Trying out Darwin’s Pet food – eating “rare”

We were at the vet again last week. Boogie is now on Cephalexin (antibiotics) and Temaril-P (steroids).  30 days of Cephalexin.

The itchiness has stopped but Boogie’s skin is still splotchy. Hopefully it won’t take too long to heal. One side effect of Temaril-P is increased hunger, so the poor little dog is constantly starving. Walks are frustrating. He has become obsessed with scavenging off the sidewalks (“Leave it” only works 50% of the time) and at home he often sits looking up at me, pleading for treats. He won’t even play fetch or tug. He would rather eat.

The upside is that Boogie is paying no attention to his usual triggers on the street. He is ignoring other dogs and scary humans and concerned ONLY with finding food scraps on the ground.

I told Dr. F that I cook for Boogie, and she mentioned that she orders her dog’s meat from Darwin’s Pet . Knowing that Boogie does not eat raw meat – he has either walked away from it, or eaten it and vomited later –  I at first figured that this wouldn’t be something worth trying out.  But when Dr. F told me that she cooks the meat and that it is ok to do so, I  placed a trial order…

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The prices seem really good. I spend about the same amount of money each week at the local market anyway; and the meat from Darwin’s Pet is organic, antibiotic-free and already mixed with organ meats, bone meal, veggies, apple cider vinegar and supplements. In the photo above – our first shipment of 10lbs of food – $15. When the box arrived, my first thought was – there is NO WAY THIS IS GOING TO FIT IN MY FREEZER – but then I realized the contents were mostly dry ice. The meals comes sealed in 1/2 lb packets. They include a fed ex slip for you to send the box back to be recycled.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Left: empty container; Right: that’s 4 x 1/2 lb packets of food (Beef)

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Interestingly – the instruction sheet says that if the dog has a compromised immune system, he should not eat raw and it is advisable to cook the meals

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Left: raw, sealed food Right: Cooked RARE

This evening I started transitioning Boogie over to Darwin’s Pet food… I sauteed 1lb of food – as you can see in the photo the meat is still red in color – definitely rare – and added 2oz of this to his usual fully-cooked mix of meat and veggies.

I have a question – does “rare” meat keep longer than “raw” in the fridge? This is a transition period so I won’t be feeding all of this rare meat too quickly but I don’t want it to go bad sitting in the fridge for too long… How many days is safe? I suppose I could cook it some more…

July 27, 2013 at 8:25 am 6 comments

Dognition games!

I can’t remember where I first heard about Dognition.com – I think it might have been via my Twitter feed. From what I can see, Dognition.com is a website that offers a series of structured games (or exercises) for dog owners to do with their dogs, and through these games, owners can gain new insights into their dog’s personality and cognitive style. I guess they are like doggie personality tests with no right or wrong answers, just an evaluation of how smart your dog is.   The games are organized into these categories: Empathy, Cunning, Communication, Memory and Reasoning.

This week, I saw that Dognition were offering some games for FREE and I couldn’t resist. I signed Boogie up and had Nathan help out.These are short 10-minute games and I love that they are very clearly explained with video demos and step-by-step instructions;  but you do need a human assistant to do them. One person has to follow the online instructions and log the scores while the other person interacts with the doggie. It’s hard to do everything at the same time with only one person, unless if your dog is well-trained to obey commands like sit and stay and um… Boogie isn’t very reliable. Well at least not right now, while he is suffering on Temaril-P (steroid meds) and might starve to death if he doesn’t grab the treat ASAP.

In the Dognition Empathy category, Boogie proved himself to be “bonded” to me.

Nathan: “He’s a boston terrier, after all!”

Dognition: Boogie EMPATHY

I did a series of yawns and Boogie yawned too. During the eye contact exercise, Boogie did not break eye contact at all even while he experimented with changing poses, from sitting to standing to lying down, to stepping back, to sitting down, to lying down again etc. Boogie . did. not. break .eye .contact. Except once or twice when he experimented with a quick head turn to see if these would earn him the treat. Yes, he has always been an eye contact champion. He can stare at me forever while I offer various behaviors trying to guess what he wants….

