11 April 2011

Dog care tips

Some Dog Care Tips
  • Dogs should always be in collar. Even while bathing he should not be without the collar. A tag mentioning the name of the dog, the owners name and address should always be attached to the collar of the dog. Also use a leash when you are taking your dog out for a walk. If there is a swimming pool in your house make sure of training your puppy not to go close to the pool.
  • Your dog would need plenty of attention in order to make him more close to you. Especially if your dog is of a big size you are required to devote a considerable amount of time to increase the sense of attachment in-between you and your pet. Else, you will find abnormal behavioral changes in your dog.
  • You should take up effective steps to save your dog from the attack of fleas. You may even consult a vet doctor regarding how to get rid of fleas and heart worms. He might turn up with effective flea control suggestions like topical application of Advantage, Front line, Revolution, Sentinel and such. You are advised not to make use of flea collars as they can be dangerous for the health of your dog.
  • Make yourself update with all the vaccinations that are necessary for your dog. Visit the veterinary clinic for routine check up of your dog.
  • Give your dog to eat food items that are made up of pure ingredients. Choose the right dog food item that would have a balanced combination of nutrients like vitamins, protein, minerals and right amounts of calories. Some of dog’s food packets have excess of nutrients and calories that cause harm to the health of the dog. The amount of nutrition to be taken by a dog depends on the age, the breed and the level of activities carried out by your dog. So, be very particular about the nutritious diet that you should be giving to your dog.
  • Dogs are more susceptible to heat than you are. So, especially during the summer season provide your dog with a cool resting place and do not force your dog to run or walk with you or to perform exercises in case your dog is not willing to do so. Give them plenty of water to drink. If you find your dog to be feeling restless due to heat do not hesitate to contact a veterinary doctor as a heatstroke for dogs can be life threatening for them.
  • Make sure of spaying your dog or neutering if you are not willing to face pet over population. It is also beneficial for the health of the dog as well. You will find him to be less restless, aggressive as well as less susceptible to diseases like prostrate cancer and development of tumors related to hormonal activities. Get your male dog neutered when he reaches the age of 5 to 6 months. A female dog if neutered will not have to bear the emotional turmoil and the bleeding that takes place in every three months. The scent of a female when in heat may attract male dogs which are even miles away from

7 April 2011

Help your dog make good choices

There was an anti-drug ad on TV that portrayed a sleazy dealer talking to a group of teenagers while the narrator intoned, “If you don’t talk to your kids about drugs, someone else will.”
I was reminded of this ad after hearing about training advice someone had received to help them with their dog who was prone to barking and biting. Granted the advice was given in regard to other issues, which were-demanding attention and enthusiastic greetings-but the real quality of life challenges were the dog’s insecurity, lack of skills and inappropriate reactions to people and other dogs. What was the advice? Simple and often heard-ignore the dog, do not respond to any attempt by the dog to solicit attention. Attention was to be granted at the behest of the owner, never the dog.
Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, sometimes ignoring a dog makes sense. Effusive greetings for dogs with separation anxiety can be problematic. Shy dogs prefer to be ignored and doing so with submissive pee-ers might save you some paper toweling. After I’ve told my border collie that I will not throw the frisbee again I will ignore any continued attempts to engage me in the game. What troubled me about the advice given in this instance, was that by not acknowledging a dog that is seeking attention or information, in effect, not rewarding that behavior, we should begin to see less of it. Not a problem if you don’t want a soggy tennis ball dropped in your lap repeatedly, but for a dog whose first impulse is often inappropriate, wouldn’t it be better if they did look at us so we could share information and perhaps circumvent bad behavior?
Dogs repeat behaviors they get rewarded for and get better at behaviors they repeat. If anyone is expected to perform a behavior under pressure, whether it’s playing a piano piece on stage, drawing a firearm, rushing into a burning building, or pulling off a triple lutz, their chances of success improve the more they have practiced those behaviors. The same is true for dogs. If we want our dogs to respond to us when they are under pressure they are more likely to be able to if they have opportunities to practice giving us their attention and being rewarded for it.
A dog that wants to engage with their owner is easier to work with than a dog that could care less about the human in control of their life. We can’t teach a dog anything if we can’t get and keep their attention. Sometimes it makes sense to ignore the slimy tennis ball but it may also be a teachable moment that we’d be better off taking advantage of. The behavior we’re trying to fix may not be broken. My dogs should know they can come to me with any questions they have about their triggers, or temptations. I’ll make better choices for them than the pusher in their head.

