredient list is sorted by heaviest content to lightest content, so when looking at the ingredients, one should find a specific animal-based protein either first on the list or within the first few items.

As humans are with our own food, we often try to avoid artificial colouring and flavours, and so we should do the same for our pets. Artificial colourings only appease the owners, the dog doesn’t mind what colour their food is! Lower-quality pet food companies often add artificial sweeteners to cheaply add to the calorie content of the pet food. This is dangerous because it can quickly lead to unnecessary weight gain of your pet.

High-quality pet food sticks to the same recipe and remains unchanged from batch-to-batch. What we often see in low-quality foods are these great terms: ‘by-products’, and ‘and/or’. This post was actually inspired by my own research into pet food when I noticed on the label of Purina’s Supercoat (that I’ve been feeding my dog almost his whole life) “Meat and meat by-products (chicken, beef, kangaroo, lamb, and/or pork). This wouldn’t have concerned me so much if it hadn’t been advertised as “With Real Kangaroo” only, which it was. So that made me question what quantity of meat products was really in my dog’s food.

This inconsistency between food is called an “open recipe”, meaning the contents may be subject to change between batches. These changes would be due to availability of resources, for example: there are more chicken carcasses available from the human chain of leftovers this month, therefore we will use chicken as the main component.

Over the next month I will be continuing my research into the pet food industry. Posts to look out for:

  • Are Domestic Dogs Carnivores or Do They Prefer an Omnivore Diet?
  • Pet Food Brand Comparison
  • Dry vs Wet vs Raw Diets (Pros and Cons of Each)
  • Nutritional Requirements Through the Ages

If you have any questions, queries or have a suggested topic of research, feel free to leave a comment, contact me through the contact page, or find me on Facebook here

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The 7 Wonders – Breed Groups

I once tried to name as many dog breeds as I could off the top of my head, and for pure-breeds I only made it to about 50. According to ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club) there are 212 registered pure breeds in Australia, so as a dog lover and learner, I could only name less than a quarter of all registered breeds! This made me more curious about different breeds and their categories. This past week I have been learning about the seven “groups” that divide the 212 breeds registered here in Australia.

Group 1: Toys

The Toy group is made of 25 breeds including; Chihuahuas, Havanese, Bichon Frise, Pugs, Pomeranians and Yorkshire Terrier.

They were predominantly bred as companion or lap dogs which is how they continue to serve as domestic dogs. They have friendly personalities, love attention and can be fiercely loyal to their owners. As the name Toy suggests, they are of small size and generally do not require much exercise

Group 2: Terriers

The Terrier group has 31 breeds including: Airedale Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Wire Fox Terrier, Jack Russell Terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Staffy).

The name “terrier” drives from the latin word “terra”, which means earth. Terriers were selectively bred to hunt and chase vermin on and above ground.  They are known to be feisty, brave, tough and extremely energetic.

Group 3: Gundogs

There are 32 breeds that belong to the Gundog group, it can also be further divided into three sub categories (retrievers, pointers and spaniels). Some examples of gundogs are: German Shorthaired Pointer, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, English Springer Spaniel, and the Weimaraner.

Gundogs are very trainable and were originally bred to work in a team of people and/or dogs to find and retrieve wounded game. Some breeds such as the Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever are often found to be in the top 10 most popular dog breeds. They are friendly in nature, with rare occurrences of aggressive behaviour making them a fantastic companion dog for families (as long as their exercise requirements are met). 

Group 4: Hounds

The Hound group has 30 breeds under its title including the Beagle, Basset Hound, Pharaoh Hound, Dachshund, Greyhound, Afghan Hound and Borzoi. This group can also be further divided into sight hounds and scent hounds.

Sight Hounds such as the Borzoi and Greyhound were bred for their incredible sight for hunting prey. They generally have long, sleek bodies and have been referred to the Cheetah of the dog world because of their speed. They can sprint at a fast pace but spend the majority of their time sleeping off these bursts of speed. Scent Hounds, like Beagles and Basset Hounds, are located much closer to the ground and have large ears that actually help them retain scents they find.