The Communication games revealed some fascinating results. I placed two treats on the floor in front of me at the same time, one on each side. I had to look at and point (first with my arm, later with my foot) towards one of these treats, alternating between left side and right side. This was a test to see if Boogie responded to where I was looking and pointing, or if he was more likely to make his own decisions.

Interestingly, almost every single time, Boogie moved towards the OPPOSITE treat – the one that I wasn’t pointing at.

The Dognition verdict?

Dognition: Boogie COMMUNICATION

*I forgot to add: Boogie is sort of nervous around hands or feet … (he will rarely take treat that is placed next to a  foot) I wonder if this had anything to do with his decision?

And so we completed the freebie games. To continue,  I would have to pay for membership… not something I can really afford to do right now.

Dognition pricing

I am curious – has anyone signed up for full membership and done all the games? Your thoughts?

July 22, 2013 at 9:05 am 3 comments

Products and supplements for skin issues and seasonal allergies

I have been receiving LOTS of tips and product/supplement recommendations from Boogie’s Blog readers. Thank you!!! I am going to list some of these items here for people whose dogs are suffering the same problems. I can’t tell you if all of these work because I have only just started using some of them, and keep in mind that Boogie’s skin problems are REALLY BAD.

it’s 100 degrees here in LA…

1. Apple Cider Vinegar.
I have been spraying a diluted mix of this on Boogie’s coat after his last two baths. I can’t tell if this is making a difference. I have been told by several friends that adding ACV to a dog’s food makes a big difference and eliminates the skin itchies so I started doing this today.  We’ll see if this works. From this Whole Dog Journal article:  “recommended dose usually 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon per 50 pounds of body weight.”  According to our vet, diluted ACV also makes a good ear cleaner. I have ordered some ACV pills because I can’t stand the odor.

2. Witch Hazel.
I have been dabbing or spraying diluted witch hazel (the ALCOHOL-FREE version) on Boogie’s skin, and on mine too when I get insect bites. It is also good for cleaning “raw red areas” on his face from scratching, as well as his ears.  I actually add a couple of drops of Lavender Essential Oil when using as an insect repellent. This helps ME (I am super attractive and allergic to fleas) so I am assuming it is helping Boogie too. I don’t know how it compares with the ACV in terms of effectiveness but it doesn’t smell as bad as the ACV.

Astringents work their magic by quickly tightening skin and subcutaneous tissue, and thereby reducing inflammation and redness. A classic example of such an astringent is witch hazel extract, which can be purchased in a clear liquid, distilled form at any drugstore. A dab or two of witch hazel applied by cotton ball can bring instant relief to angry flea or mosquito bites. (Whole Dog Journal)

3. Brewer’s Yeast and Garlic.
I bought a big tub of this stuff  and have been adding a teaspoon daily to Boogie’s food for the past week. This is supposed to protect him against fleas. I can’t see any significant difference (yet)

Fleas particularly dislike the flavor of garlic and yeast (nutritional or brewer’s yeast). Mixing garlic and yeast with your pet’s food can render their blood unpalatable to fleas. However due to risks associated with garlic which affect cats and some breeds of dogs, it is generally recommend that you avoid feeding your pets concentrated amounts of garlic. (Eartheasy.com)

4. Fish Oil.
I have been adding Salmon Oil to Boogie’s food for years. It has made no difference whatsoever.

5. Coconut Oil vs Virbac Resicort Lotion
I was massaging Boogie with Extra Virgin Coconut Oil after every bath. The dryness disappeared and his skin was no long flaky. I found the coconut oil to be way more effective than the Virbac Resicort lotion that our vet recommended. Boogie likes to lick himself so I feel better applying something that is safely edible. And then I was alternating between the two “moisturizers”.  I no longer use either of these because I am trying out the Apple Cider Vinegar spray and I can’t imagine that it’s healthy to overload his coat with too much stuff.  p.s. The Resicort lotion has a very strong fragrance.

