Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pit Bull Friendly Toys

We're often asked what kind of toys are good for enthusiastic chewers like most Pit Bulls, and we're including a list and brief review of some of the best toys out there for Pit Bulls. Keep in mind, of course, each dog is an individual, and some dogs might be more merciful to their toys than others, so not all Pit Bulls need the strongest, toughest chew toys out there.

But if you have one that does, here's a list! Remember, always supervise dogs with chew toys, and inspect the toy frequently. If you have a multi-dog household, make sure dogs are given their toys separately, away from each other, to avoid a fight.

Plush Toys
  1. Tuffie Toys are strong, reinforced plush toys. They are not indestructible, but they do come with toughness ratings that indicate their durability. We've found even those rated 8-10 usually only last an hour or so if left as a chew toy, but the more grabbable ones do make decent tug toys.
  2. Stuffingless toys make a great present for dogs that like to disembowl stuffies. While dogs still need to be properly supervised (as with any chew toy), the lack of stuffing yields a smaller mess and less chances of intestinal blockage (though of course dogs can still rip and swallow the fabric itself, which could lead to an expensive vet bill).
  3. Sherpa Toys with Chew Guard Technology last about fifteen minutes for determined chewers, but a bit longer for less serious plushie slayers.
Non-Plushie Toys
  1. Nylabone Galileo Bones come in different sizes. The Wolf size seems to work nicely for the average sized Pit Bull (40-60 pounds), but many dogs also like the Souper size. These last a few days to a few weeks for most dogs, and the edges wear down, allowing you to see when it's ready to be thrown out.
  2. GoughNuts are fantastic toys that even the most serious chewers usually can't put a dent in, and if they do, there's a color coded interior lining that lets you see when the rubber is compromised. These are expensive, but worth the price since you probably won't have to replace it for a while. Be careful, though. These are generally heavy toys, so you shouldn't throw one at your dog.
  3. Hurleys are another rubber-like toy that stand up fairly well to heavy chewers, though they aren't as durable as the GoughNuts and Galileo Bones. They last a few days to a few weeks for most Pit Bulls, but they are a staple around here. Dogs like the soft toys, they are easy to throw (and much lighter than the GoughNuts), and the company will replace one if your dog destroys it (but you have to pay shipping).
  4. Black or Blue Kongs are generally decent options for chewers, but many dogs can tear through a black kong (especially if they find the "trick," which is to start at the big hole and work the rubber until pieces break off). However, black kongs are stronger than red kongs, and they are easy to stuff with natural peanut butter or other goodies to keep your dog occupied. Blue kongs have the advantage of being radio opaque, meaning if your dog swallows a piece, it'll show up on an X-Ray. Kongs come in different sizes -- Large or X-Large generally works best for most Pit Bulls.
Want more great tips and information geared specifically for Pit Bull owners? Check out our Pit Bull Owner Guide.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Getting a dog and cat acclimated to one another

We've had lots of questions about how to acclimate a dog and to a cat, and we frequently refer people to a wonderful link on a great forum called Pit Bull Forum. It's just so much easier when someone else has taken the time to lay out all the information, complete with photos. We did get permission from the author (known as "Red") to post the information, and we're including a link back to the original post (which is a member-only area).

We employ a very similar method, including using firm verbal corrections if a dog shows aggression to a cat. We communicate firmly to our dogs that aggressive behavior toward the cat will not be tolerate while rewarding the appropriate behavior.  The original Pitbullforum post is linked at the end of the article. I highly recommend that you check it out, and if you still have questions about it, then email us!

Recently I have been reading of folks having difficulties with their dogs and cats. I had experiences like that with a few dogs and especially Tigger, now mine but came here as a foster dog. Tigger tried to kill my cat on the second day she was here. I do not do any interaction so soon, my husband left the laundry room open and the cat got in Tigger's face. The only thing that saved the cat was a furniture. Both me and my husband had trouble holding Tigger and we were on top of her. She was in lalaland, all she cared about was to get the cat.

So I thought of sharing my experience and what I did, for what is worth. It was about 9 months of work, it did not happen overnight and no mistakes. Maybe it can help someone and avoid a dog to end up kicked out of the house and a dead cat. This is especially for foster homes since we are responsible for the dog we take in and our own pets.

The first rule is to know the risks of bringing home an uknown dog. Your evaluation at the shelter, AC of whatever the dog comes from is only a little snapshot of the personality, habits and genetic of the dog. Once the dog is in a different environment all the "problems" show up, things might change. If the injury or even loss of a pet (it can happen) will buy the foster dog a ticket back to the pound or worse then don't foster. It is a risk, plain and simple, but good management and commitment can save troubles.

After the accident I kept Tigger totally away from the cat for about 2 months. She knew it was in the house but I did not allow her to see it. This is to try to take her mind off of it a bit and get to know the dog.

Then I started to show the cat to Tigger trough a baby gate and not knowing if she would jump it she was also on a lead. I had treats and solid hold of the lead.I was waiting for the moment she looked at me, to praise her. The first time it took 40 minutes for a quick look. Tigger knew no commands so before this I started teaching "watch me". I like positive training to teach commands but I am also not very positive when it comes to house rules. The cat is something the dogs here cannot touch and I enforce it. I don't get physical and hurt the dog but I make it clear that they cannot eat the cat. Tigger was "corrected" with voice and pulled back when she lunged at the cat.

