Feature Articles

 

The following feature articles are by Dennis and Tina Homes. They are examples of the types of articles found at Cavalier as Companions. Please visit the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club UK to read more. You will find a link to the Cavaliers As Companions page on the left hand menu. Enjoy!


GRASS SEEDS

We’ve mentioned the problem of grass seeds becoming lodged in a dog’s pads several times on these pages, but just recently we have had dogs coming in to our grooming parlour that have undergone treatment for grass seeds in their ears. Grass seeds are shaped like tiny darts, once they have pierced the skin the grass seed can’t get out and will start to track their way deeper into the body. Their bristly arrow-like fibres allow them to cling with ease onto your dog’s hair, while the pointed shape makes it easy for them to dive deeper and deeper. The seeds can also enter the nose, get between the eye and eyelids, burrow their way into the deep fur around the toes and feet, and can even make their way into the ears, resulting in severe pain, inflammation and the risk of infection. One of our clients regularly takes her dog for a walk across a field and then let the dog off lead. The dog loves to roll over in the grass and this is the most likely way that a grass seed got into its ear. So how will you notice if grass seeds are causing a problem? You may notice your dog itching, shaking his head, rubbing his head along the floor and even walking at a tilted angle. Grass seeds in the ear can potentially cause a range of problems, and if in doubt, seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. If you have a dog that loves to roll in grass then it is preferable to walk mainly on areas where the grass is kept short. Always check regularly, particularly after every walk. You may have difficulty spotting the smaller seeds, so comb your dog with a fine comb to ensure that there is nothing clinging there. If you suspect your dog has a grass seed in the ear, and you can’t get to a vet straight away, you could try filling the ear with a little warm olive oil and gently massaging the ear. If you are lucky, the grass seed will float to the top on the oil, and you can remove it, but if not, it generally softens the seed so it is not as painful. But this should only be used as a very last resort, it is always best to get veterinary attention as early as you can.


SOCIALIZING A PUPPY

One of the main causes for bad behaviour among dogs is the lack of socializing when it was a young puppy. Aggressive behaviour, nervousness, howling, destructiveness and lack of house training often have their root cause in the way that the dog was first brought up as a puppy. A young puppy needs to be exposed to as many different and new experiences as possible to prepare them for later life. Dogs that have not had this early socialisation may grow up to be fearful of people, things and places and this can lead to many problems including aggression. Socialisation can be described as the process whereby an animal learns how to recognise and interact with the species with which it cohabits. In the wild this is likely to be limited to the animal’s own species, but for the domestic dog it includes other species such as humans and cats. By learning how to interact with other creatures the socialised dog develops communication skills which enable it to recognise whether or not it is being threatened and how to recognise and respond to the intentions of others. A properly socialized puppy is well adjusted and makes a good companion. It is neither frightened by nor aggressive towards anyone or anything that it would normally meet in an everyday situation. An un-socialized dog is untrustworthy and can be a liability. They often become fear-biters. Often they like to fight with other dogs. They are difficult to train and are generally unpleasant to be around. Dogs that have not been properly socialized cannot adapt to new situations and a simple routine visit to the vet is a nightmare not only for the dog itself, but for everyone involved.

Socialization most easily occurs before the puppy is 3 months old. Any later than that and it becomes an extremely difficult and time-consuming process. When you first introduce a new puppy into your home it is important to get it accustomed to many different sights and sounds. Slowly introduce it to the things in your household. If your puppy growls at an object or person, do not pick him up and cuddle him. This reaction will be rewarding to your puppy, and will intensify the dog’s behaviour. It will teach him that the way to react to fear is to growl. Growling can lead to biting. The puppy should be corrected, much like a mother dog would do to her own puppy. It is important to be firm and consistent. Tell him ‘NO’ and then show him the object and reassure him that there is nothing to be fearful of. Take your puppy out as often as you can. We realise that a puppy cannot be walked in the street until it has had its course of injections, but you can still carry him in your arms and walk him down the road to accustom him to things like traffic. Show him all kinds of sights, sounds, people and animals, but do be careful when introducing your puppy to other dogs and animals if you are unsure of their behaviour. Know your dog’s traits and use your best judgment. Always correct your puppy if he shows any signs of aggression or domination toward another animal or person. Do not dismiss it as being cute behaviour. Teach your children to respect the puppy, and teach your puppy to respect your children. Never tolerate growling. Growling is unacceptable and can be the first sign that your dog thinks he is, or is trying to be the top dog in the pack and you must ensure that he knows that you are top dog.