6. Pramoxine Spray
This spray is supposed to soothe itchy inflamed skin, but I couldn’t  tell if it worked. It also has an overpowering fragrance (poor Boogie nose) so  I would rather stick with Witch Hazel or something less intrusive.

7. Virbac Cortisoothe Shampoo… and other options?
Our vet gave us this shampoo and I bathe Boogie once a week. We have been using this shampoo for months…I think it might be a bit drying (hence the Coconut Oil/Resicort lotion), but I am open to trying other options. So far, people have recommended to me this Dermacton Skin Conditioning Shampoo Bar and also a Pine Tar or Coal Tar Shampoo. I haven’t tried these yet. Any thoughts?

8. PetzLife Complete Care spray
This natural pesticide-free insect repellent was recommended by Dr. Fox (SPARCS conference) so I have ordered some. I hope it’s fragrance-free…

9. Colostrum and Quercetin supplements
From what I have read, these are supposed to support the GI-tract and immune system, and quercetin would help with the itchies.

Quercetin is a bioflavonoid with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. I call it ‘nature’s Benadryl’ because it does a great job suppressing histamine release from mast cells and basophiles. Histamine is what causes much of the inflammation, redness and irritation characteristic of an allergic response. By turning off histamine production with a quercetin supplement, we can suppress or at least moderate the effects of inflammation. (healthypets.mercola.com)

I may consider getting some if the Apple Cider Vinegar doesn’t work.

*edit to add:

10. Chlorhexidine (antibacterial) soak and spray
I still do this occasionally. I fill the bathtub with some water and solution and let Boogie soak his feet (if he is licking them excessively). I also spray him with this Duoxo Chlorhexidine spray. Interestingly, my dentist sent me home with a prescription for the SAME Chlorhexidine solution to use on my gums so I now have more than a gallon of this stuff at home.

11. Triamcinolone cream
From Dr. R (our previous vet). This is an anti-inflammatory cream that I use only on Boogie’s face when he has scratched it red and bloody.

June 30, 2013 at 11:20 pm 1 comment

Genius ideas

1. Home-stuffed Holey Ball! – I got this idea from 38 Brilliant Hacks for Dog Owners  (Also see #30!!!!)

 8. For a dog who loves to tear apart stuffed animals, make a durable activity ball with a Hol-ee rubber ball, scraps of fabric, and treats.

2013-06-22_10-52-09_705

I may never need to buy plush/stuffed toys ever again. I stuffed this holey ball with scrappy fabric from old dismembered plush toys. It took Boogie 20-30 seconds to unstuff it. But oh it was so much fun! And we can do this over and over again!

Just received a handy tip from Melita on Facebook: “Maybe knot some of the scraps onto the ball?”

2. “Bow Wow Barrier” Retractable gate. A big thank you to the lady whose name I don’t remember (at Grisha’s L.A. BAT seminar) who told me about this local company. There is also a UK company that makes a similar product but international shipping costs more than the gate itself. Last week I ordered the Bow Wow Barrier gate and today, Nathan helped install it.  If you LIKE  Retract-A-Gate on Facebook  you get a discount coupon. This is a genius concept and is way less cumbersome and aesthetically-intrusive than a regular baby gate. The tough mesh fabric is see-through from the inside (good for Boogie) and unrolls when you open the door. The “gate” can also be unclipped from the door whenever you want. Will be VERY USEFUL when mail delivery people bring packages that I have to sign for, and when visitors arrive!  *Boogie isn’t the kind of dog to run away, but he does always rush to the door to greet.

Recently Updated5

 

June 22, 2013 at 8:44 pm 1 comment

Sigh.

Poor Boogie

Poor Boogie

It breaks my heart to see him like this. He is so itchy and miserable. The allergic reaction has flared up really badly in the last week (combination of grass pollens and 1 or 2 flea bites) and in spite of the baths, witch hazel, coconut oil etc. it looks like Boogie’s skin issues have progressed to some sort of secondary bacterial infection because he has been chewing, rubbing and scratching himself raw and bloody, and the bald patches have spread. 😦

I read a recent article in THE BARK magazine that if the dog’s GI tract is healthy, this would be the BEST protection against allergic reactions, compared to antihistamine or steroid-type medications. Well, I thought Boogie’s GI tract was health-ier! Now I don’t know, anymore.