Group 5: Working Dogs

There are 34 breeds in the Working Dog breed group, making it the second largest group by the ANKC. This group contains breeds such as: the Border Collie, German Shepherd Dog, Komondor, Kelpie, and Old English Sheepdogs.

As the name suggests, this group of dog has been bred for working purposes over the centuries. Work for these dogs is to herd and protect livestock such as cattle or sheep. They have high trainability and a high energy to match. If they are not in a family that is working them for their original purpose they must provide plenty of physical and mental stimulation to keep this type of breed happy.

Group 6: Utility

This is the largest breed group according to the ANKC with a total of 36 breeds. Breeds included in the group are the Boxer, Dobermann, Alaskan Malamute, St. Bernard, Samoyed, Tibetan Mastiff and Newfoundland.

Utility dogs were bred to perform all other work besides the herding/protecting of stock like the Working Dogs. Utility dog jobs include things like sled pulling, search and rescue, and guarding – just to name a few. These dogs are active and loyal and are mostly medium or large in size.

Group 7: Non-Sporting

The Non-Sporting group is the smallest of the ANKC breed group with only 24 breeds in it. Breeds in this group include the Boston Terrier, French Bulldog, Great Dane, Dalmatian, Lhasa Apso and Poodles of all sizes (Standard, Miniature and Toy).

In this group there is a wide range of sizes, energy levels, and origins, in fact the only thing they do have in common is that they don’t belong with any other group! This group is made up of breeds that were bred for a purpose originally but have not been used for that purpose in recent times and no longer fit in with the other six breed groups. This is not to say that they no longer serve a purpose in our lives now, as they make for some incredible companion and family dogs. 

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Five Types of Food Dogs Shouldn’t Consume

Avocado – Avocados, and their trees, contain a chemical substance called Persin which is toxic to dogs. When ingested in large amounts it can cause vomiting/diarrhea, heart attacks and even pancreatitis due to its high fat content. 

Dairy – Dairy products such as milk are not a nutritional requirement for dogs post needing their mothers’ milk. Dairy contains the sugar Lactose and when ingested may cause digestive upset and abdominal discomfort. Due to a lack of specific digestive enzymes dogs, are unable to break down lactose molecules and will likely end up expelling these in the form of vomiting or diarrhea. 

Nuts – Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, pecans and especially macadamias contain high amounts of fats and oils which dogs cannot process properly. Eating even a few nuts (depending on the dog’s size) can cause poisoning resulting in vomiting and diarrhea. Macadamias can cause weakness, depression, muscle tremors, and in extreme cases; paralysis and/or pancreatitis.

Alcohol – The effects of alcohol are the same in humans as it is in dogs, however it only takes a little to do a lot more harm. Dogs who have ingested alcohol will have damage to the brain and liver and may exhibit decreased coordination, vomiting/diarrhea, difficulty breathing, central nervous system depression, coma and even death. 

Caffeine – Similar to alcohol, dogs react to caffeine in the same way humans do with an elevated heart rate, hyperactivity and restlessness. However after only a few laps of a coffee, fizzy drink or tea they may be susceptible to caffeine poisoning which includes the above symptoms as well as vomiting, elevated blood pressure, tremors, seizures and collapse. 

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You Smell Spaghetti, Your Dog Smells Each Ingredient

Dogs have a sense of smell about a thousand better than humans. They can differentiate scents at very low levels and distinguish between slight variations and because of this dogs are often used for scent detection as working dogs due to the fact science cannot produce a process for smelling like this. Dogs have this fascinating ability when ‘sniffing’ of exhaling from the slits on the side of their nose so as to not push the scent away with each exhalation. 

Dogs have what’s commonly known as a wet nose, which aids in their olfactory (smelling) abilities. A mucus gland in the naval cavity produces this moisture so when molecules pass over the moist surface of the nose they dissolve and signals are sent from the receptor cells to the olfactory center in the brain. Their two nostrils also lead to the naval cavity which contain ethmoturbinate bones that are also lined with olfactory receptor cells. All olfactory receptor cells are carried to the olfactory bulb in the brain for analysis. In the dogs’ brain the olfactory bulb is the centre for all things smell related and is located in the foreground of the brain. Humans also have an olfactory bulb, however it is about 40x smaller than that of a dogs’.   

