Author Archives: Nancy Gallimore Werhane

Did My Dog Just Cough?

posted August 2nd, 2015 by


I just survived my first, and hopefully only, major cold of this winter season. It was a beauty. Cough, congestion, stuffy nose, laryngitis-the works. I did receive a good deal of sympathy for it, but nobody panicked. Nobody rushed me to the hospital. Now, give any one of those symptoms to a dog and stand back. Let a sweet-faced canine issue one wheeze and panic ensues. I am not making light of this phenomenon as I am as guilty as the rest of the dog moms and dads in this world.

So what is it that makes it so much worse when a dog comes down with a bug? Well, I think the first issue is that our dogs have a really hard time describing their symptoms and telling us where it hurts. That makes us all feel just a bit helpless because, well, our dogs depend on us to make everything ok. Then there’s the fear that if you ignore something now, it may well later-say midnight on any major holiday-turn into something that inspires a costly-though-we-wouldnever put-a-price-on-love trip to the emergency vet. And finally there are those darn puppy eyes. There is nothing more pitiful than seeing your normally bouncy, happy friend feeling anything less than bouncy and happy.

One of the most common ailments to strike our canine counterparts is often referred to as kennel cough. That name likely came about many years ago before our dogs had active social lives. Back when I was a kid, there were no dog parks or dog daycares (or cell phones or laptop computers, but that’s an entirely different story). If you did attend a group training class, it might be in the open air of the Fairgrounds parking lot and the dogs were not allowed to mingle.

Truth be told, the family dog rarely left home and if it did, it was probably for a trip to the vet, the groomer, or a stay at a boarding kennel. Since a boarding kennel was one of the few places where dogs came together, it was one of the primary places where dogs were exposed to germs. This is where most believe the name “kennel cough” was born.

Kennel cough, or today’s more “p.c.” term, canine cough, is most often characterized by a deep throated cough, which many dog owners describe as sounding as though the dog has something stuck in its throat. In print it looks something like this: Cough, cough, cough-hack. And the hack can include the expulsion of a foamy mucous. Words can paint such a pretty picture! The far harder to spell term your veterinarian will use is canine tracheitis or infectious tracheobronchitis. According to Dr. Lauren Johnson, of Southern Hills Veterinary Hospital in Tulsa, canine cough is a general term used to characterize a highly contagious cough that can be caused by one or several etiologic agents and can either be bacterial or viral.

Simply put, there isn’t just one cause for canine cough. Kennel cough, canine cough, infectious tracheobronchitis-whatever you decide to call it, the name is really an umbrella term used to cover a number of possible infectious agents.

Because today’s active canine has quite the social life compared to their ancestors from decades past -yes, even those distant 90s-exposure to other dogs and therefore challenges to the immune system happen on a far more regular basis. Dogs have play dates. They go to training schools, they visit dog daycare for group play and they go to the dog park. They play, they romp and they swap spit. There’s no way around it.

Just like kids going to school, germs go right along with them. Ask any teacher as a new semester of classes start up each fall and they’ll tell you they just brace for the new round of runny noses and sneezes to come. It’s basically inevitable. The price of socialization- which trainers and veterinarians will tell you is invaluable to the long term well-being of your dog-is possible exposure to disease. Of course this is why we vaccinate. We protect our dogs from contracting a lot of scary stuff. Parvovirus, distemper, rabies and other potentially devastating diseases are easily prevented with a proper series of vaccinations.

So for our social dogs there is the Bordetella vaccine, the one that stops canine cough. Problem solved, right? Well, yes and no. Go ahead, heave a collective sigh. The term Bordetella is derived from the name of a bacterium, Bordetella bronchiseptica, a chief causative agent in most cases of canine cough. “If you give your dog the Bordetella vaccine, either through nasal drops or injection, it will be protected from the particular strains in the vaccine itself, but not necessarily from all contagious coughs in general,” explains Dr. Johnson. “There are several things we don’t vaccinate for routinely that can cause the same contagious cough symptoms.”

“In addition, there are several variations of the Bordetella strains. Vaccines cannot include every strain. They can only contain the most common strains. Think about it like our flu vaccine. Some people receive this vaccine and still get sick.” So here’s how it goes, the infected dog sheds infectious bacteria and/or viruses in respiratory secretions. These secretions are then transmitted through the air via a cough or sneeze, or they are transmitted directly to another dog through nose-to-nose or mouthto mouth contact.

The tricky part for pet care professionals and owners alike is that a dog can have canine cough, but not yet be coughing or can even remain asymptomatic all together. That means a dog can come to the dog park, for example, play and act completely normal, but another dog may catch a bug from that dog and actually develop full symptoms.
So yes, your dog can be fully vaccinated and healthy as a horse, but still contract canine cough. Is this cause for panic? Should Fido live in a bubble? Well, of course not.

Take logical precautions. Do get the Bordetella vaccine. Even if it doesn’t totally protect your dog, it can help boost your dog’s immunity and hopefully lessen symptoms and duration of the infection if your dog does become ill.

