A Guide To Regular Health Checks for Your Dog

As we continue on our journey toward canine wellness our next path takes us to the learning about health checks for our dogs.  An overall body exam only takes a few minutes and makes sure that everything operates the way it should. If you find any unexpected lumps, bumps, cuts, sore spots, etc. then you can to make an appointment with your dog’s veterinarian.

My wish, is that every dog has a health check at least once a month. Even though my dogs are on flea and tick preventative I do a daily body exam to make sure that ticks didn’t catch a ride on them. It is important to remove a tick as soon as possible to reduce the risk of disease transmission. My dog Abby (RIP) had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and I never even knew she had been bitten by a tick.

Performing regular health checks help you know your dog’s overall wellness and helps your dog learn to enjoy the body exam – even from your veterinarian. Imagine that – a less stressful veterinary visit for your dog!

Linda Michaels, M.A. reminds us in the Hierachy of Dog NeedsTM that it is our responsibility to take care of more than our dog’s biological needs – we are responsible for their wellness too. Performing an overall body exam and health check can help ensure your dog’s wellness. So let’s go that extra step and look out for our dog’s overall well-being.

There are a couple of ground rules when you do a health check on your dog. First off, they are for non-emergency routine care. The information you gather in no way replaces a visit to your veterinarian and your dog should continue his regularly scheduled veterinary appointments.

Throughout the process observe your dog. If at any point your dog shows signs of discomfort – stop what you are doing. Make a note of what you did – were you leaning over him or was your touch too hard? Maybe there is an injury or maybe you startled your dog. Pay attention because an injury may require medical attention but a startle response does not. If you determine your dog is healthy yet is reluctant to be handled then please contact a trainer or behavior consultant in your area for assistance. Don’t force your dog to be touched in an area or in a way that makes him uncomfortable.

Approach – your dog from the side. If you approach directly from the front your dog may take that as an aggressive approach. When you approach from the side – or present your body sideways, you are considered less threatening. Extra tip – wait a moment for your dog to come to you. Giving your dog a moment to decide that he wants to participate make all the difference in the world.

Position – you should not restrict or block your dog’s movement. If you restrict his movement he may feel trapped and become reactive or aggressive. There is a difference between containment and restraint. You can contain your dog in a small area without restraint. When you do this your dog has some choice and is more likely to accept being touched even in sensitive places.

Distance – don’t crowd or lean over your dog. Most dogs have an interesting response when you lean over them, especially near their head, most of the time they will jump up and that can cause you to be bumped. The times when this doesn’t happen is if  the dog has been trained not to jump. Have you noticed that if you crowd your dog she may do things like spin, jump up, give you a kiss, and many other behaviors; pay attention to see what your dog does to increase space. Other dogs don’t do what we consider “friendly” warnings instead they go straight to growl and bite. Be kind and respect your dog’s need for space. Don’t wait for her to growl or bite before you listen to what she is telling you.

Duration – your movements should be efficient and fluid/smooth. If you hesitate and are jerky when you work with your dog then he will not be comfortable. If you are consistently hesitant or jerky then your dog may learn to be fearful of the health checks. If you are not confident about this exercise please practice on a stuffed dog first. Your dog will thank you.

Pressure how you touch matters. Too light of a touch tickles and too hard of a touch hurts. I call this the Goldilocks effect – you want your touch to be “just right.” Experiment to find the right amount of pressure your dog likes. Remember that what feels good on the shoulder may not feel good on the hindquarters. Another handy tip – what feels good after a nap may not be the same as what feels good before or after a workout.

Safety – ALWAYS practice safe handling and have an escape route for yourself.

Here are two pages of illustrations to guide you through the health check/overall body exam process.

My next posts will go into more detail about the different sections and the body language in each section. Please feel free to comment/ask question

For a downloadable file click here: HealthChecks-Dog-01

For a downloadable file click here: HealthChecks-Dog-02

References:
The Hierachy of Dog NeedsTM Linda Michaels, M.A

Hierarchy of Dog Needs

Forbidding Forecast For Lyme Disease In The Northeast, March 6, 2017 5:00 AM ET Heard on Morning Edition http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/03/06/518219485/forbidding-forecast-for-lyme-disease-in-the-northeast

How to safely remove a tick http://www.petmd.com/dog/parasites/how-to-remove-a-tick-from-dog-cat

Acknowledgements:
The Guide to Health Check  illustrations were made possible by a grant from the Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Endowment Fund.

Diane Lewis of Diane Lewis Photography and Lili Chin of DoggieDrawings.net who illustrated them. The illustrations would not be here without these two amazing women! Both are dedicated to improving the lives of animals and the lives of dogs.