It’s no wonder we see our dogs get caught up sniffing the air when we can’t smell anything. They can detect such intricate scents, even hours after the small has passed for us.

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Why Grooming is Important to the Health of a Dog

Dogs need to be groomed for a number of reasons. The main reason is to maintain a strong and healthy coat. Some dog breeds shed their coat more heavily, such as Huskies and Akitas, so these breeds benefit from additional brushing to help rid the excess hair in warmer seasons. Some breeds do not shed much at all, such as the Poodle or Maltese, and need regular hair trimming otherwise they end up with a very long coat.

The brushing frequency depends on the breed of dog and their type of coat, for example those heavy, double coat breeds like the Husky, could use a solid brushing down every day because of how quickly and intensely they shed their coat. Short and smooth coat breeds, such as the Boxer, do not require daily brushing, however regular brushing does aid in the removal of dirt and loose hair.

Not only is brushing beneficial to the coat of a dog, but it also helps in skin health. When a dog is brushed, the natural oils produced from the skin are more evenly distributed across the body which aids in the health of the skin, keeping it moisturised and protected.

Much like in human cleanliness, there is more to being well groomed than just brushing our hair. Washing and bathing is important for dogs to help give their fur and skin a deep clean, however bathing too frequently can strip natural oils from the body and dry out their skin. It is recommended to wash your dog at least once every three months, but you can bathe them sooner if they begin to smell or are visibly dirty. It is important to note that some dogs need bathing more than others. This can be due to the breed and type of coat, whether they are inside or outside dogs, or their puddle-jumping and mud-rolling tendencies!

So, now that we have discussed coat and skin grooming, we can talk about the other departments of grooming. To many people, these next few seem less obvious and are often overlooked by owners:

In order to have a properly, well-groomed dog they must have: nails at an appropriate length, good dental hygiene, and ears free from dirt and “gunk”.

  • Nail trimming is important for the dogs walking comfort as well as saving your legs and couch from scratches if they jump. Using a pair of dog nail clippers is the quickest way to trim long nails, though I have heard that if you regularly take your dogs on walks on the concrete pathways, this can help naturally file down their nails (Do not force them to run, or drag them on concrete as this will tear up their foot pads!).
  • Bad dental hygiene can be detrimental to a dog later in their life and the best way to cure it is to prevent it with regular teeth brushing – however many people provide their dogs with bones and dental treats/toys when the teeth brushing is difficult.
  • The cleaning of a dog’s ears is another important aspect in caring for your dog, one that is overlooked by many dog owners. Excess buildup of dirt and grime on the ears can become infected and painful for a dog. 

As mentioned above, different breeds have different grooming needs to be met. Here are 3 breeds of dog that have very different coats and their grooming requirements:

Golden Retriever: The Golden Retriever has a “double coat” to protect them in all weather conditions throughout the years, this means they may shed heavily as the seasons change and will benefit from daily brushing. A variety of brushes will be needed to maintain this beautiful coat such as: a slicker brush for matting, and a firm bristle brush and a wire pin brush for the outer coat. It is recommended to brush with the grain for the outer coat and against the grain for the undercoat. Goldens require regular bathing to prevent a buildup of dirt and dander in the long coat but do not require shaving, only trimming around their ears, feet and tails. This breed is prone to ear infections so regular ear cleaning is vital for their health.

Komondor: Being a corded coat breed, this dog does not require brushing, but that does mean they need extensive coat care using other methods. Komondors’ coats naturally begin to cord at about 8 months of age and continues throughout their lifetime. It is recommended that their owner spends about an hour a week, maintaining these cords and separating them by hand to prevent full-blown matting. Bathing is often a full day affair because their mop-like coats can hold dirt and water extremely well. It is best to spray them with the hose as soon as they get dirty to rinse them as needed. Deep clean bathes are suggested to take place once every few months, using a canine shampoo to wash, and setting up in front of a fan to dry for the few hours following.