If you plan to board your dog or take it to daycare, check the place out. You want to see plenty of space where there is good air circulation. You want to see that it is clean and you should feel free to ask about cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

Still, with all the precautions in the world, a dog can still catch canine cough at any facility where it comes in close proximity with other dogs. This includes a visit to your veterinarian, a walk through the animal supply store and a spa day at the groomer. It is not just limited to kennels.

So what do you do if your dog does give a little cough? According to Dr. Johnson, you should first isolate the affected dog from other dogs. That means no walks, no trips to the groomer, no training class, no daycare or dog park play. A mild case of canine cough will often go away on its own within seven to 10 days.

Does your dog need to see the veterinarian? It is never wrong to play it safe by seeking a professional opinion. You may first want to see if your dog is running a temperature. This can be easily accomplished through the use of a rectal thermometer and a little petroleum jelly. Yes, you really can do this. A normal temperature for a dog should range between 100.5 to 102.5 degrees.

If your pet’s coughing is excessive, accompanied by a fever, loss of appetite or any nasal discharge, you should call your veterinarian right away to have your dog assessed and to determine the proper course of treatment.
Antibiotics are not always necessary in the treatment of canine cough, just as they are not generally used in treating a mild cold in humans. “If the patient is a healthy dog with a mild cough, it is possible to forgo antibiotics and just treat with supportive care such as cough suppressants or possibly a steroid to reduce inflammation,” advises Dr. Johnson.
“However, if the patient is extremely young with a naive immune system, elderly, sickly or at risk of the infection progressing into pneumonia, then antibiotics may be necessary.”

“Mild cases of classic kennel cough are most often self-limiting. However, owners are often frustrated by the coughing, which can escalate at night and frequently disrupts everyone’s sleep, so at a very minimum we try to relieve symptoms.” Dr. Johnson further counsels that ideally, the affected dog should stay quarantined at home for up to 10 days beyond that last cough to prevent spreading the infection to other dogs. The good news is that in healthy dogs with uncompromised immune systems, it appears that regular socialization helps to build natural immunity to many of the common strains of canine cough. Yes, interaction with other dogs is still a good thing.

At the end of the day, if your dog develops a little cough, but is otherwise healthy and normal, it should come through the ordeal just fine. Perhaps we, the doting humans involved, should take two aspirin and then call the veterinarian in the morning.

Nancy Gallimore Werhane is a certified professional dog trainer, co-owner of Pooches dog care facility, Dalmatian fancier and rescue group coordinator.

Schooling for Success

posted July 15th, 2013 by

Free Training Classes Help Shelter Dogs
and Their New Owners

by Nancy Gallimore Werhane, CPDT-KA

It is 6:15 p.m., on a Thursday at Pooches, my dog care facility in Tulsa. Boarding dogs are being fed dinner, and daycare dogs are heading out the door to their homes—another busy day is winding down. At the same time, several dogs and owners parade in the door and head for the training room where their work is just beginning. There, they are greeted by the wonderful smile of Beth Sharp.

Beth Sharp is a dog enthusiast, trainer and unsung hero who well understands the journey a rescued dog and new owner can take. Her interest in working with dogs was born when she adopted her dog, Cooper, a stray that showed up on her property about nine years ago. Cooper uncovered the “latent dog lover” in Sharp, who had not had a dog since her childhood.

“The training bug bit while taking classes with my unruly Pit Bull mix,” Sharp says. “It was fascinating to watch him learn and to have this completely different species understand what it was I was asking. You can actually see the wheels turning in their little brains, and I love it!”

Sharp participated in several training classes with Cooper, exploring different training methods until she was introduced to force-free, positive training techniques. “I completely geeked-out on it and read every book about learning theory and animal behavior that I could get my hands on— and I still do,” she says. “The results I got were amazing, and I never looked back.”

Sharp’s experience with Cooper inspired her to want to help other dogs, but she wasn’t ready to commit to adding another dog permanently to her family. Instead, she opted to foster dogs waiting for adoption. Providing a temporary home for a variety of dogs not only helped local rescue groups but also gave Sharp a great opportunity to develop her training skills. “I loved the idea of fostering, of helping a dog past its fears and showing it how to be part of a family,” she says. And a bonus was the strong sense of accomplishment she felt when her foster dogs were adopted into good homes.

In addition to providing a foster home, Sharp also started volunteering at the City of Tulsa Animal Welfare shelter (TAW). “I’d been feeling like I wanted to try to have a bigger impact on the animal overpopulation problem in Tulsa. Helping one or two dogs at a time is a lot of fun and very much needed, but I was looking for ways to do more,” she says.

Initially, she helped out at the shelter by walking dogs and assisting with adoptions. As she spent time at the shelter, she realized that it would be helpful to offer some basic training tips to new dog owners in an effort to help adopted dogs settle into new homes successfully and reduce the number of dogs that are returned to the shelter. “I would have loved some tips when I got Cooper to help me avoid wasting time and effort, trying a litany of things that don’t really work,” Sharp says.