Human Animal Interactions – Illustrated

In honor of Valentine’s Day, a day dedicated to those we love, I would like to share an illustration about Human Animal Interactions. Every day I am in awe of the way dogs inspire us to be better humans. I have no words to fully express all the feelings that dogs inspire, but am fortunate to have created an illustration (with a lot of help) that captures how much we love our dogs – even dogs we may have just met. My hope is that some day we will be able to love as freely and show joy with the same abandon as our dogs do. Until then, I will continue to try and follow my dog’s model of love and friendship. The illustration below is a summary of the my research. The illustrations come from a variety of photographs and is a reminder of all the wonderful ways that dogs enhance our lives.

tirrell_hai_hab

Acknowledgements:
Thank you to Lili Chin for all the fabulous work she does!
Funding for this illustration was made possible by the Josiah Charles Memorial Foundation Endowment Fund

A look behind the illustrations

Ever wonder how an infographic or poster is created? Mine start with a lot of photos, an excel spreadsheet, and power point. The spreadsheet is designed using data from several research papers on the topic of the poster (my research is usually canine body language). Once the spreadsheet is running analysis can begin on the the photos. Finally the selection process begins for the photos that will make it into the power point slides. The photos in power point are used to create the illustrations. Even if a photo makes into PPT, they may not be illustrated. Sometimes photos are in PPT to help the illustrator understand the context which is essential for a well done illustration.

Please understand that I view the creation of illustrations as a journey. Like any journey, there are many people who have helped me along the way. First, these illustrations would not have been possible without the support (and pushing) of a couple of friends who convinced me to apply for funding for this project. These illustrations were made possible by a grant from the Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Endowment Fund.

Special thanks to both Diane Lewis of Diane Lewis Photography and Lili Chin of DoggieDrawings.net who illustrated them. The illustrations would not be here without these two amazing women! Both are dedicated to improving the lives of animals and most especially the lives of dogs. I’m lucky to have worked with them through this project.

How many photos does it take to create an illustration? I can’t say for sure. There were 1,000 professional photos and more than 1,000 amateur photos reviewed to create the illustrations that will be posted over the coming months. It takes a lot of images to create a pattern.

In order to analyze the photos an Online Canine Body Language Collaborators Group was formed. I can’t say enough wonderful things about this group – they tirelessly answered questions and reviewed materials with me. These collaborators are amazing and I think we all learned a lot going through the photos and illustrations.

I learned a lot doing this project. Not just about my own dogs, but about our relationship with animals. The most important message that I can share is that everything we do needs to strengthen the human animal bond and that the bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship. For more information on the human animal bond please visit the American Veterinary Medical Association.

When the work we are doing with our dogs stops being mutually beneficial we need to evaluate the situation and change it in some way. Our dogs give us their trust and it is our responsibility to keep them safe and share the joy of life and love every day!

If you liked this post here are a few others that you may find interesting:
Dog Signals and Social Cues: what is your dog telling you

Do You See What I See?

Charlie’s Facial Expressions and Unimaginable Joy

Dog Expressions: A walk through the park

 

Dog Signals and Social Cues: what is your dog telling you?

What are Dog Signals and Social Cues?  And why do they matter? If you want to know what your dog is telling you then you need to understand the language your dog speaks. Dog signals and social cues is the language your dog speaks. Like any language each individual communicates using their own style. The materials on dog signals and social cues teaches how a dog will respond in a given situation. Unfortunately most materials aren’t able take into consideration all of the variables that we need to consider when we observe our dogs.

It can be even more confusing when a dog uses the same signal and it has multiple meanings. We can compare it words we use that have multiple meanings. A great example is aloha which can mean hello or good bye depending on the context. There, in a nutshell, is the key – context.

If we know the context when we observe our dog we can have a better understanding of the message she communicates. By knowing the context it is easier to determine if the paw lift means everything is wonderful or if it means that she is uncertain or wary.

Another useful tip: it is helpful to cluster several signals together. Clustering dog signals is similar to putting words together to form a sentence. From there we can form a paragraph and before you know it you are hearing an entire story. Take a moment, learn the language and listen to your dog’s story.

How do we know if the story we are hearing is happy story or one that needs intervention? Let’s use the traffic light model to define zones. It works because it is simple, clear, and easy to understand. The zones that are defined here provide you with instruction as well. When we use zones it is important to remember that they don’t define the dog rather, they define behavior.

Here is an illustration to help you see how this system works with different dogs.

The illustration shows how different these respond to situations. The Life’s Good signals seem pretty consistent even with different dogs. The responses begin to change when the dogs display their with stress signs.