We have a vet appointment tomorrow morning.

And as skin issues are a “pre-existing condition”, we are not covered by Healthy Paws…. Sigh.

UPDATE: Since these photos were taken, Boogie’s skin got much worse. The sides of his body are full of bald patches. There are red bloody sores on his neck.  Dr. F (Boogie’s vet) has prescribed Simplicef antibiotics and Prednisone. I hope the meds will help him feel better, not so itchy. 

June 4, 2013 at 7:02 pm 13 comments

Beware the grass.

The most popular posts on Boogie’s blog are about skin issues. It astounds me that so many dogs have been experiencing the same problems with dry, crusty, flaky skin patches… (diagnosed as some sort of staph infection that started as an allergic reaction) and like me, their parents have tried almost everything  including long courses of antibiotics.  I got very tired of putting Boogie on Cephalexin every summer. You should see my impressive collection of Virbac shampoos and conditioners. The first year I adopted Boogie, he was on antibiotics for 1 week. Then it became 2 weeks… 3 weeks… 1 month… 2 months… and the antibiotics worked but the symptoms always came back more frequently, and our vet even suggested feeding Boogie a low dose of antibiotics every day for the rest of his life.

Well, last year I changed vets. Not only was his skin in a really horrible dry condition, he was losing his hair. His coat was so thin, the white parts were no longer white. You could see raw pink skin and grey freckles everywhere. Poor Boogie was going bald.

Four months ago, I changed Boogie’s diet and switched to 100% homecooked food using a balanced recipe from K9 Kitchen. I also gave him coconut oil massages for his skin – which did a lot more for him than Virbac lotions ever did. Boogie’s poop also looked excellent and very slowly, I could see that his hair was growing back.

The weather here in SoCal has been warming up again and in Summer, one thing Boogie loves to do more than anything is to roll around and crawl around in grass.

2013-02-28_14-06-49_391

My mistake is that I have not been very vigilant about bathing him or washing him after these frequent grass-rolling sessions. Lord knows what they put in the grass around here.

The skin problems have come back 😦 The white, dry, flaky patches. The dandruffy coat. Boogie is scratching himself; and his hair is falling out. I am bathing him once a week, giving him chlorhexidine soaks and more coconut oil massages but the problem is not getting better.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

I need to figure out what to do, but here’s one thing that I am now 100% positively sure about. There is nothing wrong with Boogie’s diet. This is a seasonal and environmental problem. He is going to hate it so much that from now on, NO MORE ROLLING IN THE GRASS. 😦

May 27, 2013 at 9:58 pm 12 comments

PROCESSING… more thoughts about Boogie and BAT.

This is a follow-on from my previous blog post.

I want to write down and share a few events from yesterday simply because GOOD EXPERIENCES are worth remembering and sometimes I get emails from blog readers who are struggling with reactive dogs who ask me if Boogie has changed with the training that I have been doing. If he is a different dog or if he is better than before?

My short answer is that  Boogie will still BITE if he feels threatened.  He has done it too many times already (up to Level 4) and I don’t think I can ever eliminate this possibility. Boogie is a very sensitive dog, and he  still gets startled and freaks out. BUT…. the biggest lessons I have learned are that I CAN help him relax and/or bounce back so he doesn’t freak out so easily. I CAN reduce the likelihood of him feeling triggered out on the streets, and I think he is doing really well in the context of my insanely busy neighborhood. Yes, he IS a different dog from 2 years ago. He is a much more communicative dog than he ever used to be. And whether it’s only because I am better at listening to him, or whether he has actually expanded or clarified his “body language” repertoire… I am not sure. Training works both ways, right?

Here are some more detailed examples of what I see as “progress”. Yesterday….