“Sometimes new and even experienced dog owners have issues with their dogs that seem overwhelming, but many issues have very simple solutions and that can be the difference between keeping a pet or having to return it to the shelter,” explains Sharp. That theory quickly developed into a free, three-session training class that Sharp would make available to anyone adopting a dog from TAW.

With the help of TAW Manager Jean Letcher, and volunteers Ann Stiles and Cindy Bucher, the training program started in May 2011. Classes were initially held in a small trailer behind the shelter but moved to the Pooches training room for additional space to accommodate more students.

According to Letcher, the program is making a difference. “It’s such a neat deal to be able to tell people about the class—especially if they are adopting their first dog. I have no doubt Beth’s classes have helped reduce our return rate,” Letcher says.

Sharp’s goal for the shelter training program is to show people how to communicate clearly with their dogs in a manner that focuses on positive motivation rather than correction-based training that might include yanking on the leash, yelling at the dog, or using prong collars and choke chain collars. “That stuff really is no fun and not terribly effective—in fact, it can actually be counter-productive to training goals,” Sharp says.

One of Sharp’s former students has nothing but praise for the free classes. Anne Lassiter adopted her Terrier mix, Woodstock, from TAW. A very fearful dog, Lassiter felt that bad experiences in Woodstock’s past had caused his issues, and she wanted to help him learn to enjoy his new life. When Lassiter and Woodstock arrived at their first class, the little dog tucked his tail, raised his hackles and immediately retreated to the space under Lassiter’s chair.

“I thought I made a mistake by bringing him, but Beth assured me that this was exactly what Woodstock needed,” Lassiter says. Sharp helped Lassiter understand that with time, training and positive experience, Woodstock could gain self-confidence. “He quickly fell in love with Beth and would not let her out of his sight,” she says. “He might be under the chair, but he was watching and learning from her.”

Sharp encouraged Lassiter to continue formal training with Woodstock following the three complimentary classes, and that’s exactly what they did. Since that time, Woodstock has graduated from four levels of training, including a trick class that required Lassiter and Woodstock to perform in a show.

“It was hard to believe the little dog I found curled up in the corner of the shelter cage was now on stage performing like a pro,” Lassiter says. “He now has boundless confidence… the transformation has been amazing, and I thank Beth for helping us get started.”

Lassiter says the jumpstart with training that Sharp provides is of vital importance during a crucial time of transition for shelter dogs. “Her gentle hand is reaching out to help, so they are not returned to the shelter before they have time to adjust to their new lives,” Lassiter says. She is certain Woodstock would not be the happy, wellbehaved dog he is today without Sharp’s assistance and encouragement. One glance at Sharp’s new group of students tells a story in itself. One dog is barking nonstop.

One dog is sitting in a corner drooling. One dog is straining at his leash, trying to visit everyone in the room. In the middle of the chaos, Beth Sharp smiles, introduces herself and dives right in, helping each owner/dog team learn how to work together. Before the hourlong class ends, the dogs have settled, the owners have relaxed and progress is underway.

When asked about her classes, Sharp’s response is immediate. “I’m having a blast doing this!” she says. “To date over 150 dogs and owners have gone through the program, and we’re adding more every month.” That’s a lot of dogs and people—past, present and future—who can be very grateful for the inspiration of a once unruly dog named Cooper and a very devoted dog trainer named Beth.

They are What They Eat

posted May 27th, 2013 by

by Nancy Gallimore Werhane

Whole chicken, corn gluten meal, whole grain wheat, turkey meal, brewer’s rice— just a few of the ingredients you may find on your dog’s bag of kibble.

When it comes to feeding our dogs, we want to make the best choices, but read any dog food label and let the confusion begin. Add creative marketing and appealing product names to the mix, and the choices become immediately overwhelming.

So how do you decide which food is right for your dog? Dr. Jennifer Miller, a veterinarian at 15th Street Veterinary Group in Tulsa, says that pet food ingredient labels have become a hot topic of discussion with her clients and with consumers in general. According to Miller, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding pet food ingredients, and that makes it increasingly difficult for consumers to make an educated choice.

One way to start to make sense of it all is to follow two basic rules that I came up with in the course of researching this topic:

1. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.

2. If it sounds terrible to you, it might just be really good for your dog.

So first things first, a name is pretty much just a name, but the pet food bag is actually a legal document. “If you are looking at a particular pet food website or watching a commercial, and they make a big claim about their food that doesn’t show up on their food bag, then it may not be true and could just be part of an advertising gimmick,” Miller says. “Make sure you read the bag.”

There’s a lot of fancy terminology being thrown around in conjunction with pet foods these days, so it’s important to understand which terms actually have legitimate meaning and which words just sound good from a marketing perspective. “What we have to keep in mind is that some of the terms used in promoting dog foods have no legal definition and can be used by anyone that wants to make a claim,” Miller says.

