Understanding Medical Problems that Can Interfere with Dog Training
Dog training can be such a rewarding career, but it does involve the stress of impressing the client, keeping the dog safe and avoiding injuries especially to yourself, your staff, and of course other clients’ dogs and animals. Whether it is an injury from group play, a dog with anxiety issues that injures it-self trying to escape, or personal health issues with the particular dog you are training; understanding when dogs are hurt and being able to recognize the symptoms immediately can benefit your progression with dog training in more ways than one.
For example, we get many calls from clients wanting our dog trainers to simply potty train their dogs. The issue can be very difficult especially when the dog has continued this habit through adult years or has been trained to pee-pee pads. With our experience in this department, our first question to our clients will be “Have you taken the dog the vet to rule out any sort of urinary tract infection?” With that being said, it is important for trainers to be able to recognize when our dogs are struggling with potty issues especially if the dog had not had an issue in the past. UTI’s can be very painful and some dog breeds are prone to developing crystals and blockages that develop very quickly over a matter of days. Most urinary tract infections can be treated with a round of antibiotics, quite an easy fix especially when you are required to keep the dog for in-kennel training for several weeks!
Other injuries that could happen at a moment’s notice are injury to a dog’s back (disc) or leg/knee. For example, we once had a Shih Tzu that was at our facility for behavior modification because he had been severely neglected and had no trust in humans what so ever. This Shih Tzu could be very aggressive at times, especially with new people. Over time, we noticed his behavior began to become more frequent and stranger. He began to develop a twitch (and shaking), so I contacted the rescue group and told them I thought he was having some sort of seizure. Even after several visits to the vet, the dog was getting progressively worse. The vet shot an x-ray and determined the dog had several compacted discs in his spine. My vet had mentioned that many dogs that are found neglected and matted up can develop issues from mats holding their necks at odd angles for a period of time. We crated the dog for 6 weeks with medications, and he was good as new! This of course set back our behavior modification training but he was also a much easier dog to deal with once we figured out the problem!
When dealing with high drive working dogs, you will almost always have to deal with some sort of injury. As many of you know, Highland Canine Training has been involved with training working dogs for many years so our stories can be endless with some the crazy things these dogs can and will do! One of the first injuries that come to mind that almost always develops is the dog spinning in their kennel and making the pads of their feet raw. Anyone that has worked especially with a Belgian Malinois can testify to the insanity of their circling. These dogs can walk across gravel and look like their whole back end is out of whack. In the beginning, I would run the dogs to the vet and ask them to check their hips which would turn out to be fine, but then it would turn out to be a tiny raw spot on the pads of their feet that simply hurts. This pain can interfere with training to the point where the dog does not want to perform detection training, protection training, or even SAR training (especially on the rubble piles). It ends up being a quick fix.
I have also seen common issues with my police/patrol and protection working dogs if they quit showing interest in the tug or performing bite work. The first thing I will look at is the teeth. Even some of your young dogs can break a tooth very easily; your mid-life to older working dogs who do not receive dental care can have gum infections or “rotten” teeth which in turn, affect their performance. We had a client once who had an explosive detection dog that was only about 3 years old. They admitted that with political circumstances within their department, they had not been able to conduct proper training over the past several months. However, they went to get the dog out to work (the reward was the tug), and it was as if the dog had forgotten everything. We brought the dog back to our facility and they were exactly right, the high drive German Shepherd had no interest in detection. After a few days we noticed a few strange behaviors and checked her teeth and sure enough, the dog had two broken teeth in which the nerve endings were showing. We had the teeth pulled and the Shepherd was back in business within a few days! Working dogs are not the only ones that develop dental issues, if your in-kennel dogs act like they do not feel good have lost their appetite, or have more than normal awful breath, then definitely check the mouth! I recommend regular dentals for all dogs; it’s an easy way to make your dog instantly feels better!
These are just a few common issues we have run into over the years that I thought I would share. All of our dog trainers at Highland Canine Training are certified in both Pet CPR and First Aid. If you are looking for a dog trainer for pet dog training, behavior modification, or working dog sales please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call toll free 866.200.2207.