Monthly Archives: August 2019

Back To School is Cool With Kingsbrook Animal Hospital–Positive Reinforcement Training

It’s time to hit the books again–another school year is starting. The two-legged kids will get on the bus, but our four-legged “fur babies” could use some learning too!  Every dog, no matter how old, can benefit from some positive reinforcement training. Positive reinforcement is quite the buzzword among dog owners these days, but what exactly does it mean, and why is it the best option?

Most dogs respond readily to positive reinforcement training, even in new surroundings.

Dogs, as a species, aim to please and are very likely to perform or repeat behaviors that seem to make their owners happy. If these behaviors are reinforced, the dog will continue to repeat them, whereas behaviors that result in no reward or in a perceived punishment will probably not happen anymore. Positive reinforcement training means rewarding the behaviors that are desired (such as “sit”) and ignoring the behaviors that are undesirable (like barking). For most dogs, beginning with a food reward is a great way to encourage a behavior. Eventually, the treat will not be used every time– this is called fading the lure and is a gradual process that results in the dog performing the command without any physical reward at all. Positive reinforcement can be used to train a variety of behaviors, from a basic “sit” to complicated agility tricks, dance moves, hunting commands, and even nose/scent work.  Training in this manner doesn’t just make a dog better-behaved, it provides healthy and constructive mental stimulation.  Often, those dogs who exhibit

Positive reinforcement classes are a great start for a puppy or a great refresher for an older dog!

“nuisance” behaviors such as barking, chewing, or digging are simply bored and need some mental exercise. Positive reinforcement classes are available at every level of experience, and also offer the fantastic side benefit of socialization, or exposing a dog to new people/places/things and other dogs.

In contrast, there are many training methods that are not so positive.  Shock collars, for example, are a punishment device that issue an electric shock when triggered with a remote. Most of the time, dogs aren’t able to make the connection between their behavior and the shock. This results in a fearful, anxious dog that may even begin to display signs of aggression. Many dogs do make the connection between the collar and the shock, though, and it is very common for owners to state that their dog behaves “perfectly” until the collar is removed. Leash corrections (using a choke or prong collar) can have similar consequences–the dog becomes fearful of or aggressive towards the collar

Not all rewards have to be food! KAH assistant Kayla uses a favorite toy to reinforce a puppy’s good behavior.

Here at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital, we are very passionate about positive reinforcement training–it not only helps to build and strengthen the bond between a dog and his owner, but it creates happy, well-adjusted, confident dogs who are able to interact with the world in a positive way. We include discussions of positive reinforcement training in every puppy’s first few visits, and our veterinarians are always ready and willing to make a personalized training recommendation for any dog.

 

When You’re Back From Vacation—Get Your Pet Vaccinations (At Kingsbrook Animal Hospital)!

One of the major reasons pet owners bring their fur-babies to the vet is for “routine shots.”  More and more often there are stories on the news about “overvaccination” or disease

KAH technician Nora is showcasing all of the canine vaccine options!

outbreaks. It can be difficult to determine what is best for a beloved pet—to vaccinate, or not to vaccinate? Fortunately, Kingsbrook Animal Hospital in Frederick MD is here to weigh in on this important topic: what are vaccines, which ones are available, and which are best for a pet?

Vaccines are substances that stimulate an immune response to

KAH technician Tiki is displaying our cat vaccines!

bacteria or a virus in a pet or person. They do this by tricking the immune system into thinking that the human or animal who received the vaccine has been infected. The immune system prepares a response to that bacteria or virus, and then saves that information in case of “reinfection.” If the immune system is already familiar with an infection, it responds quickly and strongly. This is how vaccinated pets/people are able to fight off things like the flu so much better than those who are not vaccinated. Think of it like knowing there is a pop quiz coming—the immune system is “studying” when it is vaccinated, so it will perform much better on the test than one that is unprepared.

  • Rabies is a zoonotic (will spread to people) virus that causes neurologic complications in affected animals, and it is fatal. For these reasons, rabies vaccination is required by law, even for pets who don’t go outside often. This is because a pet who slips out the door can easily encounter an infected animal—or an infected bat can quickly fly into a home. Rabies vaccines are available for dogs, cats, ferrets, horses, and several other species. Rabies is a

    KAH veterinarian Dr Lynch is giving this kitty a rabies vaccine. Pet vaccines go under the skin, not into the muscle like people vaccines.

    core vaccine.

  • Distemper is the name given to a virus that attacks the respiratory system. For dogs, the distemper vaccine is often combined with parvovirus and adenovirus vaccines (DAP), and for cats it is combined with calicivirus and panleukopenia (FVRCP). All of these viruses are most likely to attack very young or more elderly pets, but they are very easily spread between members of the same species and can quickly cause an outbreak. Distemper is a core vaccine.
  • Leptospiriosis, or “lepto,” is a type of bacteria that attacks the kidneys, nervous system, and liver. Like rabies, it is both zoonotic and fatal. It is spread through the urine of infected animals; in rural areas/suburbs, it is most often found in deer, squirrels, moles, skunks and rabbits, while in more urban areas rodents like mice and rats are the major carriers. Here in Frederick, Lepto is a core vaccine

    KAH veterinarian Dr Walker is giving a distemper vaccine. Please ask a KAH staff member how we can make the vaccine experience FearFree for your pet!

    since we have several documented cases.

  • Lyme is a bacteria that is spread by ticks. It can affect people and dogs but cannot be spread from one to the other without tick involvement—this means that ticks are vectors for Lyme disease. Here in Frederick, the Lyme vaccine is a lifestyle vaccine, because not all dogs may be at risk for Lyme. Those that are not at risk are indoor-only dogs who are current year-round on flea and tick preventative. Remember—only a week-long temperature of -10°F will kill ticks during the winter, otherwise they are just looking even harder for a warm body!
  • Bordetella is better known as “kennel cough.” It spreads very quickly from dog to dog and causes a slight fever along with its hallmark hacking cough. Environments with lots of dogs in tight

    This sweet pup is receiving a vaccine with the help of 2 KAH technicians. If your dog does better for vaccines with you present — speak up!

    quarters, such as day cares and grooming facilities, are where most infections are likely to occur—so this vaccine is a lifestyle vaccine recommended for dogs who board, groom, or go to dog parks or day care.

  • Feline Leukemia, or FeLV, is a virus that is spread from cat to cat via saliva and causes symptoms very similar to leukemia in humans. Also a lifestyle vaccine, FeLV is reccomended only for cats who go outdoors or interact with other cats who do.

That is a lot of information! It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all of the options out there. Please talk to your veterinarian at Kingsbrook Animal Hospital with any questions or concerns.