Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Meet The Breed: The Rhodesian Ridgeback... A Superbly Complex and Extraordinary Hunter

 During our 14 years of working with dogs, we have been humbled and educated by each and every breed we have worked with. However, we must admit, the Rhodesian Ridgeback has baffled us with their mysterious origins,  giving us a whole new level of respect for the breed.  How such an extraordinary primitive canine,  created to be the fiercest of hunters, has been domesticated to live among us humans, is a true wonder  We invite you to experience the amazing success and mystery of this breed along with us.

ORIGIN:  The Rhodesian Ridgeback was originally developed in South Africa in the mid-17th century in a region known as Rhodesia, which has become modern day Zimbabwe. At the time many hunters and new settlers found that they needed a new type of dog who could guard their homes from African predators and assist the hunter in putting food on the table.  If you were a native of Rhodesia, Lion was a popular meal  to serve your family.  This predator was large and muscular and could feed a large family for many days.... BUT hunters needed something strong and fearless enough to surround the Lion and contain it until you they could get to it safely. It is believed that a primitive "hunting canine" of the ancient Khoikhoi tribe called the AfriCanis Dog was crossed with other breeds whose genetically honed skills could address their needs. These were the powerful South African Boerboel, (a Mastiff breed used as a guard dog for the family but could track and hold down wounded game)  The Great Dane (renowned for its wild boar hunting and guarding skills), The Greyhound and/or Deerhound (extraordinary sighthounds able to sight prey from a far distance), Bloodhounds (for their amazing scent detection), and some type of Terriers (famous for their tenacity and fearless tracking).  Hence, the formidable Rhodesian Ridgeback was created,  bred to hunt in packs, be fearless enough to hold a Lion at bay, and yet, come home at the end of the day and guard the home.

The signature Ridgeback Ridge- the ridge of hair running along it's back in the opposite direction from the rest of the coat- can be traced solely from the AfriCanis dog.  This ancient breed dates back some 7,000 years and is the backbone of the Ridgeback stock.  We were stunned that the "Rohdie"a common nickname used by breed fanciers, could do so well living in modern human society, having been created by so many breeds renowned for their high prey drive. We discovered that the AfriCanis is truly the link to the full domestication of this beautiful animal.  The AfriCanis was semi-domesticated    thousands of years ago, giving them plenty of time to adapt to being around people, including children, and other domesticated animals. The  combination of the early domestication of the AfriCanis,  mixed with skilled hunting breeds, created the Rhodesian Ridgeback: a fierce, fearless hunter who could easily live in a highly domesticated environment. The AfriCanis still exists to this day as a tribal dog in Zimbabwe and professional breeders of the can be found in parts of Africa. 

USES:  Of course, the obvious use for this breed is a Lion hunter.  The Ridgebacks hunted (and still do hunt) in packs, surrounding the lion until the hunter arrives on the scene to kill the cornered prey.  Interestingly enough classes exist to train the Ridgeback to hunt Lions and other large game.  They breed is strong and tough enough to kill an adult baboon independent of human assistance.  Pretty impressive!

This breed is an active one.  They are easily able to accompany you on a 10 mile hike or jog.  In their younger years they especially need a lot  of physical and mental stimulation, or they can take matters into their own hands (paws!).  They are usually not recommended for an inexperienced dog owner.  They love children,  but because of their size and strength could easily knock down a small  child or  toddler trying to play with them.  They make excellent guard dogs.

HEALTH ISSUES:  Hip dysplasia, dermoid sinus, degenerative myelopathy and bloat. They rank six in terms of breeds most affected by thyroid issues.

PERSONAL OBSERVATION:  Every reference we found said how well they do in extreme weather conditions, and were bred specifically to tolerate extreme heat and able to go long bouts with very little water.  That being said, we have NEVER had a Ridgeback in our pack who tolerated either extreme heat or cold well.  

We hope you have enjoyed the exploration of The  Rhodesian Ridgeback with us.   We welcome your comments and personal observations/experiences about this wonderful dog!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Due to the Memorial Day Holiday the weekly blog will be posted Tuesday May 28. We hope you enjoy the day.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Fun In The Sun: The Mindful Dog's Summer Tip Guide For You and Your Dog

Summer is just around the corner.   With this wonderful season comes wonderful fun:  BBQ, going to the beach, hiking and camping and so much more.  And so many of us want to share that fun with our dog(s).  So here are a few tips from us on having fun with your pup and keeping him safe and healthy!

BBQ:  Who doesn't love bbq?  Everything tastes better off the grill.  And of course, many of us like to "share" a  bit of that with our pup.  However, be careful what you share.  Corn on the cob is delicious but the cob can lodge in a dog's throat or intestines and cause damage or worse.  For us meat eaters, how awesome are bbq ribs?  And, of course we would love to give that leftover  bone to the dog but please don't.   The only safe bones for dogs are raw because when bones are cooked, it makes them brittle and susceptible to splintering which can rupture a dog's trachea and/or intestines.  Onions and garlic are also dangerous for dogs.  So let your pup enjoy a bit of that rib without the bone or scrape a little corrn off the cob for him.  This way, you both enjoy the bbq with no dangers.

HIKING:  Summertime hikes are so enjoyable and it's even better when we can bring our dogs along to enjoy the trees, the forest and the mountains.  Just be cautious of the unwanted visitors that can come with that wonderful jaunt.  Depending on where  you live, there can be poisonous snakes to be wary of.  Many people we know undergo rattlesnake prevention courses with their dogs to teach dogs to stay away from poisonous snakes.  There are also vaccinations in case your dog is bitten which can extend their life  until proper care is obtained.  However, these vaccinations are highly unpredictable and can cause very dangerous side affects.  Our advice is prevention.  Stay on the trail and even though it may not seem to be as enjoyable, keep your pup on a leash.

Other party poopers for hiking are fleas and especially ticks.  You can give your pup a good flea and tick bath after hiking to kill whatever got on him but a lot of people prefer a prevention program.  Our personal experience is that Frontline and Advantix no longer work effectively for fleas, and our cousin found  several ticks on his dog using Frontline Plus.  For fleas (and also heartworm prevention), Revolution works very well.  Others are having good luck with  Comfortis.  There are several other brands on the market as well, but we are not familiar with them all and only want to offer advice on the ones we have had personal experience with.   A word of caution:  if you choose  to use a treatment, which in many cases is necessary, just  remember it is a pesticide you are putting on your  dog.

SWIMMING:  To us, one of the greatest joys is watching a dog swim.  They are the best swimming instructors!  If you can do the doggie paddle, well, you can swim!   If your dog is one who enjoys showing off his doggie paddle ability, that's wonderful!  But dogs, like humans, can tire or get caught on something in the water which can become a drowning hazard.  If you want to avoid this possibility, there are excellent life vests for dogs to prevent anything  like this from happening.  You don't have to, of course.  Just make sure to NEVER leave your dog unattended while he/she is swimming regardless of whether they are in a swimming pool, lake or oceon.

SUMMER HEAT:  Keep him/her cool and well hydrated. Take lots of shade breaks when hiking.   Make sure to take along plenty of water for both of you, and be careful of surfaces becoming too hot for the pups pads.  Their pads are tough, but can still get burnt from scalding hot surfaces in severe heat temperatures.

GEAR TO HELP YOU OUT:  There are several wonderful companies out there that put out gear for your pup such as  boots for them for hiking on rugged terrain or hot surfaces and also to put on when they have an injury.  There are life vests for swimming, portable water bowls for anytime you and your pup are away from home, even special vests (swamp cooler vests) to keep their body temperature down and so much more!  The company we love to use is Ruffwear and you can check out their website at ruffwear.com.  

We are certainly not trying to put a damper on anyone's summer fun with their dog.  Go out and have a wonderful fun in the sun time with them!  We hope the tips we have offered can help to enhance that fun for both of you.  Happy Summer everyone!

Monday, May 13, 2013

This weeks Meet The Breed: Labrador Retriever

The Labrador retriever is currently the most popular breed in America; and for good reason. They are highly adaptable, highly trainable, and love to be part of any family, especially one with children. We currently have eight in our pack. They are fun-loving party animals and outstanding cuddlers (just make sure you wear them out first!).

ORIGIN: The Labrador retriever originated in Newfoundland. The breed began as St. John's water dog by early settlers in the 16th century. It is believed the original lab (St. John's water dog) was a cross of English, Irish and Portuguese Water Dog working breeds and the Newfoundland. In the early 1800's the Earl of Malmesbury visiting Newfoundland developed an affection for the dog and had it imported to England. It was he who gave the breed their new name "Labrador". The dog was bred with setters, spaniels, and other "retriever types" in England to perfect the present known Labrador Retriever. The breed in Newfoundland eventually died out because of the heavy dog tax and extreme quarantine leaving England the sole breeders of the Lab. It is a darned good thing the Earl imported this extraordinary dog or he would have gone extinct.

USES: Their original use in Newfoundland was as a fisherman's companion helping to pull in nets and catch fish that escaped from fishing lines. After they were imported to England and "perfected" as the Labrador Retriever, they became the perfect gun dog. They assisted the hunter in the "retrieval" of game. Their soft jowls made it possible to carry the small game and birds in their mouths without a single puncture to the hunter's catch. Other modern day uses for this extraordinarily adaptable, highly trainable breed include: tracking, watchdog, police work, narcotics detection, guide for the blind, service dog for the disabled, search and rescue, sledding, carting, agility, field trial competitor and competitive obedience. It is no wonder they are the most popular breed in America!

HEALTH PROBLEMS: Hip and elbow dysplasia, PRA, mast cell tumors, osteoarthritis and eye disorders.

INTERESTING INFO: Even though they have short hair they ARE shedders! Be prepared for that short, fine hair to accessorize any outfit. They, like the Golden Retriever, have two types: the English (or show) lab, a more mellow breed with shorter legs, stockier body and a slower metabolism. The other type is the American, or field, Labrador. These have longer legs, a longer body and a higher metabolism. Labs absolutely must be an integral part of the family with their "pack leader" willing to do the work to be the "pack leader"or labs can become bored and destructive.

If you are looking for the perfect jogging companion your children can grrow up with and are willing to put in the work necessary (basic training and getting him/her a lot of exercise and love), the Labrador Retriever may just be the breed you have been looking for.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Disgusting and annoying things our dogs do... is there a reason or simply a plot to drive us insane?

You come home after a long day to find your favorite pair of shoes torn to shreds. Your beloved dog "Spot" greets you by peeing everywhere. You've just had Spot bathed. He smells the best he has in God knows how long.You reward him by taking him to the park and he rolls in a mud puddle or worse.... UGH!!! You always thought Spot loved you but now you have serious doubts. Why would he do things that drive you nuts? Is there actually a justifiable reason for these annoying behaviors???!! The good news for Spot is YES. Here's a glimpse at some of the things dogs do that annoy, anger and disgust us and why.....

CHEWING UP SHOES: Dogs chew for a variety of reasons. Boredom and anxiety are a couple of them. But when it's your shoes, specifically the ones you wear more than any other, it is simply a term of endearment. Your shoes smell like you, your dog wants to be close to you and your shoes are the closest thing to being with you. Also, rubber soles on sneakers resemble material for dog toys and leather reminds them of rawhide. Bottom line, keep your shoes in your closet, keep the closet door shut and make sure Spot has plenty of fun, safe toys to play with and chew on.

PEEING TO GREET YOU: If your dog greets you by crouching low and peeing, it is a sign of appeasement. Confident, more dominant dogs will not do this, but if a pup is more submissive, they do this as an ice breaker. This behavior was developed to appease the more dominant parent and pups from the litter. Some also do this out of excitement. When you come home, if you have a submissive and/or excited peeing pup, try ignoring them for a few minutes until they are settled in with you being home. This may help. The dog will usually grow out of this as they mature.

ROLLING IN MUD OR WORSE (POOP, DEAD ANIMAL REMAINS): Dogs retain many of their primal instincts stemming from surviving in the wilderness. When a dog rolls in mud, poop or animal remains, they are simply using this as a form of camouflage to mask their scent and therefore decrease their chances of being hunted (and eaten) by wild animals who would consider them prey. But Spot lives in a condo.... how could that possibly apply to him??? The majority of things our dogs do stem from their primal instincts for survival. So it doesn't matter whether you live in a tent in the middle of the jungle or a condo in West Hollywood, dogs instinctively react the same. Especially after a bath. Can you imagine how Spot would stand out having all his natural scents removed and replaced by perfume and rose petals? Talk about a sitting duck!!! At least go with unscented shampoo. That may reduce the risk of Spot adding his own "poo perfume".

EATING POOP OR MUD (OR WORSE): Some dogs are just attracted to the smell of poop and think it tastes just fine as a snack. But it is usually a sign of a deficiency in the pup's diet. If so, they will seek out poop, especially cat or wild animal poop, because those animal's diets are much higher in protein, which satisfies a dog's carnivorous nutritional needs. Dogs that eat mud are actually seeking out the clay in mud which contains trace minerals and adds substantial benefit to their diet if it is not properly balanced. Some dogs will eat things that contain no nutritional value such as rocks. This again usually stems from either diet deficiency or extreme boredom. Eating poop and mud is harmful only if the animal's poop or the mud contains a parasite such as guardia or whipworm, but eating things such as rocks can be potentially fatal as it can cause a blockage.

DIGGING HOLES: Most dogs like to dig and some LOVE to dig. Thousands of years before they became domesticated, dogs dug for food (insects and ground burrowing animals), water and a comfy place to lie down. In a nice deep hole, dogs were more easily hidden from predators, and a hole in the ground provided excellent insulation from bitter, cold conditions or heat. Dogs will also dig out of boredom. Some of their primal instincts are much more easily triggered when they are not being exercised and/or entertained (played with, shown affection, etc.)

The list of interesting and frustrating things our dogs do is a very long one. We will periodically return to this subject in future blogs to cover more topics but do not want to overwhelm or bore you with too much at one time! As always, we would love your stories on what your pup has done to "get your attention" and/or make your hair stand on end and will be happy to address these in future blogs.