SCENARIO 1: GIANT MASTIFF
Boogie and I were out walking and he stopped to pee and sniff the ground. He didn’t see that a person and their giant mastiff had appeared on the other side of the street. Knowing Boogie’s tendency to be triggered by “sudden environmental contrasts” (SECs) — ie, he is ok with a group of people walking towards him, but may be triggered by 1 person appearing on a quiet street — I thought it better to point out the mastiff to him so he wouldn’t get startled when he finished sniffing the ground. (Raise head, strange dog WTF! , freak out)

I said “Boogie, Look at that!” (cue to look at something, then look back at me)
Boogie raised his head, turned around, looked at the mastiff.
Me: “Yes!” (mark the “look”)
I was quite surprised that Boogie didn’t want a treat. He turned away from the treat in my hand. Instead he took a few steps back to sniff the ground behind us. (calming signal, self-soothing behavior)
I waited. The mastiff had walked past by now.
Boogie looked up at me: “Ready for that treat, mom!”
I said “Good Boy!” and gave him a treat.
Did Boogie really just direct that entire BAT sequence himself with bonus reward? 🙂

SCENARIO 2: EXCITED CORGI
We were taken by surprise when we turned a street corner. Right there – a few steps away- was a man and his barking corgi – just standing there. I am not sure what they were doing but that corgi was pulling on the leash barking his/her little head off at Boogie. Not in an aggressive way, but super excited all puppy-like.

Boogie did not take his eyes off the barking corgi. This was not a good time to go anywhere even though my natural impulse was “Gotta get away”.
I waited. My thought bubble: “Relax the leash relax the leash, just breathe” Puppy still barking at my dog.
Then Boogie turned to look at me, and asked to walk in the opposite direction. We turned away together and left the barking puppy far behind.
NO REACTIVITY.

SCENARIO 3: ANGRY FRENCHIE
A man and his Frenchie were passing in front of us. The Frenchie stopped and stared at Boogie face-on. I recognized this Frenchie – he is left outside in his yard all day to run around barking at passing dogs. Boogie froze. I waited for the the Frenchie to keep walking but instead he was really stuck, just stood there (not sure what owner was doing) staring at Boogie before suddenly exploding in a fit of barks.

Boogie exploded back, pulling, lunging, barking. To me it didn’t sound like his usual “I am going to kill you, asshole!!!” bark, more like a “shut up, you idiot” bark.

Frenchie moved away. Boogie did a whiplash head-turn to look at me. He looked so proud of himself like he wanted a treat.
I gave him a treat for checking back with me and tried to console myself that THE OTHER DOG STARTED THE DRAMA FIRST even if I did not manage the incident very well.

SCENARIO 4: POLITE PUPPY BEHIND A FENCE
Yes, really. These 4 incidents happened all on ONE walk that lasted about 40 minutes. Welcome to my world.
There is a really adorable black puppy who hangs out in his yard, and he is the sweetest, most polite, most mellow-friendly puppy ever… to both dogs and humans. The first time we met this puppy (weeks ago), when Boogie looked at him through the fence just a few inches away, the puppy sat down, averted his eyes, turned his head away, went all “soft and curvy”, basically offered every polite signal in the Doggie Language book until Boogie relaxed. Everything was cool. Both dogs got to greet nose to nose.

We passed this yard again and this time the puppy (slightly larger than before) was lying down on the porch far away from the fence.
Boogie stopped at the fence and looked at the puppy. He would not move. Puppy stayed on the porch.
And I didn’t move Boogie because I felt that things would be OK with the fence there, and I knew that the puppy was super friendly and polite.
Boogie waited. I couldn’t see the puppy from where I was… but in a little while, the puppy was at the fence, wiggling AWAY from Boogie. Totally non-confrontational. Sitting and looking at me sweetly. Boogie turned his head away from the puppy and then I let both dogs sniff nose-to-nose through the fence. Puppy sat again, ears soft, body soft, all curvy and wiggly. Boogie’s body relaxed. I could see him soften then turn away. I gave both dogs a treat. Boogie looked at me as if to say “Puppy is cool. Let’s go”.

