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Best Behavior: Positive Reinforcement for Dogs

The instructional tools of basic obedience (lavish praise, food treats, collars of various types, leashes, and so on) are means to an end - verbal control over your dog. Almost all techniques incorporate operant conditioning, where the dog's correct response to a command (the stimulus) results in a reward (the reinforcement). This reward increases the probability that the dog will behave the same way next time. Without constant reinforcement, dogs gradually "forget" learned behaviors. …

Best Behavior: Who’s Leading Whom?

Most dogs are quite content to let the owner be the pack leader. But, a dog with dominant tendencies might attempt a "coup" if it perceives a lack of human leadership-for example, if the owner lets it get away with not obeying commands. "The dog might then think, "This group needs a leader, so I'll be it," says Dr. Flannigan. …

Best Behavior: Why Dogs Bark

To curtail problem barking, it's helpful to determine why your dog is barking. Like most dog behavior, barking is typically a symptom of an unsatisfied need, so determining the cause from a laundry list of possibilities become an owner's first major challenge. Barking is simply a dog's means of communication, whether directed at other dogs, at members of the household, or at the world in general. It may be an attempt to stake out territory, or…

Teach a new behavior using a crate by the front door instead of modifying...

[From Tufts December 2010 Issue]If your dogs barking when visitors arrive is an eager Yay, our friends are here! response, you may find it easier to modify than a reaction to anxiety. The reason: Youre teaching a new behavior rather than trying to change a negative emotional response. Simply teach your dog that the doorbell or a knock at the door are cues to go into his conveniently located crate or bed - I prefer a crate near the…

Dont be wary of close contact with your dog

[From Tufts January 2010 Issue]

Ever since most dog lovers can remember, theyve heard that kissing a dog - and being kissed back - is risky. The dog has germs, mothers would say.

If you let him lick you, youll get sick.

Thats a contention that Scott Shaw, DVM, a specialist in emergency and critical care at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and head of the schools infection control committee, disputes. In most cases, the risk of contracting anything from close contact with a dog is very low, he says.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has reported that about 60 percent of the 1,461 infectious diseases recognized in humans developed in other species and that animals have transmitted about 75 percent of emerging human infectious diseases in the past three decades. The report didnt specify the extent of dogs role, but they account for only a small fraction of those numbers, Dr. Shaw says. People should not be afraid of their dogs.

Dogs can contract only a few diseases from us, but antibiotic-resistant MRSA is one...

Generally, dogs give far more diseases to people than vice versa. There are very few diseases?that dogs can contract from people, says Scott Shaw, DVM, at Cummings School. One notable exception is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Today, its occasionally being diagnosed in dogs. The infection, which affects the skin and other areas, is the 10th leading cause of human deaths in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesnt track canine deaths from MRSA. …

Heart Failure is Not A Death Sentence for Dogs

Despite its ominous sounding name, congestive heart failure (CHF) doesnt necessarily mean a dog cant live out his life fetching, foraging and frolicking. With advances in medicine, dogs with heart failure enjoy longer, healthier lives than once thought possible.

Two gifts enhance diagnostic imaging

[From Tufts March 2010 Issue]

A new high-performance CT scanner at Cummings School delivers three-dimensional images and enables veterinarians, among other advantages, to see soft-tissue structures, such as tumors, that would be less visible with older technology. The $500,000-scanner can create images in half the time the schools previous scanner required.

In addition, equipment as seemingly basic as a new video monitor and overhead light at the school are helping veterinarians pursue cutting-edge procedures, such as treating dogs with collapsing tracheas without invasive surgery. The ongoing trend toward technology?provides more tools to improve diagnoses and treatments and, in some cases, offer cures.

State-of-the-art equipment

What’s the Best Age to Neuter a Dog?

We have had Great Danes for several years. Most have been males neutered at about 6 months. Recently, we have heard breeders and others say this age is too young for large-breed dogs. They say neutering them this early causes them to grow taller and not fill out. Our male is 18 months old and was neutered at 6 months. He now is 36 inches tall at the shoulders and barely tips the scale at 140 pounds. [The Great Dane Club of America includes no weight requirements in its standard, but other sources list weight for males at 135 to 170 pounds and height of 33 to 36 inches.] What is the medically recommended time to neuter a large breed?

Serious eye inflammation in dogs

[From Tufts March 2010 Issue]

My 6-year-old Australian Shepherd, Candy, who was born deaf, was recently diagnosed with uveitis. She is on steroid and atropine drops and pain medication. Can you please discuss the outcome for treatment?
Susan Hudachek
Pittsburgh, PA

Incontinence in Dogs: Collagen Treatment Can Help

Veterinarians have discovered that a technique used to make human skin look more youthful can cure difficult cases of canine incontinence-at least temporarily. A collagen injection into the urethral lining has been found to have a success rate of more than 90 percent for 18 months. The bovine collagen used in veterinary medicine-the same used in people-increases pressure and tightens the urethra, the tube leading from the bladder to discharge urine. This fibrous protein also encourages the growth of new blood vessels. The injections are safe, though costly at about $1,000, and may need to be repeated when they lose effectiveness.

Infections and other diseases can also cause canine incontinence

[From Tufts April 2011 Issue]

Although hormonal deficits are the largest cause of canine urinary incontinence, several other conditions have symptoms that can include urinary leakage. Among them are:

Urinary tract infections. Cystitis, bladder stones and other problems in the urinary tract can cause a housetrained dog to begin leaking urine. Other symptoms are blood in the urine, straining to urinate and the passage of very little urine. A urine sample confirms the diagnosis of infection. Treatment consists of a short course of antibiotics. X-rays or ultrasound are needed to diagnose stones. Treatment for stones ranges from dietary changes to surgery, depending on the type, location and size of the stones.