Archive for October, 2009
Friday, October 30th, 2009
Sled dogs have been used by humans as a form of transportation for centuries. Native civilizations living in polar regions were dependant on large sledding dogs for survival in the frigid climate. Without them, hauling food and supplies across the arctic tundra to their villages would have been impossible. While still debated by scholars, it has been hypothesized that the nomadic Siberian people were once able to cross a now submerged land-bridge across the Bering Strait into what is now Alaska. It is possible that all sledding dogs could be descended from a common ancestor who was brought across this land-bridge with these native people.
The two most recognized breeds of sled dog, the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute, are considered to be two of the oldest living breeds. While the two are visually similar, and may share their ancestry, they are distinctly different breeds. The Alaskan Malamute is the larger of the two, and are named after Inuit people known as Mahlemut who lived along the Arctic coast of western Alaska. Their size and sheer strength is an indication that they were bred almost exclusively for their ability to freight heavy loads. The Siberian Husky is the smaller and faster of the two breeds. They originated in Northeastern Siberia alongside the Chukchi people who likely used them for freighting, as well as using them as herding dogs to steer reindeer, and as guard dogs to ward off large predators. Of course, both breeds are held in equally high regard for their ability as sled dogs.
Today, sled dogs are rarely used for freighting purposes and are primarily used for the sport of dog sledding. While the sport of dog sledding may not be quite as daunting a task as freighting the food supply for an entire village, it is not a sport to be taken lightly. Dog sledding courses are notoriously long and treacherous, and the food and supplies to survive such a journey are no light load to haul. Sled dog teams are composed of a number of dogs including a lead dog at the front of the pack, point dogs just bead the lead dog, wheel dogs who are closest to the sled, and any number of team dogs in between. These dogs share a close bond with each other, and with their musher whom they view as the leader of their pack.
While the Siberian Husky are Alaskan Malamute are still the most common breeds used for dog sledding, they are by no means the only breeds used. While it is uncommon, it is not unheard of for other working breeds such as German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois to be used. Of course, no matter the breed, is essential that sled dogs be physically and mentally prepared for the challenge. Mushers spend years both training and bonding with their dogs.
Thursday, October 29th, 2009
A group of German Shepherd trainers in the south of Norfolk County, England are preparing a select few of their German Shepherds for work as guide dogs for the blind. The Labrador and Golden Retriever have been the symbolic breeds of guide dog work for a long time, and while the work is not exclusive to these breeds, the symbol of a black lab is synonymous with charity organizations associated with funding guide dogs. However, what many people don’t realise is that German Shepherds were the first breeds to be used as guide dogs before Labradors and Retrievers became more popular.
Karen Jannece, the current trainer of and 18-month old German Shepherd, speculates that the use of Labradors and Retrievers over German Shepherds is a matter of size, and that there may be undue prejudice against the larger German Shepherd. “German Shepherds made better guide dogs, but took longer to develop,” explains Karen, “German Shepherds are very intelligent and very loyal. They are more attentive than Labradors.” The use of German Shepherds as protection dogs and guard dogs by the police is another reason why people might be unnecessarily intimidated by the breed.
Pathfinder Dogs, the small charity organization responsible for the reintroduction of German Shepherds for use as guide dogs, already have 90 blind people on their waiting list. Unfortunately, training any dog to be a guide dog is a long and expensive process. It costs about £36,000 ($58,955 USD) to purchase and train a puppy. We hope that the kind donations of caring citizens will help bring more German Shepherd guide dogs to more people who need them.
Wednesday, October 28th, 2009
Training your dog in muzzle work is advanced training. When training protection dogs, it is not only important that all dogs have the mental and physical capability, but also have finished training in bite work. It takes a very strong and advanced dog to do muzzle work the right way. The biggest mistake most trainers make when training their protection dog in muzzle work is that they don’t get their dog conditioned to wear the muzzle before they start the work. The second mistake most trainers make when doing muzzle work, is that they have the decoy/helper go to the ground too soon.