Dog Potty Training / Behavior Issues

Get him (and his poo) checked out by the vet. Strong smelling poo, especially if its runny, can be a sign of disease such as parvo (very serious) or parasites such as coccidia (not as bad, but still needs treatment)

If one or more dogs are vomiting and being incontinent in the household, I would be very concerned you have illness going on. Hopefully it's just something they got into, but better safe than sorry!

Once you get the health thing sorted out, then tackling the housetraining comes next, and perhaps a lot easier. first off, I just want to say dogs are NOT "stubborn" or "refusing house training".... they just don't have motivations like that.... that being a sort of human emotion we are putting on them. What is most likely is that pup is "trained" to go in his crate.

Somehow in his early experience he learned this is THE place to go... the only safe place. You are going to need to be very creative in figuring out a strategy to fix this pattern. What you need to do is manage him in such a way that he ends up pooping outside with you there so you can reward him for going in the right place. (use a super tasty treat!) You must never scold him for pooping or peeing in your presence, even in the house, because he won't realize the reprimand is for the location... he will think it is "dangerous" to go potty NEAR a human. Usually it is such reprimands that are the origin of these difficult to sort out house training problems.

So you might try having him tethered to you on a 6 foot leash as you move around the house. Take him outside periodically and praise/treat him if he pees. Keep doing this. Eventually he is going to have to poop. The trick is make sure he cannot poop in his crate, but rather poops outside. Therefore, don't put him in his crate. Keep him tethered to you and keep taking him out every half hour or so. If he starts to poop in the house while with you, just stay calm but interrupt him with an upbeat "Let's go outside!" (or what ever phrase you use for going out) and whisk him outside. Maybe he will finish pooping outside, maybe he will be too worried about pooping near you. But the idea is you need to set up this first success somehow, even if that means having your dog tied to you for 2 days. When he finally does poop outside, after he finishes, have a party! Tell him what a great dog he is and give him a jackpot of treats (keep them with you at all times so he gets that reward right away)

Once you have one success, the second one should come a little easier, then it is a matter of building up the positive experiences. Clearly you cannot use his crate during this time.

Again the principles are:
1) prevent the possibility of him pooping in the wrong place by not allowing him access to his crate and keeping him on a tether to you so he cannot sneak off to a back room to poop
2) REWARD his successes

3) Most important, eliminate any punishments for mistakes. Dogs rarely learn what we want them to learn when we punish them for house training accidents. Instead of learning the "inside/outside" distinction what they learn is "safe/dangerous" distinction. That is it is safe to potty while owner is not present and dangerous to potty if owner is around. Thus the dog becomes afraid to potty with you nearby, so you can not get them to go out on a leash and reward them for going in the right spot.

Teaching Your Dog To Greet People Politely

Teaching Your Dog To Greet People Politely

One of the most common problems is that dogs lunge towards people. When that happens, we, embarrassed that our dogs are “out of control”, jerk the dog back and yell at the dog.

Big mistake. Dogs don’t speak English and we can’t explain to them why we are correcting them and if your dog associates the correction with a person approaching instead of the lunging, you can create a human aggressive dog. This happens a lot more than people realize.

“Uh oh!” Here comes a person, I’m going to get jerked and yelled at. I’m going to growl to warn the person to stay away so I don’t get jerked and yelled at.”

And then of course, we are even more upset when the dog growls and jerk harder and the cycles escalates. (Even though we should know to never correct a dog who is growling because we always want to know when the dog is warning us so we don’t get bitten.)

It is very simple to teach your dog to greet people politely. You will need accomplices because it is impossible to teach manners in real life, you need to set the dog up. Your accomplice can be a family member to start, although you will eventually need around 10 accomplices because dogs don’t generalize behaviors well and it takes about 10 people before the dog generalizes the behavior.