The word “organic” is a term that has been assigned a legal definition and is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AA FCO )—a voluntary membership association of local, state and federal agencies that regulates the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies.

According to USDA regulations, organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones during their lives.

Organic food is produced without using harmful, conventional pesticides; fertilizers containing synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. If you are looking for an organic food, Miller says you should look for the USDA organic seal on the bag. That seal means 95 percent or more of the diet content is organic.

“Natural” is another term with a legal definition. Miller explains that a food claiming to be natural must have ingredients that are found in nature, not artificial or manufactured, and without ingredients that are chemically altered.

On the other hand, she points out that the term “holistic”—a word widely used in pet food marketing—has no legal definition relative to pet foods. “Anyone can claim their food is holistic with no standard for the ingredients chosen,” Miller says.

Pet food manufacturers are also required to state maximum and minimum concentrations of nutrients that must be present for small and large animals in various life stages. Every bag or can of dog food also includes a statement provided by AA FCO detailing how a food’s nutrient content has been verified. Miller explains that pet food can either be formulated—meaning the nutrient content is verified in a laboratory—or it can be tested through a feeding trial.

In the feeding trial, the food has not only been laboratory tested, but has also been fed to animals in the appropriate life stage for a required length of time to show that the animals thrive on the food

“A pet food company that has taken the time and money to have feeding trials performed on their food has essentially proved that their diet works as they claim it does,” Miller says. “The feeding trial method is considered to be the gold standard.”

All product claims, testing, and marketing hype aside, it would seem you could just read the list of ingredients to decide which food is right for your dog. Simple—that is, until you walk to the dog food aisle of your local pet store and stare at row after row of brands and varieties with a dizzying plethora of formulas and ingredient options.

For example, here are the first several ingredients found in three popular dog foods:

1. Whole grain corn, poultry by-product meal, corn gluten meal, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), meat and bone meal, soybean meal, egg and chicken flavor…

2. Chicken meal, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), ground flaxseed…

3. Deboned lamb, oatmeal, whole ground barley, turkey meal, whole ground brown rice, peas…

So which food would you pick? If you’re anything like me, you’re still confused. Back to the classroom we go, and here’s where we touch on my “if it sounds terrible, it may actually be good for your dog” rule

“Probably the biggest myth is that meat by-products are horrible for your pet, and if it doesn’t have a whole meat product as the first ingredient, it isn’t good,” Miller says. “The big issue with this statement is in the legal definition of the ingredients.”

For example, Miller explains that when a pet food label lists chicken by-products as the protein, that means a chicken carcass that has had all of the meat used for human consumption removed (breast meat, wings, thighs, legs), but still contains the cleaned organ meat and bones with leftover meat on them.

While this definition of the term “by-products” sounds anything but appealing to the majority of the human race, it likely has our canine counterparts drooling and actually affords them an excellent source of protein.

Here’s where it gets even trickier, according to Miller—when the label lists whole chicken as an ingredient. It is actually the same thing as the chicken by-product meat, but without all of the cleaned organ meat. This means there is a higher bone (ash/mineral) content to protein ratio.

“Consumers think that they are getting an entire chicken because that is what it sounds like, but legally that is not what it means on an ingredient label,” Miller says.

That brings us to meal. Many dog food labels will list a meat meal as the protein source. Certainly a whole meat ingredient sounds more appealing than something that is a meal. Take chicken again, for example. You might be more likely to buy a food that lists whole chicken as the first ingredient over a food that lists chicken meal.

Guess again. Miller’s colleague, Dr. Erin Reed, explains that in commercial dog food, a high grade meat meal can actually be a better source of digestible protein than the whole meat from which it was made.

Meat meal is the dried end-product of a cooking process known as rendering in which the water is cooked away. The residue is then baked into a highly concentrated protein powder better known as meat meal.

Whole chicken contains about 70 percent water and 18 percent protein, while chicken meal contains just 10 percent water and 65 percent protein. That’s more than three times the protein per pound than whole chicken contains. So maybe now chicken meal doesn’t sound so bad, right?

Armed with a little knowledge, you can make a responsible decision when choosing the bestdiet for your pet. If you want to take it one step further, Miller suggests that you contact the pet food company directly.

There should always be a contact phone number for the pet food company on the packaging, and Miller suggests you ask if they have a veterinary nutritionist on staff. You can find out how and where the food is manufactured, and ask any other questions you may have to try to make a well-educated choice for your pet.

If none of the packaged meals sound appealing to you, you may consider preparing home-cooked meals for you dog, but Miller cautions that the do-it-yourself route isn’t easy either. “If there are consumers out there who truly want to make a home-cooked diet for their pets, there is nothing wrong with it,” she says

“However, it is extremely important to follow a recipe that offers a balanced diet. Feeding your dog chicken and rice with some veggies isn’t going to cut it in the long run because the mineral content will not be balanced.” She suggests visiting or to find a recipe to meet your dog’s dietary needs.