It is also a good idea to introduce friends over to meet your pup so that it soon gets used to seeing lots of different people such as old people, young children, men and women. Once the puppy has had its vaccinations allow it to meet other friendly dogs and even dog friendly cats. Even before it has had its injections you could carry him to places where there is lots of activity such as a shopping area or outside a school playground. Make a fuss of the puppy and he would become oblivious to all the hubbub and simply think that it’s all fun. It is also very important to take the puppy on short car rides, even if it is a quick drive around the block. One of the main reasons why dogs suffer from car sickness is because they were not introduced to car journeys as young puppies. Introduce your puppy to all manner of items such as umbrellas, bags, boxes, the vacuum cleaner, etc. Encourage your puppy to explore and investigate his environment and also introduce to new and varied sounds. Loud, obnoxious sounds should be introduced from a distance and gradually brought closer. Even though he may not have much coat you should still get him used to being brushed and groomed each day and also get him used to a toothbrush even if you just rub it very gently against his tiny teeth for a few moments as you make a fuss of him. This way he will get used to the brush as he gets older and requires regular brushing.


WHEN IT’S TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

Farewell, so long, goodbye. How many words do we use when parting? Some have a little more finality than others, and these often are the hardest to use. Saying farewell to a loved one is never easy, and that is equally so when it comes to our canine friends. I was particularly touched just recently on reading of the plight of an elderly lady who lived on her own. She had a very old Labrador that was quite unwell. The lady knew this and avoided as long as she could the day when she would have to ask her Vet to do the only kindest thing. Sadly the RSPCA got to hear of this, and the lady was hauled before the courts charged with cruelty. I can see this story from both sides. The lady loved her friend so much that she knew she would be bereft without her. Perhaps, she also didn’t quite understand how bad the old dog’s quality of life was. This scenario is probably quite a usual thing amongst pet owners. Indeed, Dennis and I have had to face this on more than one occasion. We cling on and hope that tomorrow will bring a better day, but in spite of this the inevitable must be arrived at, and that is knowing just when is the right time to say that final goodbye.

Some of us have been blessed from time to time, when we have lost our dogs through old age, when they have been stolen away in their sleep. There are others which have met with a fatal accident and whilst these experiences are never without pain for us, we have at least been saved from that final act. Our own Vet has helped us in the past with our decision, but it is always the owner who has to have the final say, and knowing when the time is right is never easy. The dog as we know it is a stoic creature. It will battle on in spite of pain and infirmity. Perhaps this is an inherent passed from its ancestors, where if a dog shows it is ailing, it will be set upon by his pack making his dispatch much faster. The Veterinary profession will all agree that the right time is when your dog stops eating. That it may need much encouragement to eat, only to vomit the food back up again. Their joy and love of life is dulled and they become disinterested in taking their daily walk. Then of course the dog may be in considerable pain from some debilitating condition and no amount of medication will ease the discomfort. Whichever malaise affects our furry friends we have to make that final sacrifice and say goodbye. When we have said that hardest word of all, we are momentarily in a state of relief, knowing that our friend is now without pain. However, for some of us there is no consolation. Bereavement is one of the saddest periods in our lives to go through. It is an emotion that will strike many when it comes to our dogs. We should never feel guilty about our feelings. There are many cultures that can never understand why we should mourn the loss of a dog, and some will be derisory in their feelings towards us. These people are bereft of never sharing or understanding the unconditional love and sense of being that our dogs bring to our lives. Treasure you dog’s memory. You may have lost him, but you will be all the richer in mind and spirit for having known and loved him.

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