1. The accomplice should be about 20’ away from the dog. If you can’t hold the dog, tether the dog. Tie the lead to a tree, slam it in a car door, do whatever is convenient because if the dog pulls you forward, it’s going to take much longer to teach.
2. Cue the dog to sit.
3. The accomplice starts to walk towards the dog. You are a tree, which means no talking or moving, the dog will learn much better if you don’t interfere (scientifically proven).
4. If the dog gets up, the accomplice dead stops and you wait. When the dog is giving you attention, or after about 30 seconds, get the dog’s attention by tapping the dog gently on the butt and cue the dog to sit again. This is the hardest time for humans who are a very verbal species, to be quiet, but it is the most important time for us to be quiet, except to get the dog’s attention if necessary and cueing the dog to sit.
5. The accomplice starts forward again. If the dog gets up, the accomplice dead stops, etc.
6. If the dog gets up 3 times, the accomplice turns and goes back to the “start” about 20’ away.
7. When the accomplice is able to walk all the way to the dog while the dog remains sitting, have a party like there is no tomorrow! The accomplice should pet and praise the dog for at least 20 seconds. If the dog gets up, don’t worry about it at this time, however if the dog jumps, the accomplice must immediately turn away from the dog.
8. Repeat with every family member and friend you can wheedle into helping. When the dog remains sitting, have your accomplice start talking as the accomplice walks towards the dog. This increases the distraction level and even if your dog was rock solid, your dog may get up when the accomplice starts talking.

Talking is an added distraction and very likely to happen in real life, but you start teaching with a quiet accomplice because you teach in steps so the dog can be successful at each step. If you ask too much of the dog, the dog will fail and you never want to set your dog up for failure.

Have the accomplice increase the talking and use a high squeaky voice to get the dog excited, but because you are teaching in steps, don’t add the
high voice until the dog is rock solid sitting with a calm voice.

9. The dog should be kept at home until the behavior is solid. Then the dog can go to the pet store or for walks. When a stranger approaches, politely ask the stranger to help you train your dog and to please stop if the dog gets up. Cue the dog to sit and have the stranger approach. I did this with a Mastiff puppy and everyone was very cooperative. In fact, he loved attention so much that eventually if he thought a person was coming towards him, he would automatically sit. If the person passed him by, he would look so disappointed LOL!
10. Patience, consistency, teaching in steps and letting the dog figure out what the right behavior is are the keys to success!