What it boils down to is there are a lot of great commercial pet foods readily available. These foods are designed to meet your pet’s specific nutritional needs at various life stages. On the other hand, there’s a lot of low quality dog food out there too.

As tedious as it may seem, it’s your job to read the labels, sort through the facts, know your dog and any specific needs he may have, and then make the most educated choice possible.

It’s always a great idea to discuss dietary concerns with your veterinarian. Many veterinarians, like Miller, are well-versed in pet food lingo and can help guide you through the pet food aisles. Just remember that appealing names and pretty photos on dog food packaging are designed to catch your eye but may not represent the true quality of the food inside. Do your homework… your dog is counting on you!

Wild Deliveries

posted March 9th, 2013 by

by Nancy Gallimore Werhane

When you start your busy day, you take care of yourself, your family and maybe a few pets, right? When Annette Tucker starts her day, she has about 100 mouths to feed, and that’s during the “slow” season.

By title, Tucker is wildlife rehabilitator, president, director of operations and self-proclaimed head pooper scooper at Wild Heart Ranch (WHR), a state and federally licensed medical clinic, rehabilitation and pre-release care facility for all species of wildlife.

Every day, one employee and a dedicated group of volunteers join her in caring for everything from orphaned deer to a great horned owl with a sprained wing. A quick scan down the rescue group’s Facebook page also reveals a bobcat, raccoons, turtles, hawks, possums, geese, and the newest arrivals, a litter of tiny baby squirrels.

Wild heart ranch started in 1996 when Tucker moved to a small farm near Claremore, Okla. already an animal advocate, Tucker’s farm naturally became a sanctuary for numerous domestic animals in need. Then one day a friend brought her a pair of orphaned baby raccoons, and a mission was launched. Tucker discovered her passion for wildlife rehabilitation and never looked back.

For 12 years, she funded the care of more than 1,000 wild animals per year from her own pocket, working two jobs to do so. One of Tucker’s jobs was as a veterinary assistant— experience that helped her support the animals tremendously through the years.

In June of 2008, Wild heart ranch was finally established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and became Tucker’s full-time job. With help from Wild heart’s co- founder and vice president, Sandy Brooks, Tucker’s support system grew quickly to include Veterinarian Lesleigh Cash Warren, 40 hard-working volunteers, a dedicated board of directors, generous sponsors and, of course, her family and friends.


From her start with two little masked babies, Tucker has created a safe haven where all species of wild animals can receive professional medical and supportive care with the end goal of release back into the wild whenever possible. By the end of 2012, nearly 20,000 wild animals received care at WHR.

The current relative calm at the ranch is about to be shattered. As we head into spring every year, Mother Nature turns into one giant labor and delivery room. if everything goes as planned, baby birds hatch safely, bunnies are snug in their nests, raccoons are tucked away in hollow trees, baby deer are safe hiding in the tall grass, and all receive their mothers’ expert care.

Unfortunately, sometimes Mother Nature’s plans get derailed. Each year hundreds of baby animals are orphaned and well-meaning humans try to figure out what exactly is the right thing to do for them. as Tucker and her volunteers gear up for another busy baby season, they are also working hard to educate the public about how to properly aid wildlife during this delicate time of year.

According to information provided by WHR, one of the best ways to help our wild friends is to steer clear and avoid disturbing nesting sites whenever possible. Tucker advises to think carefully before heading out to spring clean around your house. Thinking of trimming a dead tree limb? Check it first to see if it might be housing a family of raccoons or a nest of baby squirrels.

Planning to clean up an old junk pile? Look for signs of it being used as a temporary nursery. You might see little trails leading into the pile or other small signs that a family is living there. Planning to clean out your gutters? Check for active bird nests before you just sweep everything away.

But what do you do if you find that a bird or wild animal has set up a nursery on your property? “Waiting a bit to deal with the project at hand is always ideal,” Tucker says. Most young families just need a few weeks before the babies are ready to leave the nest and move on.

If your project can’t wait, talk to the experts at WHR to find out how to best deal with the situation. “Finding a nest doesn’t mean you cannot perform your task,” Tucker says. “It just means you will do things a little differently and learn a little patience to support the lives at stake.”

The first rule of thumb Tucker preaches is, whenever possible, babies are better off with their mothers. “We are happy to take in any orphan,” she says. “But it’s sad when a few weeks with mom are traded for several weeks with us.”

If you find a baby bird, returning it to the mother’s nest is ideal. “She is so much better at being a bird example to her babies than we are,” Tucker says. If you should find babies you believe to be orphaned, Tucker advises to make sure the mother is not returning to the nest before intervening. Just because you do not see her, doesn’t necessarily mean she isn’t caring for her young.

10491 S. 4190 RD.
(918) 342-WILD
[email protected]

Take mother rabbits for example. Rabbit nests are just shallow indentions in the ground lined with a bit of the mother’s fur and covered by grass. According to Tucker, rabbits only nurse their young at night and do not sit on their nests during the day because that would attract predators.

