Be Your Dog's Advocate

All of us who play sports with our dogs worry about musculoskeletal injuries. Whether your dog is very lame or just showing subtle signs of injury, there are few things that may help with a fast and permanent resolution of the problem.

Don't ignore early signs of a problem. Not all injured dogs show an obvious lameness. There may be a decrease in performance, such as slower times in agility, slower response to cues in obedience, a slight hesitation to start an activity. We all know some dogs will do what they love, or what we asked them to do, even if it hurts. Not too long ago, veterinarians were taught not to treat pain in dogs because the pain will make the dog restrict their own activity. Not many of us believe that any more.

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Canine Sports Medicine

Once a year, I teach a class called Canine Sports Medicine for the Performance Dog Handler. It is not just for performance dog handlers. Anyone who has a dog that is active, that has had an injury, or that will have an injury, will benefit from this class. 

Everyone wants to do the best for their dogs. Many of us are willing and able to travel several hours and spend several thousand dollars to treat our dog's injury. The problem is, if we don't know what is wrong, we can't fix it. In my experience, the weakest link in treating injuries in dogs is getting the correct diagnosis.

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What’s Right with My Dog?

You usually need a veterinarian to tell you what's wrong with your dog.

You may notice signs that something is wrong. Your dog is limping, or not eating, or drinking more water than normal. You may have an idea of what it could be, but you will probably need a veterinarian's exam, and possibly some laboratory tests or radiographs (x-rays), to make a diagnosis.

But how do you tell what's right with your dog? 

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Unintended Consequences: Understanding Poisoned Cues

In positive reinforcement training, a cue is something that indicates to the learner (your dog) that you would like her to do a certain behavior.

Most cues in dog training are verbal or visual. But cues can be olfactory (a dog training in scent work sniffs the odor and sits) or auditory (a click in clicker training), or environmental (you take your dog out of the car at the trailhead, and she knows she is going for a walk). A touch can also be a cue.

The dog learns that when she hears, sees, smells, or feels the cue, and performs the correct behavior, she will earn a reward.

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