Copyright 2002 Virginia Wind

havanese dog allergies

Havanese Allergies

You may have heard that Havanese are non-shedding and hypoallergenic. You or other family members have allergies and/or asthma, so is a Havanese a good choice for you?
Maybe… but maybe not. An estimated 10 to 15 per cent of the population is allergic to animals; even so, approximately a third of that group chooses to live with at least one pet in their household. Choosing and living with a Havanese despite having allergies needs a basic understanding of pet allergies and a few sensible guidelines.
Glands in the dog’s skin secrete tiny proteins, which can be a trigger for allergies in people with sensitive immune systems. These proteins linger on the dog’s body but also easily drift in the air. Proteins are also found in a dog’s saliva and urine. Sensitive individuals can be allergic to one or more of these proteins. Dander is the most common allergy trigger, followed by saliva, then urine.
Reactions to these protein allergens vary from person to person, ranging from very mild to severe. Reactions may include sniffling, sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy and watery eyes, skin itch, hives, rashes, headaches, coughing and shortness of breath, wheezing and life-threatening asthma attacks. These can happen as quickly as a few minutes after exposure or 24 hours or more later.
Contrary to long-held belief, no dog breed is truly non-allergenic. Since all dogs of all breeds have skin and produce saliva and urine, they all have the potential of provoking allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. The term “hypoallergenic” is typically used in reference to breeds such as the Havanese that appear to have a lower incidence of provoking allergic reactions. This may be attributed in part to the breed’s tendency to have less dander and to shed less than other breeds. (Havanese may be considered a minimally shedding breed.) Many refer to these as “hypoallergenic” or “allergy friendly” breeds (meaning less likely to provoke an allergic response).
Does that mean that anyone with allergies can add a Havanese to their family without concern of allergic reactions? Not at all. If you or a family member have ever experienced an allergic reaction to any dog or other animal, it’s wise to check for potential allergies to Havanese before choosing one for your family. Allergic reactions to Havanese may be less common, but they can and do happen.
Allergy triggers
If Havanese are considered hypoallergenic, why can a sensitive individual still react to them? Let’s look at some of the potential allergy triggers for a better understanding.
Dander is small particles of dead skin cells that flake off the body as the skin regenerates itself. If dogs have skin, they produce dander. Some breeds, like the Havanese, seem to produce less dander; however, it must be kept in mind that individual dogs produce individual amounts of dander. This means that one Havanese may be more irritating to an allergic individual than another Havanese. Tiny, almost invisible flakes of dander can also float through the air.
Fur. Contrary to popular belief, few people are specifically allergic to dog fur. Rather than reacting to the fur itself, allergic individuals are more likely to be reacting to allergens that cling to the fur. Similarly, it is not specifically the amount or length of hair that causes allergic reactions. While a full-coated Havanese does not necessarily produce more dander than a Havanese with a clipped coat, because of the volume, it has more space to hold dander and may also pick up and carry other allergens more easily. The long luscious Havanese coat can pick up an amazing amount of debris outside, including grass, seeds, dust, pollen, moulds and other allergens that may be additional triggers for allergic individuals.
Shedding. If fur is not specifically an allergen, what does shedding or not shedding have to do with allergies? Dogs that shed profusely may leave more hair everywhere, so allergens carried by the hair are naturally distributed more widely than by breeds that shed less. Havanese are considered a minimally shedding breed.
Saliva. Havanese form strong bonds to their families and can be expressive in their love, with kissing and licking that can be an issue for saliva-sensitive individuals. It’s important to know that saliva protein can also be transmitted by residue lingering on the skin and fur from the dog’s self-grooming. Some Havanese self-groom extensively.
Urine protein is the least likely to provoke allergic reactions since housebroken Havanese eliminate outdoors or in designated areas and there is minimal direct contact. However, urine residue on the fur on the belly or legs may cause unexpected problems in sensitive individuals.
Check for reactions
Tell the breeder about your allergies when you visit. Stay as long as possible; hold, hug, cuddle and kiss all their Havanese – puppies and adults. Rub your face into their fur; let them lick you, especially the sensitive skin on your face and neck and inside your arms. This will test your allergic reaction to dander and saliva and help you determine a basic allergy level to Havanese.
A mild reaction doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot live with Havanese. It may simply mean you need to check further. While some mildly sensitive individuals can tolerate one or two Havanese with few problems, they may not be able to tolerate a houseful.
Visiting a pet owner who has only one Havanese is a good next step. If you are highly sensitive to Havanese, it’s probably best to investigate other breeds if you’re determined to add a dog to your family.
Living with allergies to your pet
Many people with only mild, tolerable allergic symptoms can live with a low-dander, minimally shedding Havanese with proper environmental controls. Here are a few ideas to help reduce allergens on the dog and in the home. These are not to be considered long-term solutions for highly allergic individuals.
• Keep your Havanese clean and groomed. Regular brushing helps remove loose hair and the allergens it carries. Bathing your Havanese every seven to 10 days can reduce levels of fur-borne allergens by as much as 80 per cent.
• If possible, groom in a closed-door ‘dog room’ to minimize allergens loosened during grooming from becoming airborne throughout the home. Ideally, a non-allergic family member should do the grooming and clean the room afterwards. Even better, bath day can be done at a self-wash station at a local pet-supply store.
• Daily or weekly use of products that claim to reduce allergens when sprayed on an animal’s fur may be helpful for some, though studies show they are less effective than weekly bathing.
• Regular, thorough cleaning of the home, and using heating and air-conditioning filters and HEPA filters, are all ways of reducing allergens.
• Use an anti-allergen detergent for pet laundry.
• Saliva-sensitive owners should discourage their Havanese from licking them, especially on the face and neck. Wash hands thoroughly after handling the dog.
• For fur- and dander-sensitive individuals, the bedroom should be a dog-free zone.
• Many allergy sufferers are sensitive to more than one allergen – dust, pollen, smoke, etc. The overall allergen level in the environment must be reduced by concentrating on all the causes, not just the pet allergy.
A combination of methods is most likely to succeed in allowing a mildly allergic person to live with a Havanese.
Suzanne McKay, Havanese Fanciers of Canada
Photo: iStock
Originally published as Breedlines columns in the January, February and March 2006 issues

Dog care and first Aid in specific conditions

Dog care and first Aid in specific conditions

As a dog owner, you should familiarize yourself with some common emergency conditions, so you will know what to do and when to seek professional veterinary assistance.