Because they are not the smartest moms when it comes to selecting a nest site, Tucker claims it is not uncommon to find a family of newborn rabbits in the middle of your back yard—yes, even if you have a dog or cat in residence.

If you want to see if the mother rabbit is still caring for her young, Tucker suggests using a bit of string or twigs to make an X on top of the nest. If you check the next morning and the X has been disturbed, you will know the mother rabbit is still on the job. She also recommends placing a tomato cage around the nest to protect the babies from family pets. The mother can still get in, but larger animals cannot.

So how do you know when to intervene in helping newborn wild animals? Tucker offers these specific guidelines to determine when it’s time for a baby to go to a wildlife rescue. Intervention is necessary for:

• A baby whose mother is known to be dead.

• A baby that is cold to the touch, injured or dehydrated.

• Any animal or bird, young or adult, which has been caught by a domestic animal. Some internal injuries and puncture wounds are not obvious, and the animal should be checked over by a professional.

• A baby whose nest cannot be located.

If you determine that you do have an orphaned animal in need of assistance, Tucker offers these instructions for ensuring the baby has the best chance of survival. “Do not feed or give milk, water or anything to any animal until you first speak with a wildlife rehabilitator,” Tucker says.

Instead she advises to get the baby secure in a small box with soft, clean, string-free bedding and then warm it slowly if it is cold. “We want them warm and calm when they arrive, so we can immediately get started helping them,” she says. Stress is a primary cause of death in baby animals, so keeping handling to a minimum is vital, no matter how cute the baby.

The first litter of baby squirrels to arrive at WHR signals the tip of the spring breeding season iceberg, and Tucker and her crew are ready. “We expect to accept between 700 and 800 orphaned animals at the ranch by this June,” she predicts.

Her ultimate hope is that instead of taking matters into their own hands, people will ask for information and assistance when dealing with wildlife. “In my world,” she says, “there are no stupid questions when it comes to helping an animal.”

The ABCs of Numbers One and Two

posted January 14th, 2013 by

by Nancy Gallimore Werhane

I am standing outside in my back yard at an hour I can only describe as dark-thirty in the morning. I am shivering in my pajamas and robe while asking… no, make that begging my darling puppy to go potty. Finally, she squats and does her business as I sing her potty skill praises and offer her a celebratory cookie.

Now take this scene and repeat it about 20 times during various hours of the day, and you have a small snapshot of my potty training routine with Brooke, my 10-week-old Dalmatian. It is not the glamorous part of puppy ownership, but it is essential to our happy future together.

As a professional dog trainer, you would think I might have some magical formula for teaching Brooke where and when she should and should not go potty. I do not. It takes patience, supervision and maybe a baggie of yummy treats placed strategically by the back door.

While house-training is one of the most basic lessons we teach our dogs, tales of potty-training woes are among the most common complaints I get from new puppy owners. In fact, I have had more than a few harried puppy parents ask me to whisk their little darlings off for a couple of weeks of toilet boot camp. In most cases, however, it’s not the puppies that need the bulk of the training.

If taught fairly and consistently, puppies are quite happy to learn proper potty etiquette. So it falls on us as humans to understand how the puppy mind works, so we can best teach our little four-legged prodigies the ways of our rule-filled world.

Perhaps more important than discussing how to properly train a young puppy is discussing the many ways people make a mess of this vital step. All too often, people still seem to focus on techniques for correcting a puppy when it eliminates inappropriately.

Rub your puppy’s nose in the mess? Find a puddle and return your puppy to the scene of the crime for a good scolding? Catch your puppy in the act, yell at her and give her a little swat with a rolled newspaper? What is the proper punishment? The simple answer is that there is no proper punishment.

What will punishment accomplish in the house training process? Nothing but a huge set back. It simply does not make sense to correct a puppy for something it absolutely does not understand. It certainly does not make sense to the puppy.

A puppy simply cannot understand why you are upset about a soggy spot on the carpeting that happened five minutes ago, which might as well be five hours ago in puppy time. Punishment does not remind a puppy that she is to go potty outside only. The puppy just perceives it as a senseless attack by the human she generally trusts the most.

But what if you actually catch your puppy in the act of having an accident somewhere in the house? Well, if you get angry, yell at the puppy and scare it while it is going potty, what you have taught her in that moment is that it is very dangerous to potty while the human is watching.

This means you will likely now have a puppy that is afraid to potty while you are present. You just made your house training mission a lot harder, didn’t you? Because your puppy is afraid, she will now become very adept at sneaking off in the house, perhaps in your closet or behind your favorite chair to take care of business. And when you go outside with your puppy hoping for the opportunity to praise her? Well, your puppy does not yet understand that there is a difference between relieving herself inside versus outside. She only knows that when you caught her in the act, you punished her, so now she‘s not willing to potty with you present—inside or out. Since being right there to praise and tell the puppy she’s doing the right thing is key to house training, incorporating any type of correction could lead straight to a tricky little problem.

Instead of looking for ways to correct a puppy, a far more effective and positive route to potty nirvana is to create and maintain a safe routine for teaching your puppy when and where to do her business.