When training your protection dog in muzzle work, it is important to have the right equipment for the safety of the decoy/helper. We at Command Control K9 use the German bassit muzzle; we feel that this is the best muzzle on the market. All of our elite executive protection dogs are trained in muzzle work, so they know not only how to bite, but also know how to fight. This is important for your protection dog to know in order for your dog to protect you and your family.
Monday, October 26th, 2009
Agility is an important part of any protection dog’s training. It is naive to assume that your dog will only be protecting you and your family on level ground, with no obstacles. A good example is of a would-be thief pointing a fire-arm at a clerk behind the counter of a general store. In such a situation, a security dog kept in back will have mere seconds to get across that counter to disarm the criminal. This is just one of many situations in which a dog’s ability to quickly and easily traverse tough obstacles can mean the difference between life or death.
Agility training is performed through the use of various obstacles set up in a course which the dog navigates with verbal instructions from the handler. The most common obstacles include pipes and tunnels, poles intended to be weaved around, A-Frame structures intended to be scaled and descended, elevated planks and boardwalks, see-saws intended to be traversed from one end to the other, and various hoops and jumps. As the dog advances in training, higher jumps and more complicated courses are introduced. It is often beneficial to re-arrange the course regularly in order to maintain an element of unfamiliarity.
Before engaging your dog in agility training, it is a good idea to review your dog’s health and physical capabilities. Breeds developed as working dogs, such as the German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd or Belgian Malinois, are naturally very agile. However, all dogs doing agility-training should be pre-screened for health defects such as poor eye-sight or hip and elbow displaysia. Health problems affecting the joints and eyes can not only make agility training difficult, but can also make it dangerous.
While the bulk of exercises are designed for adult dogs, there are certain exercises, such as tunnels and low jumps, which can be performed by puppies. It is not a bad idea to start training early, but leave more intense jumping and weaving exercises to young adults who’s skeletons have fully developed. Obedience training should always precede agility. Often, a leash can become entangled or interfere with obstacles in a course, so training for off-leash control is essential. It also a good idea to condition your dog through basic exercise, such as swimming, in order to build muscle and cardiovascular endurance.
We at Command Control K9 don’t train our protection dogs using traditional agility training methods. Our course is comprised of barrels, ladders, skids, wooden planks, corrugated metal, glass, and plastic. We expose all of our German Shepherd puppies, Belgian Malinois puppies, and Dutch Shepherd puppies to our agility course at a very young age. In fact, we start them at 5 weeks of age. We feel that the most important time for a pup is between 5 to 8 weeks; this is more important then the next 6 months of the puppies’ life. At 5 weeks, the puppy is exposed to different environments and surfaces. The pups learn rear foot placement by practicing on an elevated four-inch plank. Rear foot placement is necessary for more advanced exercise such as climbing a ladder or scaling a wall. It is also helpful for getting a dog used to heights. It sounds extreme, but it’s necessary when, for example, a protection dog needs to be deployed up the wall to apprehend a suspect.
Friday, October 23rd, 2009
Narcotics detection dogs are a type of police dog trained specifically to search for and indicate the presence of illicit drugs. Other types of detection dogs include explosive detection dogs who can detect both explosives and firearms, and cadaver dogs who sniff out the presence of blood and human remains. While it is possible to train a dog to detect both narcotics and explosives, it is often more effective to have a dog specialize in one specific category. Even within the specific realm of narcotics detection, there is variation in the ways that certain dogs can be trained. For example, the difference between a dog trained to indicate passively versus a dog trained to indicate aggressively is very important. Often, a dog that indicates aggressively will be able to pinpoint the precise location of narcotics more accurately. However, a passive indicator is ideal for situations where collateral damage, such as scratched paint or damaged seat-cushions, must be avoided.