  • Caution: yawn vs paw lift; lip lick vs rolling; shake-off vs sniffing – these are very different signals between the dogs. Note – these are only the “big” signals that are named. There are other signals displayed too.
  • Danger: panting (with tension) vs scratching; making self small vs self-soothing licking; frozen in place vs trembling – again very different signals are displayed.
  • Worth noting: look at the difference in size in the black dog, Jade, in the down position from the Life’s Good to the Danger. The change in her size in this instance matters.
  • The beagle, Charlie, doesn’t usually scratch or self-sooth unless he is stressed so when he displays those signals something is bothering him. If it happens once, he is in the Caution zone, but if it happens several times then he has moved to Danger zone.

How will your dog respond? Take photos and complete observation logs. The logs are for you, but if you want let me know how you are doing… If you have questions ask – either on Facebook or here. The key is to observe your dog. Take the time to get to know your dog. Keep observing your dog over time because your dog changes.

Remember, each dog has a unique response to situations. Not only that, but over time, dogs change the way they see the world. It is a good idea to keep a photo journal of how our dogs look at life and respond to situations.  Now, that would be amazing! Not only are documenting how wonderful our dog is, but we are learning how our responds in each situation. We are learning how our dog changes over time.

Resources to help you understand Dog Signals and Social Cues:
Books:
Aloff, B. (2005). Canine body language: A photographic guide: Interpreting the native language of the domestic dog. Dogwise.

Handelman, B. (2012). Canine behavior: A photo illustrated handbook. Dogwise Publishing. (the hard cover book is wonderful, the e-book is all in color)

McConnell, P. (2009). For the love of a dog: understanding emotion in you and your best friend. Ballantine Books.

Rugaas, T. (2005). On talking terms with dogs: Calming signals. Dogwise publishing

Articles:
Glenk, L. M., Kothgassner, O. D., Stetina, B. U., Palme, R., Kepplinger, B., & Baran, H. (2014). Salivary cortisol and behavior in therapy dogs during animal-assisted interventions: A pilot study. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 9(3), 98-106.

Hasegawa, M., Ohtani, N., & Ohta, M. (2014). Dogs’ Body Language Relevant to Learning Achievement. Animals, 4(1), 45-58

Jakovcevic, A., Elgier, A. M., Mustaca, A. E., & Bentosela, M. (2013). Frustration behaviors in domestic dogs. Journal of applied animal welfare science, 16(1), 19-34.

Mariti, C., Gazzano, A., Moore, J. L., Baragli, P., Chelli, L., & Sighieri, C. (2012). Perception of dogs’ stress by their owners. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 7(4), 213-219.

Mehrkam, L. R., & Wynne, C. D. (2014). Behavioral differences among breeds of domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris): Current status of the science. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 155, 12-27.

Ng, Z. Y., Pierce, B. J., Otto, C. M., Buechner-Maxwell, V. A., Siracusa, C., & Werre, S. R. (2014). The effect of dog–human interaction on cortisol and behavior in registered animal-assisted activity dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 159, 69-81.

Wan, M., Bolger, N., & Champagne, F. A. (2012). Human perception of fear in dogs varies according to experience with dogs. PLoS one, 7(12), e51775.

 

Charlie’s Facial Expressions and Unimaginable Joy

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live with a blind dog? Charlie was only a puppy when I was told that he needed both of his eyes removed. I worried that I wouldn’t know how to read his facial expressions. Trust me, I was worried for no reason! Charlie is one of the most expressive dogs I’ve ever met.

charlie-ncsu-vs-ted-4a

Charlie was at the North Carolina State University in this photo. He was a participant in a research study. After he completed the study I met some of the research team that reviewed the photos from the project. These members of the team were not present during the testing. They told me that he was so happy which made his smile so big that his eyes were shut! I laughed and said “Yup, that’s my Charlie! He shares unimaginable joy everywhere he goes. But, his smile didn’t shut his eyes. His eyes are sewn shut because he eyes were removed due to complications from blindness…” The professor said he learned that after he reviewed the photos of Charlie, but it wasn’t the his first impression of the dog. I find this interesting because it often happens when Charlie meets new people.

char faces-8

Let me introduce you to puppy Charlie. When I learned he was losing his eyes I thought of the Velveteen Rabbit. In case you don’t the story there is a quote that reminds me of Charlie.

velveteen rabbit

Charlie is very Real and incredibly beautiful. He is resilient and doesn’t easily break. He has taught me much over the years. He sees with his heart and soul. When people meet him they know that he sees them even though he has no eyes. It is a wonderful thing.

