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Dog Flu Hits Again – Here’s How to Keep Yours Safe

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The strain of canine influenza that swept the US last spring is infecting dogs once again.  H3N2’s recent arrival in the country from Asia means American dogs have no immunity to it, and though most will be able to fight it off, the virus can be deadly for some.

It has already infected dogs from Washington to Florida to Maine, and is most likely to be contracted by dogs in shelters and those who spend a lot of time in kennels, daycares, grooming facilities, and dog parks.

Symptoms include a fever, cough, runny nose, lethargy, and loss of appetite.  Some dogs can develop more serious symptoms and even succumb to the illness, but about 80 percent of dogs infected will only have a mild form.

“Every dog that coughs doesn’t have canine influenza, but dogs with canine influenza cough,” Arkansas veterinarian Jon Remer told 5 News. “They will have a bronchitis, they’ll have nasal discharge, they’ll have ocular discharge.”

The strain is highly contagious and can be spread by coming into direct contact with respiratory emissions.  People who have touched sick dogs can spread the virus to other dogs.

“The virus can live a couple of days without any problem whatsoever on a hard surface,” Remer explained. “It can live on your hands for about 12 hours.”

Healthy dogs may become infected by coming into contact with contaminated food/water dishes, toys, beds, etc.  All of these things should be thoroughly washed, and a person should make sure to wash hands and change clothes before touching a healthy dog or their things if they believe they have been in contact with a sick dog.

Veterinarians can test dogs for the flu and can administer a vaccine to help prevent them from catching it.  In severe cases, lack of treatment can lead to pneumonia and death.  However, vets aren’t positive that the vaccine, designed to fight the newer H3N2 strain, will work on the H3N8 strain, which still circulates.

If your dog shows flu-like symptoms, contact your veterinarian and make sure your dog gets plenty of fluids and rest in a comfortable place.  Humans and cats are not known to contract the virus, but a sick dog must be kept away from other dogs to prevent transmission.

“It’s really no different if you’re talking about dogs or toddlers, if you think they’re sick, don’t bring them to daycare,” said Keith Poulsen of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

If your dog shows symptoms of flu, contact your veterinarian and make sure your dog gets plenty of fluids and rests in a comfortable place.  Humans and cats are not known to contract the virus, but a sick dog must be kept away from other dogs to prevent transmission.

Groundbreaking Study Shows Dogs Can Truly Understand Emotions

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As dog lovers, we all already know how emotionally perceptive our dogs are.  Their happiness is amplified by ours, and they are always ready to lick our tears away.  But now there is science to demonstrate that dogs are the only other animal known to be able to recognize human emotions.

Dogs have been humans’ companions for over 10,000 years, so they’ve had plenty of time to get to know us.  Researchers have shown that dogs are able to distinguish emotions in people by using multiple senses.

Psychologists and animal behavior experts at the universities of Lincoln and Sao Paolo teamed up to see how well dogs could understand emotions and how they are displayed.  Veterinary professor Daniel Mills had 17 dogs sit in front of a screen and see images of another dog.  One image showed the dog looking happy, the other angry.

A tape was also played of a dog barking, and which face the subjects looked at was noted.  During excited barking, the dogs spent more time looking at the happy image.  When they heard growling, the dogs tuned in on the angry face.

By using both vision and hearing, the dogs were able to assess the emotional state of the dog in front of them.  A similar test was performed by showing the dogs photos of a happy/angry person, and the results were the same.

“It has been a long-standing debate whether dogs can recognize human emotions. Many dog owners report anecdotally that their pets seem highly sensitive to the moods of human family members,” Professor Mills said.

“However, there is an important difference between learning to respond appropriately to an angry voice, and recognizing a range of very different cues that go together to indicate emotional arousal in another.

“Our findings are the first to show that dogs truly recognize emotions in humans and other dogs.”

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Because none of the dogs were trained to determine the moods of the individuals they were seeing on screen, this study suggests that their ability to combine such cues is inborn.

“Previous studies have indicated that dogs can differentiate between human emotions from cues such as facial expressions, but this is not the same as emotional recognition,” explained psychologist Kun Guo.

“Our study shows that dogs have the ability to integrate two different sources of sensory information into a coherent perception of emotion in both humans and dogs.

“To do so requires a system of internal categorization of emotional states.

“This cognitive ability has until now only been evidenced in primates and the capacity to do this across species only seen in humans.”

Emotional contagion, a basic building block of empathy, is when an individual spontaneously shares an emotion with another.  Another recent study just proved that this exists in dogs, causing them – like humans and other primates – to mimic one another’s facial expressions.

“If you live in a group and you share with companions many interests and goals, you must understand his or her emotional state, and the only way to do that is to ‘read’ his or her behavior and facial and body expressions,” said lead author Elisabetta Palagi.

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About Melanie

studied English and has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a focus on animal behavior, neuropsychology, and psychotherapy. She shares two pit bulls (adopted from the SPCA Serving Erie County) with her family, as well as three adopted cats with her husband, Fred. She takes pride in being a grammar enthusiast and advocating for animals, the environment, equal rights, and humanitarianism. She loves camping, cooking, taking photos, listening to psychedelic rock and indie music, and making all sorts of crafty things – from charm bracelets and paper rose bouquets to kitty condos and feral cat houses!

Melanie was sharing this profile with Fred, who is new to the Life With Dogs family, so many stories that were written by Fred from April 2014 – June 2014 will appear under Melanie’s name.

4 Tips for the Perfect Loose-Leash Walk

proper dog walking tips

Do you walk your dog, or does your dog walk you? Unfortunately, many pet parents struggle with what is supposed to be a fun activity with our furry friends. From pulling to sniffing to plain refusing to move, California trainer and founder of The Pooch Coach, Beverly Ulbrich, walks us through the biggest leash blunders and how to correct them.