Boxer: This breed has a smooth coat that does not require daily brushing, however it is a good idea to brush as often as you can to remove any shed hairs and dirt, as well as helping the natural oils get distributed along the body. The best brush for a smooth coat breed, such as the Boxer, is a bristle brush. When brushing, start from the head and work your way down to the tail, brushing in line with the hair growth direction. Boxers generally have good teeth but will benefit majorly with teeth brushing twice a week.

Grooming dogs is a great way to bond with them as there is an opportunity to create a positive experience with them every time. Along with bonding, grooming a dog gets them used to being physically handled which brings great benefits during your regular vet visit or in an emergency. The dog becomes accustomed to being brushed down, paws handled and nails clipped, teeth brushed and inspection of the mouth, and in many breed cases they become comfortable with the buzzing sound of a clipper and standing up high on a bench.

Who knew that brushing and bathing could make your pooch so healthy, all while building a stronger bond with you!

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Puppy Socialisation

Before we go through the “how and what” of socialisation, I want to explain the biological “why”.

There are four stages of puppy development: Neonatal (first two weeks of life), Transitional (week 3), Socialisation (weeks 3-16) and Juvenile (from 16 weeks to 6 months). These are all crucial to a puppy’s development menetally and emotionally. Since many new dog owners bring their puppy home at around 8-10 weeks, I’ll focus on the socialisation and juvenile periods.

The socialisation period occurs between the puppy’s first 3-16 weeks of life (approximately) and can be broken into two parts:

  • The first part, sometimes referred to as the Primary Socialisation Period, is when the puppy learns that they are a dog. They will begin to learn about their environment and start picking up on social cues from their mother and littermates. They will start to initiate and engage in play with their siblings and learn to control their biting through this play. 
  • The second part, known as the Secondary Socialisation Period, is typically when the puppy is moved away from his mother and siblings and into their new human home. It is very important to continue socialisation and getting the pup to positively experience as many situations as possible. During this time, the puppy is due to have its first fear-impact period, where scary or bad experiences will have a lasting impact through to adulthood. It is best to remove them from these situations instead of scolding or coddling them as it can only reinforce the negative emotions. 

The juvenile period extends from about the 16 week mark through to adolescence or sexual maturity, which is aproximately the 6 month mark. As their motor skills gradually improve, as do their learning and training capabilities, however they do still have a short attention span so just because they may be capable doesn’t mean they will sit still long enough to learn! The puppy will also go through a second fear-impact stage similar to the first, again, it is best to calmly remove them from these situations without coddling or scolding  to prevent the fear being reinforced.

So as you can see, early socialisation of your pup is imperative. Many people believe socialisation only means meeting new people and dogs, however, that is not true. Socialisation includes people and pets, yes, but also includes visiting new locations, riding in cars, experiencing a variety of sounds and smells, walking on new surfaces, being exposed to different situations and even doing these things during different times of the day.

Socialisation vs vaccination schedule 

Now, you may be thinking “I thought the vaccination schedule is supposed to greatly limit these sorts of interactions? How can I do both?” and that’s a good question. We have to weigh up the importance of both and of course comply with as many safety limitations as possible. However, appropriate socialisation early on in a puppies life may be more valuable that the harsh restrictions a vaccination schedule brings.

Here are some socialisation no-gos and some alternate options for you and your pup until they are fully vaccinated and you have the go-ahead from your vet. 

Socialisation don’ts include:

  • Walking down the street (even on a leash)
  • Dog parks or beaches
  • Neighbourhood parks (unless carried or in a stroller) 

Alternate Socialisation Methods:

  • Carrying or using a stroller when taking an unvaccinated puppy out for a walk. This allows them to see, hear and smell the environment without being exposed to the risks that lay on the pathways or grass.
  • Taking your puppy over to a friend’s house, with or without dogs. Make sure there have been no sick puppies or unvaccinated dogs in this area in the past year to prevent illness spreading to the susceptible puppy. 
  • Likewise, invite people and appropriate dogs to come visit in your home. It is best that the puppy is introduced to a range of ages and genders, as well as people with crutches, glasses, hats, etc. They will learn that all types of humans bring positive experiences and they are less likely to become oddly fearful in the future.

