I'm in the home stretch for the exam. I take the exam on Monday, so with less than a week to go and three sections left to review, well... honestly, I'm not worried. Studying has actually helped me feel more confident than less- it's been mostly review!
The husbandry portion of the exam counts for 6% of the final grade and covers general health, grooming, and nutrition. The information from today's post is from Terry Ryan's book and this section in particular was written by RK Anderson and Margaret Duxbury, Maisy's former vet behaviorist and my friend.
The running theme of this section is that as a trainer, you should not try to take on duties outside of your area of expertise. This means that unless you've received the education required to be a vet, groomer, or nutritionist in your area, you should refrain from giving specific advice and instead refer to the appropriate professional. This is especially true when it comes to health information.
Infectious Diseases and Prevention
A dog exhibiting symptoms of an infectious disease (distemper, parvo, etc.) should not come to class and instead be referred to his veterinarian. The symptoms will vary among disease, but in general, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, nasal discharge, and coughing are causes for at least a call to the vet.
Parvo is of special concern as it is highly contagious and can quickly result in dead dogs, especially with puppies. Do not allow sick puppies in class and clean up all areas well if a dog becomes sick afterwards. A solution of 1 part bleach to 30 parts water will kill parvo.
Vaccinations are the best way to prevent infectious diseases. Although I am concerned about over-vaccination, I do believe in vaccinations, especially for puppies. Side effects in healthy dogs are rare and generally minor, and for me, the risks outweigh the benefits. But, personal choices aside, as a professional trainer, you should not put your clients' dogs at risk. Require vaccinations (or titers, but remember that there are fewer studies on the efficacy of using these to determine adequate antibody levels) for all dogs in your classes.
The core vaccines are distemper, hepatitis, parvo, and rabies. All dogs should have these. Depending on other factors- best discussed with a vet, not a trainer- non-core vaccines like lyme, lepto, bordatella, parainfluenza, etc. might make sense.
Because puppies are born with maternal antibodies, and because we don't know exactly when these will wear off in each individual, puppies get a series of shots. The core vaccines (excluding rabies, which should be given after 12-16 weeks) should be given every 3 to 4 weeks starting between 6 to 8 weeks until 12 to 14 weeks. They should be repeated at 1 year and then every 1 to 3 years after that. While socialization is extremely important, puppies should not begin classes until at least 1 week after their first set of vaccines. Thankfully, this means puppies should be able to attend classes starting at 7 to 9 weeks; plenty of time to take advantage of that critical socialization window.
Parasites fall into two main categories: internal and external. Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of these are the responsibility of the veterinarian.
Among the internal parasites we have heartworm (which effects the cardiovascular and respiratory systems) and gastrointestinal worms (which can impede nutrition, causing further problems). The latter type are quite common and can be spread to humans, especially those with compromised immune systems.
External parasites include fleas and ticks and can cause allergies, transmit diseases like lyme, transmit tapeworms, and/or cause anemia due to blood loss.
To Spay or Not to Spay?
Again, this is a conversation best left to the medical professionals, if for no better reason than it is an incredibly complex issue and one that I simply don't have the space/time/education to write about fully. That said, a dog can be spayed or neutered as early as 6-8 weeks, though generally we look at it as happening either before or after puberty.
Neutering will reduce mounting, marking, and fighting behaviors in 50 to 60% of male dogs, and will reduce roaming in 90% of dogs. It will not calm the dog down. It will reduce the risk of certain infections, prostrate issues, and (obviously) testicular cancer. Spaying will protect a female dog against uterine cancer and pyometra, and if done before the first heat will reduce the risk of mammary cancer. The behavioral benefits of spaying a dog are far less clear.
Medical Conditions that Impact Training
Once again, Terry Ryan's book cautions trainers against making a diagnosis of any particular medical concern. In addition to some of the reasons identified above, it's also due to the fact that there are a lot of different conditions that can result in similar behaviors. Any of these conditions can change behavior or limit a dog's ability to learn, making even the best training less effective.
Among these are hydrocephalus, epilepsy, liver disease, hypoglycemia, hypothyroid, and cushings. Likewise, drugs like steroids, tranquilizers, or benzodiazepines can cause behavior changes. Issues related to aging can cause problems, especially when looking at changing sensory capabilities. Pain is a huge factor in behavior and learning abilities of dogs. Finally, though readers of this blog likely need no reminder, emotional issues like fear and anxiety will also impact training.
Oh, the can of worms that can be opened here. I have a lot of opinions on this subject, and you probably do, too. Suffice it to say that likely the biggest concern here is the dog's weight, especially carrying too much. A fat dog will contribute to medical conditions, pain, and limit a dog's ability to do certain activities.
Finally, Terry Ryan's book is silent on this issue. So. Um. Cut your dog's nails? Don't let them get mats in their fur? Teach the dog to accept handling (ah! a training issue!). Beats me and good luck to us all!