If you watch a litter of tiny puppies— even so young their eyes have barely opened—you will see them squirm their way off their immediate bedding when they need to eliminate. This is the first thing you have working in your favor. Puppies have a natural desire to keep their bed clean if given the opportunity. The trick is that we have to convince them that our entire house is their bed.

This is the stage I am currently in with Brooke. She is very good at keeping her bed tidy. She understands that she should not potty on my bed when she is having her snuggle time. As for the rest of the house, it’s still fair game in her mind, but that’s where I come in.

Brooke has to be supervised 100 percent of the time. I will leash her to me if need be to ensure that I can keep an eye on her. While we are in the training process, I must be diligent to keep accidents inside to a minimum and to create as many good experiences outside as I can.

If she is playing with a toy and then gets up and starts to wander, I know I need to scoop her up and head out the door for a potty break. If she takes a nap, I have to be right there when she wakes up to once again head outdoors with her. When she finishes eating a meal, we go outside. When she gets a big drink of water, we go outside. What goes in seems to come straight back out.

If I can’t keep an eye on her or if I need to be away, she is confined in her crate but only for a limited amount of time. A good rule of thumb to follow is that your puppy can hold her bladder in a crate about one hour for every month of age. That means a 2-monthold puppy can be crated for about two hours. I can’t rush a young bladder, and I sure don‘t want her to be forced to have an accident in her crate. If I have to leave Brooke longer than an hour or two, she stays in her puppy pen with a piddle pad to allow her an appropriate alternate potty spot. I feed her three consistent meals a day, so that we can establish a poop routine (there are no delicate words for it). I know that when I take her out first thing in the morning, I should not be fooled when she comes to celebrate with me after “number one.” Yes, we celebrate; but then we stay outside, not playing, but focusing on “go potty” again, because number two can’t be far behind.

I know that even if she just went, she may well go again within the next 10 minutes. I cannot let my guard down. Puppies pee a lot, and they pee often.

At night, I take her out for a last potty break. Once she is settled in bed, she is generally good to go until early the next morning. However, occasionally she will get restless in the night, and I take that cue to get her out the door for a quick toilet visit and then straight back to bed.

If I ever catch her starting to squat in the house, I am very quick to say “uhoh!” followed by “outside,” said in an easy, encouraging voice. I don’t scare her; I don’t make a huge deal. I pick her up and head out the door to help her do the right thing. It is only through keeping our routine safe, positive and consistent that I am going to soon see the little light bulb of understanding go off over her head.

What it boils down to is this: I chose to get a young puppy. It is no secret that puppies have to be taught where to potty, and it should not be a shock that they will have accidents in the house. I have a job to do. It will likely take several weeks for me to feel that she really understands the difference between the right place to potty and another-indoormess- I-have-to-clean-up. But Brooke is worth every minute. She is worth every freezing trip outside. This is but a small blip on the road to hopefully 15 or 16 years of joy. I can handle this.

So be patient, be positive, buy some good enzyme cleaner and relax. Your puppy will catch on. Technically, we are willing to house train human babies for two to three years, right? What are a few weeks with a darling little puppy? Oops! I have to run. Brooke just woke up… 

A Different Kind of Dog

posted November 24th, 2012 by

Through the course of a day, you can see a variety of dogs around Tulsa. There are lots of happy Labradors and Golden Retrievers. You’ll find plenty of Bulldogs, Beagles and Shih Tzus. German Shepherds, Boxers and Dachshunds abound.

But take a closer look, and you may also see some not-so-mainstream pooches. If you saw big, dignified Jack, would you know he was a Bouvier des Flandres? Or how about cute Ina and Tola? Would you know they are part of an ancient breed known as the Polski Owczarek Nizinny?

How about lovable Prima? If you saw her romping through the dog park, you would immediately know she was a Dogue de Bordeaux, right? And, of course, the handsome Bruno is obviously a Lagotto Romangnolo. You knew that, didn’t you?

In the case of “Jack of Hearts,” so named because he stole his owners’ hearts right from the start, Betty Bailey and Gary Weiss did their homework with the help of a website questionnaire designed to match prospective dog owners with suitable breeds.

“The Bouvier des Flandres popped up as a 90 percent match with our personalities and lifestyle,” says Bailey. “We had never met a Bouvier, so we did a lot of research about them.”

Research taught the couple that their “computer match” dog was originally developed as a hardy herding and flock guardian in the Flanders region of Belgium. Described as rational, gentle, loyal, and protective by nature, the breed’s unique blend of characteristics and high intelligence allow it to excel at a number of tasks. Today’s working Bouviers are often used as guard or police dogs, but they are also known for being exceptional family pets.

Though some may find their appearance intimidating, they are actually a very even-tempered and calm dog. Jack’s owners are quick to endorse the breed as a great companion dog. “We are fans,” Bailey says. “We love the breed’s temperament, intelligence, sensitivity, fun and that they demonstrate good judgment.”