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Basic Breed Guide: Boxers

As an introduction to the Basic Breed Guide stream of articles, I wanted to share a breed that personally hits close to my heart: Boxers. This breed is an affectionate, high-energy, goofball that just aims to please and have fun! Because of their playful nature and boundless energy, they are sometimes called the “Peter Pan” of the dog breeds. This is also due to the fact that this breed is found to act like a puppy regardless of what their age is!

Growing up, the first dog my family had was a Boxer. Her name was Zoe and she was so clever and immediately trusting of anyone she met. She was happy to be played with or happy to play on her own and was an absolute lapdog from the time she was a 10 week old puppy right up until she passed at 8 years old. About 3 years after we welcomed Zoe into our family we started gearing up for another puppy and “surprise, surprise”, we got another Boxer. Taz was our next little addition and she had such a different personality to our girl, Zoe. Taz was so skinny for a good few years no matter how much she ate, she was the follower to Zoe the Leader, and was quite happy relaxing on the heater vent at the front window. 

When these two got into their crazy zoomy mode, they would play this game in our split-level backyard. Zoe would be on the top level near the house, and Taz would be down on the lower section. In the middle connecting the two there was a staircase of about 10 stairs and a garden hills either side, running the width of the yard. Zoe would run back and forth along the top, barking and taunting her little sister who would be running the same laps on the lower level. Taz would return this noise and run up the side hills (through the garden beds, of course) chasing her sister, run back down the hill, and repeat. This activity looked completely exhausting and sometimes only lasted a few minutes before they plopped onto the ground in the sun or in the shade on the deck. 

Boxers are a medium sized dog with a muscular body originally bred to hunt wild boar and drive cattle. They have short, sleek coats that come in either fawn (red) or brindle, with or without white markings on their feet, legs, belly, chest or face. Boxers do not have the gene for black fur although most have black markings on the face, often covering the eyes, muzzle and cheeks.Their short coat makes grooming an easy task, however they do require regular brushing to avoid build up of loose hairs covering your black pants or couch! A key visual feature of this bread is their short muzzle due to being a brachycephalic breed. This breed is a house dog who is not suited to outdoor living because of the short snout and coat, though it is recommended they have a large, fenced area to run and play in. These dogs are high in energy and need ample daily exercise to maintain the “crazy”, as well as keeping their muscular bodies toned. 

This breed is prone to its fair share of health problems, as does any breed. Though they may be predispositioned to some of these, not all Boxers will experience all or any of these in their lifetime. Boxers are prone to a variety of cancers, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, eye disease, deafness, dental disease, and gastrointestinal conditions such as GDV (bloat, or torsion). They have an average lifespan of 10-12 years though can be considered senior from 7 years old.

Training Boxers is an important task, but it is very doable. As I mentioned with my old girl, Zoe, Boxers are very clever and can learn new things quickly. With basic obedience training they become this amazing well-behaved family dog. Without training, they have the potential to be difficult to manage as their high energy and playfulness can cause them to tear apart sofas and jump fences. As with any animal, using positive training methods are the most successful a Boxer. Generally, they are a food motivated breed and so eager to please – with that combination you can teach them just about anything!

All-in-all, they are a sweet souled breed who love to learn, play and cuddle. They are a worthy breed and I am so glad that I got to know them personally.

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Why Training is Important and Three Exercises to Get You Started

Training is important for a number of reasons, for your dog, yourself, and for the community around you. Dogs naturally exhibit behaviours that will not immediately align with our learned human standards, so it is up to us to help guide them towards meeting our expectations. Training can be broken into two rough sections: behavioural and obedience. 