Many myths exist concerning the ability to trick or fool detection dogs, all of which have been proven false. A dog’s sense of smell is estimated to be about 100,000 times as powerful as that of humans. The olfactory lobes in a dog’s brain are four times the size of that in humans, and with the size of a dog’s brain averaging at about one tenth the size of a human brain, the percentage of grey matter being devoted to the sense of smell is about forty times greater in canines than in humans. All manner of strongly-scented substances from coffee and spices to urine have been used to attempt to mask the smell of illicit drugs, and all have failed. A dog’s nose simply can’t be tricked. However, this does not mean that detection dogs are perfect. Training with a narcotics detection dog is an ongoing process, not because the dog forgets a scent, but to ensure that the dog does not begin to indicate on the wrong scents.
In the United States, all narcotics detection dogs are trained using real narcotics, obtained by the trainer through rigorous licensing and criminal record checks. However, some countries will not permit anyone to be in possession of illegal narcotics, even for the purposes of training detection dogs. In these places, the use of “pseudo drugs” to train detection dogs is common. A pseudo drug is a complex chemical substance that mimics the scent of real narcotics to a canine. How the dog interprets the scent to be the same as that of real narcotics is a mystery, as these substances often smell nothing like real narcotics to a human. However, they do seem to do the trick in places where real narcotics cannot be used for training.
The breeds of dog used for narcotics detection take into account both the olfactory precision of the breed, as well as loyalty and ability to be trained. While bloodhounds have a reputation as having the most precise noses, narcotics detection dogs tend to be German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois‘ and Labrador Retrievers for both their accurate noses and their intelligence and determination in training.
Wednesday, October 21st, 2009
Not a day goes by that I don’t get a call or email asking what the difference is between a guard dog and protection dog. As I have mentioned in another article, a protection dog has all the attributes of a family pet. The difference is that now you have a well-mannered, off-leash obedience-trained dog that is social, and that you can take anywhere, whether it be an airport or a shopping mall, and not have any issues. It will not hesitate to protect you and your family if the need arises.
A guard dog has little or no social skills, and merely guards a gated area, whether it is body-shop, or a car dealership. It is important when purchasing a guard dog that you get it from a reputable breeder. A good guard dog still has to have strong nerves, and will not back down from an unwelcome guest. It is also import that you purchase a guard dog that is trained for food refusal. After all, what good is a dog behind a fence if it can be stopped by a steak laced with rat poison? It is also important to consider purchasing two guard dogs, for they will work together and feed off each others energy. If considering purchasing two dogs, I would recommend a male and female, for the females are generally a lot sharper, and will indicate a lot sooner, while the male has greater size for intimidation.
When housing your guard dog it is very important to make sure that no only is your fence secured to keep your dog from getting out, but that you keep your dog in a crate during the day. The crate should be in a quiet and cool place so that he or she can sleep during the day and work during the night.
Tuesday, October 20th, 2009
Glassport, PA - Zen, a two-year-old German Shepherd and Glassport police dog, was poisoned with anti-freeze last month at the home of his handler, police Deputy Chief Shawn DeVerse. DeVerse said he discovered an anti-freeze-soaked rag had been thrown atop the 6-foot chain-link fence that forms the dog’s pen. “I noticed a rag on the far corner of the cage there – it was kind of hanging in, dripping down,” recounts DeVerse. Upon noticing that Zen had lapped up some of the anti-freeze that had pooled at the bottom of the cage, DeVerse rushed Zen to a veterinary hospital where he underwent several hours of dialysis to flush the dog’s system.
Zen has since recovered and will be okay, but the attempt on Zen’s life has not been taken lightly. “[He's] part of my family. They’ve made an attack on the police department, they violated my privacy – they came to my home as well,” said DeVerse. Criminal attacks against police dogs are often met with serious consequences. Zen, as with many other k9 protection dogs, is considered a full-fledged police officer.