Preventing Pulling

Any seasoned pet parent has seen it, or maybe even suffered through it—dogs straining at the leash, pulling their human in all different directions. There may be a number of factors at play, but often pulling is due to a lack of focus and excitement on the walk.dog walking tips

“If you’re walking slowly with no energy, who is going to follow that and be interested?” Ulbrich asks. “Anything is more interesting than you at that point.”

Trainer Tip: Keep the leash really short and make unpredictable movements—stop, start, and turn. Make the dog realize they have to pay attention to you because he doesn’t know what’s going to happen next. This way, he has to follow you to keep up.

“Once you really bring up your energy, walk with purpose and make yourself more interesting, the dog has something more interesting to follow,” Ulbrich adds.

It may also be time to go back to training 101 and properly teach your dog the heel command.

trainer Tip: If you’re in the house or a safe, quiet off-leash area where you want to work with your dog, take a squeaky toy, ball, or cookies—anything that’ll keep your dog’s interest. Keep it by your side and as your dog follows by your side, give them the treat and say, “Good heel!”

“This works better in an undistracted environment like your house or yard, but not walking down the street or at the park,” Ulbrich says.

Stop Constant Sniffing

Does your dog want to stop every five feet on a walk to sniff, dig, or mark his territory? This might be due to the type of leash you’re using—a retractable leash where your dog can wander far away or a harness where you have no control over his head are not ideal.stop constant sniffing

“The two biggest problems with these types of leashes are leaving too much slack on the leash and a lack of control,” Ulbrich says. “You have to teach the dog to follow you, which goes back to the method of preventing pulling.”

Trainer Tip: Teach your dog that sniffing is okay, but there are times for it. Dedicate part of the walk to walking, and part of the walk to sniffing and exploring.

“Walk to your destination—say the dog park—let them sniff and play, and walk home again,” Ulbrich explains. “The path to and from the destination should be completely work related.”

Ulbrich says this is the nature of pack animals, called the migration path.

“By following this method, you’re recreating that structure in the dog’s life that every pack animal needs,” Ulbrich adds.

Move It Along!

Some dogs pause during the walk and refuse to continue. They are simply frozen in place and no amount of coaxing seems to work.

What not to do:

  1. Don’t feed your dog when he stops. “A lot of people think a cookie will lure their dog to get up and walk again,” Ulbrich says. “The problem is you’re rewarding them for stopping, so they’re going to keep stopping to get more cookies.”
  2. Don’t pull on the leash. “Pulling on the leash doesn’t work because the dog’s mind is locked—they stubbornly think they don’t want to move,” Ulbrich explains. “By pulling, all you’re doing is getting in a battle of line, and they are just going to stay locked in that mindset.”

Try this instead:

  1. Change the dog’s mind about wanting to move. “Think of them as being stuck in a daze and you have to get them out of it,” Ulbrich suggests. “Do something strange that distracts them, like whistling or squeaking a toy, anything to get them to pay attention to the distraction and not the fact they don’t want to move anymore.” Remember not to actually give the dog the toy, which would reward the stopping behavior.
  2. Touch the dog somewhere he doesn’t expect you to, such as a tap on the back or tail. “It’s not petting or being affectionate, which would also be rewarding the behavior, it’s just a little poke to get them out of their locked state,” Ulbrich says. “You’re doing something that’s a little bit weird and because they’re wondering what it is, they get up and start moving again.”

Stopping mid-walk can often occur with fearful dogs, perhaps rescued animals. Some pet parents notice their dog’s natural instinct is to run back towards his house, so the walk home is always smooth.

“Have a friend drive you and your dog a few blocks and drop you both off, so the entire walk is coming back to the house,” Ulbrich suggests. “Over time, increase the distance. Slowly break them of their fearful habits until they learn walks are fun and not scary.”

Teaching Puppies Leash Etiquette

Getting off on the right paw is crucial to teaching a puppy proper leash etiquette—and the sooner, the better.

Introduce your puppy to the leash as soon as possible. Start them in the house, then the yard, and eventually outside. Image via Flickr.

Introduce your puppy to the leash as soon as possible so they get comfortable with it. Start them in the house, then the yard, and eventually outside. Image via Flickr.

“As soon as you get your puppy, put him on a leash in your house and play with them inside,” Ulbrich says. “If you wait several days or weeks to introduce the leash, they’re going to be confused as to what it is and fight to get it off.”

Once your puppy is used to the leash in the house, walk them in the yard, eventually progressing to walks outside. If your puppy starts to pull on the leash, Ulbrich suggests the game “red light-green light.”

“With a puppy starts pulling, you stop dead,” Ulbrich explains. “The dog learns pulling makes you stop, which is the opposite of what he wants.”

Ulbrich notes this method only works with puppies and not with dogs who are already pulling.

“It’s too late if a dog is already pulling,” Ulbrich adds. “Those dogs think it’s a game of pull-stop, pull-stop.”

The Bottom Line

Our furry friends need the exercise and stimulation of a walk on a daily basis.

“If your dog isn’t walked every day, that’s going to cause problems,” Ulbrich explains. “They’re going to be so eager to be out that their energy level is too high and they’ll walk erratically and pull. If they go out often, it’s not as big a deal and they’ll be much more calm.”

But how you walk is just as important as how often. Following these tips and starting the walk as calmly as possible, making your dog sit and stay before walking out the door, should help lead to a more manageable and productive outing.

Check out this video by The Pooch Coach for more tips on walking:

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