Basic behavioural training teaches the difference between good and bad manners and habits. Teaching them good manners gives you more control of the dog, i.e. a calm and seated dog when you enter the house as opposed to jumping on guests as they enter through the front door. For behavioural training to be effective, one must also teach some basic, but important, obedience commands, such Sit, Stay, Come and Leave.

Obedience training is a great way to further develop the relationship between you and your dog, especially if you are the one training them. Obedience training reinforces previously learned behavioural training and even expands on these exercises for some added fun and brain-work. 

Training sets ground rules for your pooch, allowing you to love them more. It makes for a more comfortable home life, more appropriate behaviour in public, and it lets owners feel good about having a ‘well-trained pup’. In turn, the dog generally lives a happier and more emotionally stable life as he understands which behaviours are rewarded with affection, and which behaviours will earn him a telling off.

When dogs are untrained, humans tend to become frustrated. They may begin to believe the dog “knows what to do, he’s just being stubborn”. This kind of mentality stems from the owner teaching the dog something once or twice (e.g. to not steal food off the counter) but doesn’t reinforce this behaviour with consistent training. Often, frustrated owners of dogs that “misbehave” will punish their dog in one way or another, sometimes it’s neglect, sometimes it’s abuse, sometimes it’s giving the dog away. 

For training to be effective, one must understand what it is they’re aiming to achieve. Sometimes, the main goal involves a 100-step process. Teaching a dog anything may only take a half hour, but it could be forgotten by the next morning. Arguably, the most important aspect of training is consistency. This means training the behaviour in the kitchen, then in the backyard, then in the driveway, the paths, ovals, parks, etc.. It is no easy feat to train your dog, but it is worth it if you want a dog that behaves well at home and in public.

Here are three basic obedience exercises to practice with your dog:

Recall: Teaching a dog recall is a vital exercise, so it is important to nail. Common problems when teaching recall include: the dog responding too slow to the command, not coming all the way to you, or not coming at all. If any of this is the case, it is a good idea to go back to square one. Starting at home, try to use just one room of the house so you are never too far away from your dog. I would start by calling the dog’s name, and rewarding when he looks – this will reinforce that when you call his name, you want his attention and the dog to say “yes, what?” (figuratively). Next, re-introduce the signal and command “Come”. Make yourself seem SO exciting there is no way the dog will want to go anywhere else, praise and repeat. Slowing work on introducing distractions and distance (one at a time). If moving to an outside environment, start with the dog on leash before removing. Anytime you introduce a new part, reward big as the dog may not necessarily see it as the same exercise. Starting from the beginning will reinforce the urgency of returning to the owner, as well as coming the entire way.

Stay: The stay command is another important practice for a well-behaved pup. For this example, we are training our dog to Stay in a sit position beside our left leg facing forward. One common problem I see when beginning to teach this exercise is the dog swivels on the spot to see where you’re going, or even stands up and tries to come with you. What I’ve found helps is setting yourself and your dog next to a wall, so the doggy-sandwich order goes: wall, dog, trainer. From here, the dog will have less space to swivel and should become accustomed to not being able to move during this command. However, please ensure your dog is not tightly pressed in, there should be no touching between the dog and wall, and dog and yourself. Using the stay command, taking a step with your right leg, pivoting on your left, and stand toe-to-toe in front of your dog, step back immediately and praise. This shows them they have no need to come with you. Slowly move away from the wall and introduce distance, duration and distraction (little by little, one at a time). Never be afraid to go back to basics every now and then, even if the dog can do a 5-minute sit-stay while you stand 20 metres away.

Down: A Down position is normally more comfortable for a dog than Sit. This exercise may be used in a down-stay combination (shown in photo above), as part of a Relax command or just one to add to the obedience repertoire. The most common issue I’ve seen with this exercise is when the dog sits straight back up, quicker than you can return your hand. For this, I would recommend placing treats on the ground where the dog’s nose/mouth is to encourage staying flat on the floor for longer. It also teaches that the reward actually comes “from the ground” and not “from the hand” therefore they should stop following your hand after they’ve been commanded Down. 

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