Glassport Mayor Terry DiMarco has set up a fund to reward information leading to the capture and conviction of the perpetrator, as well as to help pay the medical bills for Zen’s treatment. DiMarco even agreed to donate his next mayoral check to the fund. “We hope we continue to get more donations,” said DiMarco.
Monday, October 19th, 2009
The Boxer is a molosser-type dog of medium size with a square, muscular build. The head is widely recognizable by the broad skull and square muzzle. The jaws are powerful, with a protruding lower jaw which forms a slight underbite. The coat is short and smooth and is most often fawn or brindle with black around the face and muzzle. White markings on the chest and paws are also common. About a quarter of all boxers are born with excessive white markings, some of which cover nearly their entire body. However, while white boxers are as physically and mentally capable as their fawn and brindle counterparts, white is not an accepted variation of the breed, and they are not permitted to participate in conformation dog shows. Traditionally, all boxers had their ears cropped and their tails docked. Since then, such procedures have been banned in many countries. Several breeders in Britain have developed a variety of naturally short-tailed boxers in response to this ban.
The Boxer breed was developed in Germany during the late 1800s and is a direct descendant of the now extinct Bullenbeisser. The Bullenbeisser had traditionally been prized by hunters for its powerful jaws and bite. They would pursue large prey such as deer and wild boar and hold the prey until the hunter arrived. However, hunters began to favor smaller, faster dogs and the Bullenbeisser was often cross-bred with imported British Bulldogs. This excessive cross-breeding led to the extinction of the Bullenbeisser breed, but also led to the development of the Boxer. The Boxer was popular in Germany as a working dog, and was used by German military as a messenger and guard dog during the First World War. However, it wasn’t until after World War II that the Boxer gained international popularity.
The alert nature and strong jaws of the Boxer is well suited to work as a guard dog. The breed is also intelligent and is sometimes used as a service dog for the disabled, or taken on as part of a k9 police unit. However, the breed is most commonly used today as a family pet and companion. It has largely been replaced in working roles by other breeds seen as more capable of the job, such as the Labrador for work as a service dog, or the German Shepherd for work as a police protection dog.
Friday, October 16th, 2009
Despite being classified as carnivores, the canine diet is often more complicated than simply raw meat. In fact, most dogs are both capable of and more than willing to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and grains. Although meat remains the staple of canine diet, dogs do not require a high level of protein. Even in the wild, it is common for canines to eat available plants and fruit. Unfortunately, not everything that we eat as humans is fit for consumption by your protection dog. Many foods that we eat can be toxic to dogs, and even fatal. While some dogs may instinctively know to avoid certain foods, they are often more than willing to eat anything available, toxic or otherwise. Our German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are incredibly intelligent, but a dog’s diet is the responsibility of its owner. It is up to you to know what is and is not safe for your protection dog to consume.
While this should go without saying, some people are inclined to give spoiled food to their dog rather than throw it out. It is never okay to feed your dog moldy or spoiled food. The same mold and bacteria that can make you sick can also your make your dog sick.
This is another one that should go without saying, but I’m sure more than a few dogs have suffered the consequences of an irresponsible owner, or a drink left unattended. A dog’s tolerance to alcohol is about that of a small child. Even small amounts can result in serious alcohol poisoning leading to liver failure, coma, seizures or death.
Tobacco and Drugs:
We sincerely hope that no one has tried to give their dog cigarettes, but it is often the case that cigarettes or pills are left unattended and are consumed by accident. Nicotine, pain killers, prescription drugs, cannabis and other illicit drugs are all highly toxic to dogs. While a child-safety cap may be effective at stopping children, it may not prevent your dog from chewing through the bottle. It is best to keep all cigarettes and medicines in a cabinet, out of reach from your dog.
While it may seem strange that two carnivores cannot share the same food, the dietary requirements of a cat are very different from that of a dog. While a one-time incident probably isn’t anything to worry about, the high fat content of cat food can become toxic if consumed often, or in large amounts. All high-fat foods can trigger pancreatitus in dogs, which is potentially fatal. Other high-fat foods, such as bacon, can also be toxic for the same reasons.