And on that peaceful note, we went home. 4 dog incidents. 3 good, 1 bad.  Actually it should be 4/4 because the frenchie started it. 🙂 That’s a good score, ok?

MY THOUGHTS:
I was sort of struggling with the idea in BAT that “distance from the trigger” is reinforcing because it was often hard for me to tell if the retreat is really about “getting away from the trigger” (negative reinforcement) or simply “getting to move towards better things” (positive reinforcement). Most of the time I feel that Boogie wants to move away because he wants to move, not because he is trying to escape from the dog/person. And if there is no -R, then is Boogie really learning to cope with triggers? Or is he just doing what he wants to do anyway? How exactly am I marking and rewarding? Also, if there is no food, then how do we know what exactly is reinforcing to the dog and is it enough?

My experiences from yesterday remind me of a Dr Susan Friedman quote:

Control (over one’s environment ) is a primary reinforcer. To deprive an animal of control is akin to depriving them of water, food.

To the greatest extent possible all animals should be empowered to exercise personal control over significant environmental events.

I am starting to wonder if the Functional Reward in BAT has more to do with “control” or “agency” rather than “distance” per se.  I am speaking about Boogie of course. I don’t know about other dogs.

Just this morning, we checked out a strange dog (sniffing around in bushes, on leash, next to his owner) from about 10 feet away. I noted that the other dog was calm and polite so I knew everything was safe. When Boogie was done looking at the dog – yes, I waited until he was totally done getting his information – we both very undramatically walked past that dog in a wide arc (as we usually do with dogs) and kept on moving. There were no reactivity or over-threshold signs whatsoever. Only genuine curiosity and disengagement. It was kinda wonderful.

ONE FINAL SCENARIO: HUMANS IN OUR TERRITORY
Later yesterday, Boogie and I stepped out of my apartment and there were two people in the front yard. Thanks to having done BAT set-ups in this location, Boogie would usually Stop, Look, then Turn to look at me and we would jog back towards the apartment, I give him a treat, before moving out again. (I stopped using a verbal marker when Boogie started being able to disengage and move away by himself)

Yesterday however, he Stopped, Looked at the two people in the front yard, looked at me, and turned 180 degrees away towards the back exit. He didn’t care about a treat. He wanted to leave via the back way instead. Of course I can’t read Boogie’s mind but my guess was that he was saying to me “Let’s not do the back and forth thing this time, Mom. Let’s just go THIS WAY. Path is clear”.
“Thank you, Boogie!” and I gave him a treat.

So I think what I personally take away from these experiences and the BAT seminar are what Susan Friedman said about Control as a primary reinforcer, and I see that when a reactive dog feels he has control over his environment and can move where he wants to move, this can be a powerful reinforcer for non-reactive behaviors. Classical Counter Conditioning is happening at the same time too, right? 

I have always felt that Boogie is cool if he has time and space to process things.  Grisha has reminded me a couple of times that when Boogie is done looking at the trigger, and does not want to go back and look at the trigger again, I shouldn’t ask him to (not even if I ask him really nicely). The whole experience should remain the DOG’S CHOICE and be completely non-aversive.

On a final note, to people reading this blog, I don’t want to give the impression that we should phase  food rewards out of training. I know some people are concerned about this no-food thing, with regards to the fate of “Positive Reinforcement Dog Training” in the broader public context, where old-fashioned punishment-based food-hating trainers still dominate the media.  What I am learning now is how to use food rewards with more awareness and sensitivity towards what Boogie is feeling and not rushing things.

Related links:
EileenandDogs: http://eileenanddogs.com/2012/10/31/thank-you-susan-friedman/
Patricia McConnell: https://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/tag/bat
Click here for some Susan Friedman quotes I collected via Twitter

NEXT: I still have notes from January’s Clicker Expo that I need to share. Coming soon!

May 23, 2013 at 9:48 pm 4 comments

Older Posts Newer Posts


A gallery of Boogie Art

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 251 other followers

Feeds

Blog Stats

  • 810,645 hits

%d bloggers like this: