It is time to kick off this (coldish?) summer week with some Mythbusters! The kids are getting unfocused, you keep thinking about vacation plans instead of work. Essentially, it is time to take a fun break! We will get back to serious information next week. That isn’t to say these aren’t important facts. These are things I hear a lot that can lead pet owners astray.

If my pet is limping, I’ll try a few doses of (insert medication here) to see if it helps.Do not do this! There are very few things you can give at home that will be helpful. Most human over-the-counter pain medications are very toxic to pets. While aspirin isn’t toxic per se, it still isn’t a good idea. This can be confusing because you can find it in the pet store as “dog aspirin”.

Aspirin was an old-school method, but research shows that even one dose can start causing small ulcers in the stomach lining. It doesn’t work as well for pain as other medications we have, it makes dogs more prone to stomach ulcers and it also inhibits how we can use more helpful medications.

If my dog isn’t used to

a situation I just need to immerse them in it.

This is a big misconception and it is going to get even harder as we start entering back into social situations. When dogs are nervous about something they can react in many ways that we may not expect. If a dog hasn’t played with other dogs and gets scared, dropping them at the dog park or in a large group of dogs is the worst thing you can do. This is like dropping your toddler off at a frat party for socialization. A dog who isn’t well socialized needs to be in a neutral situation with one other dog at first. Walking your dog with a friend and their calm dog is the best thing you can do.

If you have a dog in a situation where they have other things to do and aren’t simply cornered by a group of dogs, they have an out. They can socialize, walk with you, play with the other dog or just sniff along on their own. We need to look for this type of situation where our dog can choose their own social adventure, so to speak. As they acclimate to a new friend here or there they will build their confidence in these situations.

This also translates to other situations. We often encounter great dogs who hate their nails being trimmed. I am very quick to give these dogs medications to help ease some of their anxiety. Sure we can always firmly hold a dog down and trim their nails. But that is a scary experience that will make each subsequent trim even scarier. I feel very strongly that if we can avoid putting a pet in an anxiety-producing situation, it will always end up better for them. If there is something in particular that upsets your dog, ask your veterinarian for advice on how to gently desensitize them, instead of forcing them to “face their fears”. This will create a more confident dog which will help them with all situations.

Telling your dog

they are ok or bad whenever they growl.

Wait now. You may be confused because I just told you there is no right answer to when your dog growls. Partially true! Growling is situation-dependent. In general a growl is telling us that our dog is uncomfortable. A growl is a warning. It can say a lot of things, but it almost boils down to “I’m not comfortable in this situation. Stop now.”

Sometimes we can stop, sometimes we can’t. However, how we react says a lot. There are ways to reassure your dog without telling them “it’s ok”. We never want to ignore growls because our dog is saying something important. Our next job is to figure out how to change the situation to make them more comfortable. If we tell them that behavior is ok (aka good), they know that we want to see more of it. If we tell them that behavior is wrong, we risk that next time they will skip the warning and just bite. We need to find a happy medium of changing the situation to something that our dog knows how to react favorably to, then encouraging that. If this is something that comes up often, it is important to speak to your veterinarian or a qualified trainer about tools to handle it.

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