When Tigger looked at me the first time she got her treat and the cat was put away. I started doing this every day. Tigger would see the cat for 5 minutes every day.The beginning was quite frustrating and things looked less than promising.There was lunging at open mouth, screaming and major fits. A strong and determined dog trying to do something can be an hassle. I kept insisting on it.

In the meantime I found out that she was very food motivated so I would do the "cat sessions" before a meal.

To one look a few more followed. After a few months the baby gate came down and I would have the cat loose and Tigger on lead and I would walk her around the house. By then she knew "watch me" and associated lunging at the cat with trouble while looking at me would bring treats and ball time.

I decreased the distance very slowly since she was still trying to see if there was a way she could get a hold of the cat. That meant taking a step back and work from distance.

Tigger also saw the cat when she was crated and treats were thrown to her when she laid down and ignored the cat, along with vocal praise.  When she finally stopped to lunge and pull toward the cat and I saw her focusing on me and the food I let her loose behind the baby gate and watched her, while the cat was on the other side of the gate. Tigger ignored the cat and walked away from the gate when asked.If she seemed too interested I would say "nah-ha" and she would step back and go lay down on her bed.This was around 5 or 6 months after she came here. Her body language in the cat's presence was starting to relax and she was able to play with her toys or chew on a bone behind the baby gate. With some experience we can read a dog before something happen and anticipate it and use postures to tell us what is going on.

Then Tigger was brought in the kitchen loose with the cat and me there, for 10 minutes or so each time. My husband was there also in case of problems.I had a bunch of treats and kept asking the dog to stay next to me. Each time she looked at the cat she was re directed with the voice and a treat was popped in her mouth.

Three months after that, Tigger was allowed to be loose in the living room and every room of the house with both me and the cat there.I would still offer treats and kept calling her to me but by then she wasn't showing dangerous interest in the cat.The cat was also relaxed around her.

At that point I felt that Tigger was ready to be with the cat without major problems so I increased the time they interacted.

This is how things are today, two years after the day she tried to kill my cat.Here she is asked to ignore the cat:

The same excercises were done with Jack who also try his best to get a hold of small animals. It is a year and one month that he has been here and it is about 2 months since he is allowed to be near the cat.

There are 4 dogs in this room and the cat is on the bed. Each one of them, except the little one, has prey drive and can't be trusted with any other small animal outside my house. If I leave the room the cat is not safe any more. I am very aware of it. One dog alone might not hurt the cat but with 3 of them it takes very little to get over excited, especially if the cat decides to move fast.

All this been said there is no guarantee that the dogs will never try to do something. Tigger will get any cat outside of the house, even mine. If my cat runs in the yard she will get it. Prey drive is something that cannot be eliminated on a dog. The rules only apply in my house and they are the result of months of work. I do not expect the dogs to "learn" not to be aggressive towards small animals but I do want them to follow some rules in my own house. Some dogs will never be able to be in the same room with a cat but I believe that many can get to that point, with the resident cat at least. forgetting that the way they behave inside the house is not going to affect their instincts. Outside the house it is fair game.

There is always a chance of accidents and someone can get hurt. My husband spent 4 days on IV and morphine for an infected cat bite. He had the cat in his arms and made the mistake to let him see Tigger, as he was walking outside. The cat remembered that same dog and bit my husband, trying to run for his life.

This is my experience and the way I approach foster dogs with high prey drive. It works for me, so far, granted I am willing to be patient and careful. It might not be the same with the next dog and there might be a serious accident. I am not telling anyone that it will work for you, but it is worth to give it a try at least. Mistakes can and will happen, to everyone. They teach us what we probably did not know how to manage. Sometime it is just bad luck so we have to be sure that we are ready to deal with things before we get ourselves and our own animals in trouble. And time, lots of time.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Heartguard Plus Lawsuit: Fired for Protecting Dogs or Disgruntled Employee?

Findlaw published an article today detailing a lawsuit against the manufacturer of Heartguard Plus that alleges the company fired her after she discovered "the company had intentionally utilized improper data analysis methods to ward off an FDA investigation."

She's not just any former employee, though. She's Dr. Kari Blaho-Owens, the former Global Head of Pharmacovigilance, which means she oversaw the collection and analysis of adverse reactions to drugs the company manufactured. Her lawsuit alleges that she discovered Heartguard Plus is not 100% effective, despite the company's claims otherwise, and that she was instructed to destroy documents that were relevant evidence in a class action lawsuit against the company.

Of course, her allegations are just that -- allegations. However, there are a few shady facts staining the company's reputation, including two FDA warning letters (one in 2007, available here). You can also read the earlier class action lawsuit against the company here.

Another article (scroll down) tells that when one dog contracted heartworm disease after being on Heartguard Plus, the company paid for the dog's treatment after investigating and finding that the owner's compliance with giving the preventative to her dog was substantial.