Bailey also appreciates that Bouviers are adaptable dogs. “If it’s quiet, they calm down. If it’s a party, they are the life of it,” she says.

Ownership does not come without responsibility, and Bailey is quick to point out that all of that intelligence must be properly channeled. She explains that Bouviers must have obedience training to meet their need for attention, and you can also expect to have a big dog following you or, more likely, herding you around the house, albeit in a calm manner. “They love to learn and play, but they also need boundaries, and they like predictability,” advises Bailey. “They are a wonderful and generous friend.”

Another herding breed, the Polski Owczarek Nizinny (PON) is an ancient breed of dog that originated in Poland Jack, the Bouvier des Flandres sometime prior to the 16th century. Also known as the Polish Lowland Sheepdog, the PON is characterized as an intelligent, spirited working dog used for herding and protecting farm animals from predators.

According to David Cover and Chris Sellars, owners of PON pair Ina and Tola, these dogs were initially appealing because they are hypoallergenic, have very few health issues and are moderate in size. According to Sellars, owning a PON is like owning a Muppet that thinks it is in charge. “They are very funny, a bit clumsy and will steal everything off of your kitchen counter,” he says. Cover is quick to add that he believes the breed has been hungry for most of its 800- year existence.

When you read the breed description published by the American Kennel Club, the PON is described as a dog that is both affectionate and loving, while also being independent and sometimes stubborn. “Everything you read about this breed is true,” says Sellars. “They are stubborn and will try to take over if you are not firm. They also need to engage in activity every day and will not tolerate being left alone for long periods. They want to be with someone at all times, yet they are not lap dogs.”

Sellars advises that anyone considering adding a PON to their family should first ensure they are able to handle a strong-willed dog and plan to work with a good trainer.

In addition to formal training, do plan on brushing— lots of brushing. According to Cover, it takes dedicated, daily grooming to keep them in a long, full coat, so many pet owners opt to maintain a shorter “puppy cut” as an easier alternative.

Despite a few challenges, including the theft of an entire tin of York Peppermint Patties, Ina and Tola have sold their owners on the PON breed. According to Sellars, they are great dogs, and though they can be a lot of work, they enjoy the dogs tremendously.

This brings us to Prima, a dog with a face and stature that you might find a bit scary if you didn’t know any better. Prima is a Dogue de Bordeaux, or French Mastiff—an ancient breed that was historically known as a prized protector of the wealthiest homes in France.

Prima’s owner, Joseph Colavecchia, knew he wanted a larger breed of dog and, after extensive research, felt the Dogue de Bordeaux was the best fit. “They not only have a very calm temperament, but they are also extremely loyal, patient and devoted to their family,” says Colavecchia. In fact, formidable appearance aside, Colavecchia says the big dogs are very gentle with children. “Prima’s best human friend is Kori, an 11-year-old.”

The other attribute that attracted Colavecchia and his family is the breed’s natural guarding instinct. Yes, calm and sweet with family and friends, but confronted with a stranger, the Dogue de Bordeaux is vigilant, protective and courageous, but without aggression. Colavecchia says that Prima is a first class guard dog.

If you consider adding a Dogue de Bordeaux to your family, Colavecchia says that proper socialization and obedience classes are a must at a young age to help the dog maintain a good social demeanor with other dogs and to teach them in a calm, consistent manner that the humans are in charge. On a day-to-day level, Colavecchia paints a slightly comical picture of life with a dog like Prima.

“You have to love snoring and drooling and think that tooting is funny. You also have to be willing to give up your bed, couch, landscaping, shoes and anything else that the dog may want because what is yours is theirs, and what is theirs is theirs.” However, all joking aside, when asked if he would own another, Colavecchia is quick to answer, “Absolutely, yes.”

From Belgium, to Poland and France, we now head over to Italy to get to know Jaya Richardson’s breed of choice, the Lagotto Romangnolo. Curly-headed Bruno is actually the first pet Richardson has ever owned.

It was important to her to find a dog that was hypoallergenic and non-shedding. Also topping the list of priorities was an even temperament and also a good track record for health.

A small to medium size dog, the Lagottos are described as tractable, undemanding and affectionate, growing very attached to their owners. Originally used as a gun dog and water retriever, over time this adaptable, enthusiastic dog was retrained as a truffle searching dog—the only breed in the world specialized in tracking down the valuable tubers.

“He is playful and active, yet gentle with children, and we love his unique personality,” says Richardson. “If my daughter jumps in the pool, he jumps right in with her with no hesitation.” An added bonus? “If there are any truffles in the area, Bruno is sure to let us know,” she says.

For those who choose to pursue one of the less common breeds of dog, take the advice offered by each of the owners featured here. Do your homework and don‘t make an impulsive decision. Each breed is distinctive and bred with a purpose in mind. Before you search high and low for the dog of your dreams, make sure it’s the right fit for you, and that you and your family—in all fairness—are the right fit for the dog as well.

Nancy Gallimore Werhane

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