It took two different procedures to remove both eyes because there were complications after the first procedure. Charlie was a trooper and in this photo he is on the road to recovery after the surgery. You can tell he was a little wary here as the photo portrays one of Charlie’s more serious moments. This serious pup grew up to be very joyful.

Look at his face – my goodness! He is one of the most expressive dogs I know. Well, he is a beagle and isn’t shy about letting you know what he is feeling! In the photo Charlie is about 10 years old and is sharing his unimaginable joy. I am so thankful for his joy.

One of Charlie’s favorite things to do is the “Snoopy Dance!” Yup – up on his back legs … he stands to dance and he smiles a big goofy smile the entire time … it is a sight to behold when a dog with no eyes is dancing on two feet and laughing at the same time. He knows he will earn some sort of fabulous reward for this trick.

Charlie's official Pets At Duke

Charlie’s head tilt … everyone adores the head tilt. This is Charlie’s camera pose. If you say “Charlie, 1-2-3” he will stop, sit (or lay down) and tilt his head. You need to take the photo on 2, but keep counting to 3. Thank you Kristy for teaching Charlie this trick! Charlie was my active Pet Partner for 8 years and had a lot of photos taken during that time. The camera pose trick served us well. This is Charlie’s official Pets At Duke photo – thank you Diane Lewis Photography for this and many other amazing photos!

Don’t be fooled – the boy can get down and dirty. Somehow I think he is part duck because he almost never is muddy. However, one day he came inside so full of mud. He seemed so proud of himself for being so muddy, that I had to document his muddiness! Notice the ears – they are flipped back. I think the flipped back ears help him cool off, but they can also be a sign of arousal…

How did I ever think that a dog with no eyes would have a face that didn’t have expressions? Between his eyebrows, mouth, and ears there is a ton of information! (the flipped back ear in this case is arousal)

Charlies journey-29

After a hard day’s work even Charlie gets tired and needs to go to bed! This photo is from his early years. You can tell he is younger because his face has ticking showing so he was between 1 and 2 years old.

Thanksgiving Dogs-15

One of Charlie’s favorite things – to sit on my lap and help me work. I find this photo fascinating because it is like Charlie is watching himself on the computer… only how can he? The photo demonstrates why people ask me “are you sure he isn’t faking being blind?” I know, the dog has no eyes, nothing connected to his optic nerve and yet people want to know if he is faking it… I’m tempted to ask them “what color is George Washington’s white horse?” Yes, he is blind … he just doesn’t need his eyes to see.

Charlie may be getting older but he doesn’t let that slow him down. He doesn’t let a little thing like the weather slow him down. If there was a thought bubble over his head it might be something like “what, you think a little snow is going to stop me? I’m blind. I might older, but I can still get around… I like snow. Let me play. Stop taking my picture already!” You need a Jersey or maybe Brooklyn accent in there too. And did you notice… head tilt…. what do you think – does he always tilt his head the same direction?

char faces-5

Happiness!! More of Charlie’s unimaginable joy.
We all need unimaginable joy in our lives.

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Charlie is on the beach. His head is lifted into the wind, feeling the breeze and smelling all the things that a beagle can smell.  Sheer bliss… He might not be showing unimaginable  joy in the form of the Snoopy Dance or giving you a goofy grin… but this face, this is his bliss face. He loves the beach. I’m not sure if it is because he likes the water (he does) or if it is because he likes the variety of stinky smells! He loves smelling dead fish, all things about birds, people cooking out. You name it he can identify the smells. He can tell you exactly where it is coming from and more importantly where he might snag a tasty treat! If you happen to go to the beach with Charlie – you had better safeguard your burgers!
char faces-13

Charlie with a chin over Ella … Charlie and Ella are best buds and snuggle together all the time. The fact that they are looking in different directions could be that each dog finds different things distracting. This photo was taken on the main traffic circle at Duke on a Sunday morning. There were several cars that kept driving around the traffic circle watching as I took a series of photos which I found distracting. I can only imagine what the dogs thought! Charlie “watched” the cars go round and round!

char-faces-11

Charlie still has the smile… and unimaginable  joy… and can make you feel special just by being near you. I still get requests for visits with him, but he is retired and has earned the right to be a couch potato, prowl for critters in the back yard, open all the kitchen cabinet doors (and climb inside) and howl at strange sounds.

Charlie’s parting thoughts are for you to find your own unimaginable joy. The list below are some of things that are Charlie’s happiness which is why he wants you to know that you should feel free to add whatever it is that makes you feel unimaginable joy.

charlies-wisdom