"The Peeing Post"
Newsletter for dog lovers who respect the dog's nature
Chief Editor: Mogens Eliasen
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Some Important Facts about Dogs...
It's Mogens again. We discussed some of the differences we see in our modern dog breeds - and how they had to do with the domestication process. Did you check out the history of your own dog's breed/breeds? I strongly urge you to do so - it gives some very valuable insight in what you can expect from your dog, in terms of temperament and behavior. I cannot cover all breeds here - but if you search on-line, for instance through Google, you will be able to find some interesting reading.
In this issue, I want to touch on some of the problems many dogs runs into because their owners mistakenly think that what is good for people is also good for dogs.... Although there are some very important parallels, there are also some very important differences.
Let's start with the coat. Dogs have fur. Even those that are artificially bred to be "naked" have some fur. Some dogs have a very natural fur that is very similar to what the wolf has. Other dogs have developed a coat that has lost a lot of its natural properties - which causes some serious problems that need to find a solution through the owner's management. I will not go into any detail about that, because the variations depends on what exactly it is about the coat that isn't natural.
A natural dog coat is supposed to consist of two kinds of hairs: the longer cover hairs and the shorter (often curly) under wool. This is the visible part. Dogs are supposed to shed their coat twice a year, spring and fall - the summer coat being much thinner with much less under wool, the winter coat being thick and long with lots of under wool for insulation. (Some dogs, like poodles, have no cover hairs. Others, like Shi-tzus, have no under wool. Such breeds do not have the natural protection they should have - and if you have such a dog, you need to protect it from the weather. And when you meet one of those dogs, you have to quit laughing at the owner's attempt to dress up the dog! Those dogs need that protection!)
The non-visible part consists of the hair follicles. Those are small glands that are connected to the root of each individual hair. They produce a constant supply of grease that will "creep" up along the hairs, just as sugar does on a spoon you leave in the jam jar overnight. This grease will push all kinds of dirt and foreign objects from the base of the hair to the tip, in a matter of days. In the process, the grease reacts with oxygen in the air and hardens. It ends up as a fine dust when it reaches the tip of the hair - and leaves the dog's body together with whatever dirt it pushed along. You can see this when the dog shakes - and you might wonder where all that dust comes from! now you know. It is the dog's natural way of cleaning the coat, from inside out. Terribly, terribly smart invention from mother Nature's side!
Can you see how much damage you can do to this fine-tuned system by applying shampoo - or any other kind of detergent whose primary chemical/physical property is to dissolve fat and grease?
Dogs do not have sweat glands in their skin, except between the toes on the paws and on the tongue. Their skin does not get "greasy" from sweat, as our skin does. Our skin is grounds for a lot of bacteria that grow on our sweat - and create this typically unpleasant smell that causes us to bathe or use deodorants - or both. But for dogs, this is not an issue at all!
What happens when you bathe your dog is that those small glands get a message that the fat and grease they produce to keep the coat nice and clean have been removed. The natural reaction to that is an increased production to re-establish the natural balance! So, the more you bathe the dog, the more greasy the coat becomes! It is an impossible battle for you to win, because, the more you keep the dog's skin free of fat, the more problems you create for the skin. The dog gets itchy - and it get extremely vulnerable for infections and parasites!
Besides, this natural grease keeps the coat water repellant - and thus nice and warm, also in wet weather. When you shampoo the coat, it loses that ability to repel water - and the dog gets miserably cold when it gets wet...
What you do when the dog gets dirty? Rinse it with clean water - or let it take a swim. just keep shampoos and detergents off the coat.
And, a final comment about the coat: it insulates the dog's body very well. Because dogs do not depend on sweat glands in the skin to keep themselves cool in the summer heat, the coat insulates equally well against the heat as it does against the cold! This means that shaving the dog in the summer is not protecting it against the heat - it is making it more vulnerable!
Dogs have fours legs, humans have only two. Our arms are not meant for supporting the body weight, but for other things. For this reason, our shoulders are very flexible. We can turn our arms in almost any direction.
Dogs have a completely different construction of their shoulders. Their shoulders are only supposed to move in one direction, to support the body moving. Their shoulders are not mean to be twisted out from the body, and their shoulders are most definitely not meant to have the body weight carried by pulling them! They are meant for supporting the body, not for having the body hanging in them.
Why this is important? Because most people do a lot of harm to their dog by lifting them as they lift a human baby, in the arms! The dog's shoulders cannot handle this kind of stress very well. You risk doing some severe damage to the shoulders and its ligament when you try to lift the dog in the front legs. I have seen many dogs develop chronic pain in the shoulders because "dog lovers" could not resist the temptation of lifting those cute things in their front legs....