Chocolate and Coffee:
While it is never a good idea to give your dog caffeine, chocolate and coffee both also contain a similar substance known as theobromine. Theobromine, while less stimulating to the nervous system than caffeine, has a much greater impact on the heart. In dogs, the increase in heart-rate is extreme and can lead to seizures, tremors and vomiting. Guarana, tea and even cola beverages may also contain theobromine.
Macadamia nuts and walnuts are toxic to all dogs. Peanuts are known to trigger extreme allergic reactions in some, but not all dogs. Because foods containing certain kinds of nuts may also contain traces of others, it is safest to avoid giving your dog any kind of nuts.
Rhubarb, Buckwheat, Tomatoes and Potatoes:
All of these foods contain a compound known as oxilic acid, or oxalate. While many other foods also contain oxalates, rhubarb and buckwheat have the highest concentrations while tomatoes and potatoes have high concentrations in the leaves, skins and, in the case of tomatoes, unripened fruits. Oxalates can trigger abnormalities in the functioning of the nervous system, kidneys and digestive tract of a dog. Tea leaves, star fruit, black pepper, parsley and poppy seeds are also known to contain oxalates and should not be fed to your dog.
Grapes and Raisins:
The toxic effects of grapes and raisins are not immediately noticeable in dogs. The ingestion of grapes and raisins causes acute failure of the kidneys. Lack of kidney function leads to a steady increase of other toxic substances in the blood which are normally filtered out. It is this build-up of other toxins which leads to death. Difficulty in, or lack of urination may be the only immediately noticeable symptom in a dog who has ingested grapes and is experiencing kidney failure.
Onions and Garlic:
Onions and garlic can result in a form of anemia caused by the bursting of red blood cells. Even very small amounts can have a severe negative impact on your dog’s health over time. Never feed your dog onions or garlic, or anything that contains onion or garlic powder as an ingredient.
Strangely, avocado seems to be toxic to many species of mammal, carnivores, herbivores and omnivores alike. Dogs are no exception. Avocado can cause fluid to build up in several organs, including the lungs. This leads to difficulty breathing, and death by asphyxiation.
This is not to say that all mushrooms are toxic to your dog. Many types of mushrooms that are edible by humans can also be consumed by dogs. However, wild mushrooms are an entirely different scenario. The innocent-looking mushrooms growing in the corner of your garden may contain deadly mycotoxins that could affect the kidneys, liver and even the brain of your dog. Be sure to remove any wild mushrooms from your lawn to prevent your dog from eating them.
Of course, anything that might be toxic to humans is most likely toxic to dogs as well. However, there are a number of questionably edible substances which your dog should definitely avoid. These include yeast, any dough containing yeast, liver, raw fish, raw eggs, nutmeg, salt, persimmons, iron supplements and an artificial sweetener known as xylitol.
Thursday, October 15th, 2009
Taz, a German Shepherd working as part of the New York Police Department’s K9 unit, has recently passed away due to cardiac arrest. Taz was nearly two years old when he was assigned to first-response search-and-rescue after the September 11th attacks. He would have been ten years old this October 31st. Following his valient rescue efforts in 2001, Taz continued to serve the New York Polce Department where his duties were to search for evidence, suspects and missing persons alongside his handler, Officer Scott Ryan.
The New York Police Department has made use of police and protection dogs for over a century. While the concept of a police dog was mocked initially, dogs like Taz have proved themselves to be an essential part of police investigations and rescue attempts. In the search-and-rescue effort following September 11th, dogs were deployed round-the-clock with an average of eight police dogs per 12-hour shift.
The New York Police Department currently employs about forty police dogs, most of which are German Shepherds. Taz was the last of the dogs involved in the September 11th rescue effort to still serve on the force.
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