Vomiting and diarrhea
Veterinarians see a steady stream of patients presented with the complaint of sudden-onset vomiting and diarrhea. In many cases, mild symptoms are attributed to “dietary indiscretion” or “garbage gastritis,” which means the dog ate something a little too rich or something bad. However, symptoms like these are not always benign. Conditions such as parvoviral infections, intestinal blockages or pancreatitis also cause vomiting and diarrhea, but they can be life-threatening.
If they are not depressed and if their symptoms are mild, dogs with vomiting and diarrhea can be treated at home. The best approach is to withhold food and water for at least 12 hours.
If the symptoms abate, offer water, then bland food such as white rice with a little added cooked chicken. As long as vomit­ing or diarrhea does not resume, the dog’s regular diet can then be slowly reintroduced.
If there is blood in the dog’s stool or vomitus, if the dog be­comes dehydrated or if he is depressed, veterinary help should be sought. Even though they may not look ill, puppies under 16 weeks of age and geriatric dogs should always receive veteri­nary care if vomiting or diarrhea continues for more than 12 hours with no signs of abatement. These individuals are parti­cularly prone to dehydration and salt (electrolyte) imbalances.

Foreign bodies
Dogs and foreign objects seem to attract each other. A grass awn can work its way into an ear canal, causing acute pain. These grass seed heads are usually deep in the canal and need to be retrieved by your veterinarian.
Bones or sticks can get lodged between the upper teeth, across the palate, causing the dog to frantically paw at its mouth. These objects can be removed with a strong finger grip or a pair of pliers.
Barbed fish hooks that pierce the tongue, cheek or any part of the body need to be pushed through the tissue in order to be removed. Some dogs need an anaesthetic to resolve this painful problem, especially when multi-pronged hooks are lodged in the mouth.
A dog will swallow just about anything; luckily, most things will eventually pass through the intestines. If you know your dog ate a foreign object, watch him closely for signs of vomiting, depression, lack of appetite, or dehydration. If symptoms do arise, the object may be causing a blockage in the gastrointestinal tract. Veterinary assistance is needed. If the dog exhibits no symptoms, just watch his stool carefully for the object to appear. It may take several days to pass.

Eye problems
When a dog has an eye problem, no matter what kind, his impulse is to rub. The damage caused by this self-mutilation can sometimes be worse than the original problem. If a dog has red eyes, is squinting or has a lot of tearing and discharge, he should be fitted with an Elizabethan collar (you should have one in your dog’s first-aid kit) to prevent him from rubbing his sore eye.
If an ‘E-collar’ isn’t available, one for small dogs can be fashioned from a piece of cardboard. For larger dogs, substitute a plastic bucket with the bottom cut out. It won’t be fancy, but it will be functional.
All eye problems should be treated as emergency situations, meaning the dog should be assessed by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Small exophthalmic breeds, such as Pugs and Boston Terriers, are at risk for having an eye pop out of its socket. If this happens, place a clean wet towel over the eye to safeguard it while you transport the dog to a veterinarian.
People who own large, deep-chested dogs should be aware of gastric dilatation-volvulus, commonly called bloat, which can kill its victims within hours of the first signs of distress.
Symptoms of bloat include drooling, retching or attempting to vomit, anxiety, restlessness and pacing. The abdomen may feel or look distended (bloated). In just a short time, the dilated stomach can twist, triggering shock, followed by death. Bloat requires immediate veterinary attention. The longer the delay, the less likely the dog will survive.

Whelping problems
As whelping time approaches, the bitch’s mammary glands engorge with milk and she starts to exhibit nesting behaviour. About 24 hours before she starts labour, her temperature will drop about 1°C (2°F). At the time of delivery, her mucous vaginal discharge will change to a greenish colour. A brown or foul-smelling discharge means that something is wrong.
Prolonged labour is also a concern. Once a bitch is having visible contractions, she should deliver her first puppy within half an hour (some veterinarians say one hour). There should always be progressive (outward) movement of the puppy through the birth canal. If there is no puppy showing, or it is not moving, the bitch needs assistance.