How you lift your dog then? Very simple: you always have a hand under the bum! You carry the dog's weight on your arms or body - you do not pull at its legs ever.
You might add another hand under the neck, in front of the legs. It is actually safe to lift the dog entirely by the head! (Dogs don't like it though - but you cannot do them any harm this way, as long as you don't choke them or shake them - in sharp contrast to the huge danger a human if you did this to a human!)
For shorter situations, you can carry the dog in your arms this way. But if you need to walk longer distances, your arms cannot do this.... You then need to get the dog onto your shoulders. This can be a little tricky, especially with a deep-chested breed. It takes some practice.
Want to see it in practice? Here is a little illustration with my old dog Bettemuir: http://k9joy.com/dogtraining/lifting.html.
Now, doing this will be uncomfortable for the dog, first time you try! You will have to do it gradually and slowly, making the dog used to being touched this way. But the pay-off is worth it. Just think about it as a safety issue: if your dog gets injured, you will appreciate having taught it this...
Most people do not know what their dog's body temperature is - or should be. For your dog's protection, you need to know this. For large breeds, it is generally pretty close to what it is for humans, but for smaller breeds, it is several degrees higher! Unfortunately, there are so many individual variations also that you have no way of knowing for sure, unless you actually measure it. In order for you to know if the dog is running a fever or not (a very important diagnostic tool when the dog gets sick), you have to know what the "normal" level of its body temperature is. Otherwise you and your vet cannot tell if this temperature actually represents a fever or not - unless it is very high and out of the normal range.
So, please do yourself, your dog, and your vet the favor of testing the dog's body temperature at times when it is in good health, so you know what the reference level is. You can use a simple thermometer you get in a drug store for insertion in the anus. (Avoid glass, just as a safety precaution.) Use Vaseline of some other grease for insertion, and make sure that the sensor touches the inner wall of the rectum, so you do not try to gauge the temperature of an upcoming fart! It would show a reading that is too low.
It is, of course, extremely important that you make sure that the dog is safe and cannot move, particularly not sit down! The simplest way of doing that is by your kneeling so you thigh is horizontal, getting get the dog to stand with the front legs on one side of your leg and the hind legs on the other. You grab the tail with one hand and use the arm of that hand to hold the dog's bum down towards your leg, so your grip is firm and you then insert the thermometer with the free hand. You don't need to push it deeply in, but you do need the sensor totally inside the closing muscle at the anus. And then just push it gently to the side so it touches the wall inside.
And, by the way: you should make a point out of training to dog to have its temperature taken. It is too late to train it when the dog is sick and you need it...
Anyway, those three areas are simple to manage when you know about them. If you knew already, then please forgive me for repeating it - but help me spread the knowledge to other people then! As with any issue of The Peeing Post, you are always welcome to simply forward it to a friend. You are not violating any copyright by doing so, because you have my explicit permission.
Cheers and woof,
If you have any suggestions to contributions or contents of The Peeing Post, or some comments or questions pertaining to this issue or in to dogs in general, I will be happy to know about them. If I can find an answer for you, I will!
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There is another important difference between dogs and people that should be mentioned, although many dog owners do know this: dogs and people do get the same diseases and the same kinds of parasites. It does not affect your dog that you get sick, and it does not consitute any health risk for you or your family that the dog gets sick. There are only two exceptions, one of which is impornant: Rabies - which fortunately is extremely rare in many parts of the world, but quite common in other parts. (We will discuss this in greater detail in a later issue.)
The unimportant one is Salmonella. I call it unimportant because it plain simply isn't seriously dangerous for neither dogs nor people, regardless the scaremonger you will find about it in many places online and maybe even in your vet's office. If you want to know the truth about Salmonella, based on offical US government stats, then you should read this article: "The Salmonella Myth".
The same thing goes with parasites, internal ones as well as external ones. Dog fleas and worms in the gastrointestinal tract do not attack humans. And human parasites cannot live on dogs. You might get bitten by a dog flea, but it cannot live on human blood. And if your puppy has worms, there is not risk of infection of your children coming from that.
With Rabies as the only relevant exception, your dog does not constitute any health risk at all for you or your family. Now, if your dog is rolling itself in garbage or sewer, then, of course, having direct contact with the dog right afterwards will expose you to the same risks of infection as if you touched the garbage or sewer directly. But that kind of risk is not coming from the dog itself, it comes from the environment.
And, just for the record: Dog saliva is not poisonous for children. It actually contains some anti-bacterial chemicals that seriously speed up the healing of wounds, also on people...