Preventive medicine
Many emergencies can be prevented by regular health checkups. Diseases can be detected in the early stages before they become critical.
Heart and kidney failure as well as diabetes are examples of ailments that can be readily managed if they are discovered before they become an emergency.
All dog owners should purchase and read a good pet first-aid book. This reference will not only act as a guide in the event of an emergency, it will also help determine when homecare or immediate veterinary intervention is needed. The First Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats by Amy D. Shojai, and First Aid for Dogs: What to Do When Emergencies Happen by Bruce Fogle, D.V.M., are recommended.
Signs of dehydration
To test for dehydration, put your finger under your dog’s upper lip and feel for wetness. It should be moist and slippery. If his gums feel tacky, he’s lacking in saliva, and could be dehydrated.
Skin turgidity can also be assessed to estimate dehydration. The skin over the shoulder blades is pulled away from the body and released. The time taken to fall back into a normal position increases with escalating dehydration.
In a well-hydrated dog, the skin will snap quickly back into place. Don’t use the skin over the neck for testing because this skin is less pliable than that over the shoulder, so it naturally goes down more slowly.
The last test for dehydration is looking at your dog’s eyes. If his eyes are sunken, he is extremely dehydrated.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
There are many reasons for cardiopulmonary arrest. In dogs, drowning and electrocution are two of the most likely causes. Airway obstruction from either a foreign object lodged in the trachea or from throat swelling secondary to an allergic reaction can also cause cardiopulmonary arrest. Once the heart stops, you have just five minutes to intervene before irreversible brain damage occurs. Revival after this time is unlikely.
If you find your dog flat out but are unsure what happened to him, you first need to determine if he is unconscious or dead. To check him, step on his tail (if you startle a deeply sleeping dog by touching his head, you could be bitten). If there is no response, watch for breathing and check for a heart beat. If there is none, place your finger on the surface of his eye (his cornea). This is a very painful test. If there is no reaction, your dog’s brain is not functioning so your dog is no longer alive. If there is a response, CPR should be initiated.
When performing CPR, there are three steps to follow that are as simple as ABC: Airway, Breathing,

A. If your dog is not breathing, ensure his airway is open by extending his head and neck and pulling his tongue forward. Saliva or vomit in the mouth needs to be wiped out. To prove his airway is open, push on his chest and you will hear or feel air come out.
B. The next step is to give your dog a series of test breaths. Hold the corners of his mouth closed so that air doesn’t leak out. In larger dogs, pull the tongue forward between the teeth to seal the mouth. A breath is then given into the nostrils and allowed to escape. Three breaths are given and then the dog is observed for spontaneous breathing. Continue artificial respirations at a rate of 20 to 25 breaths per minute until the dog breathes on his own.
C. Once respirations are initiated, feel the chest just behind the elbow for a heart beat. If there is none, begin chest (or cardiac) compressions to promote circulation.
A very small dog should be laid on his side. His chest should be compressed about one inch behind his elbow, using a forefinger and thumb. The depth of the compression is two to three centimetres. A larger dog should be positioned on his back so his sternum can be compressed for a distance of three to seven centimetres.
Chest compressions should be given at a rate of 80 to 100 compressions per minute. When performing CPR, you can give three heart compressions, followed by one compression and one breath given simultaneously.
A multi-published writer, Jeff Grognet, D.V.M., runs a veterinary practice in Qualicum Beach, B.C., along with his wife, Louise Janes, D.V.M.

Dog behaviour (Fixed action patterns)

My female dog mounts other dogs. Why does she do it? I assume she’s dominating others. She’ll be playing well with a dog and then suddenly she’s mounting him or her. I find it obnoxious and so do many other owners. What’s the best way to get her to stop doing it?
Ah, love. I’ll tip the hand early and tell you the greatest likelihood is that mounting is a sexual behaviour. In fact, I think this could stand some screaming from the rooftops: mounting is sex, mounting is sex, mounting is sex! That this is not obvious to any onlooker is pretty amazing.
Let’s begin at the beginning. Fixed action patterns, or FAPs, are important behaviours that are pre-installed in animals, kind of like bundled software that comes with a computer. Fixed action patterns require no learning and are triggered by something in the environment. A classic example is a moving bit of string that triggers a six-week-old kitten to pounce. The pouncing sequence is stereotyped across all cats. Another example is how a cat will turn sideways, arch his back, puff up and hiss. This is a self-defense FAP, again common to all cats and stereotyped.
Ethologists have coined the four big areas of endeavour under which most FAPs fall the “Four F’s”: fight, flight, feeding and reproduction. Animals that lack competency in the Four F’s don’t pass on their incompetent genes; but interestingly, domestication allows the occasional Four F incompetence to creep in. Domesticated animals are no longer making a living in the world the same way as their wild forbearers did, so they can afford to drop certain software programs without penalty. A cow without a well-developed flight response is in much less danger than a deer. In some cases, breeding practices have deliberately softened up or greatly raised the triggering threshold for an FAP, such as in the case of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, which for the most part eschew fighting.
Cats are an interesting case as they retain most, if not all, of their Four F FAPs. Because of this, many consider them a semi-domesticated or even a non-domesticated species. Dogs, however, are all over the map – breed- and individual-wise – with regard to Four-F-FAP retention. A given dog may or may not be very predatory (feeding), skittish and neophobic (flight), or highly competitive over resources (fight).
Sex matters
On to sex. At last. Reproductive behaviour is, evolutionarily speaking, the biggest and most important of the Four F’s. An animal that lacks super-duper strong courtship and reproductive FAPs doesn’t pass on its ascetic genes. Genes are keen to get passed on and never neglect to install the pass-me-on-now urge, action and wow-was-that-ever-rewarding software in the animals they build. For the most part, domestic animals retain repro FAPs, although technology like AI reduces selection pressure here.
Sexual behaviour in animals has been studied a great deal. Female mounting is not at all unusual, especially during courtship. In one rat study, female mounting of what a girl rat considered a sluggish male was referred to as a “super-solicitational” behaviour. Perhaps the rat equivalent of fishnets and a push-up bra.
In dogs, the courtship and reproduction sequence was studied in considerable detail by Frank Beach, Ariel Merari and Ian Dunbar at the University of California at Berkeley. A female that’s ready to mate might flirt with a male by mounting, clasping and thrusting for a bit, then get off, run away and stop, hopefully with a super-solicited male in hot pursuit, not to mention oriented at the operative end of the female.
I don’t mean to suggest that your dog is, uh, loose, primarily because in play all manner of Four F FAPs are expressed in a giant jumble. In fact, the leading interpretation of why animals play in the first place is that they are rehearsing key FAPs. Dog play consists of chasing (feeding FAP by the chaser, flight FAP by the chasee); play biting (fight and feeding); wrestling, body slamming and pinning (fight and feeding); and courtship and copulatory behaviours such as pawing, mounting, clasping and thrusting. These are punctuated by meta-signals such as play-bows, bouncy movements and grinning play faces, which signal the playful intent of the F’s that precede and follow. And note, all sexes might mount other sexes: it’s play.
So, when you say she’s “playing well,” I presume you mean she’s biting, chasing, slamming and wrestling with other dogs. I am wholly fascinated by the sheer number of dog owners out there who find these behaviours non-obnoxious but consider sex play across the line or, amazingly, not about sex at all! At any dog park you’ll see owners continually and automatically defaulting to a non-sexual explanation for mounting, notably our old favourite, dominance. Now, I’m no shrink but unless dogs are way more into S & M than anybody has reckoned, when an animal mounts and thrusts, I think we need to rule out sex before entertaining other interpretations. In other words, when an animal does the granddaddy of all FAPs during play, mightn’t it be play sex, just like play fighting, play predation and play fleeing? Bottom line: She is also playing well when she mounts!
I am not sure whether the abstemious streak in North American culture whirls us, like a centrifuge, away from the S word when we see copulatory behaviours during play, or whether we’re so dominance-obsessed we co-opt nookie-nookie into some sort of power play. In any case, if you would like less of it, provide a non-violent consequence, such as a time out, whenever she does it. It could be two minutes outside the play area, or you could march her back to the car and take her straight home.
If, on the other hand, you think you might consider allowing her to do it during play, perform a consent test. If you suspect at any time that her partner may not be consenting, pull her off for a moment. Does the mountee grab this opportunity to get away? Does he or she hang out nearby? Or does he or she solicit play from your dog? This consent test works for pinning, wrestling, chasing and other behaviours where there is any doubt about whether both dogs are enjoying the action.
The consent of both dog owners is also important. Although I’ve poked fun at some of the Puritanical motives that may be driving us 180° away from interpretations of mounting that involve sex, no owner at a dog park should be bullied by other owners, however well-meaning, into allowing some activity with which they are uncomfortable, including mounting. If everyone passes the consent test, the dogs can proceed.
By Jean Donaldson
Canadian Jean Donaldson is the founder of the San Francisco SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers. Her books include The Culture Clash, Dogs Are From Neptune and MINE! A Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs