Monday, June 17, 2013

Attack of the Shed Monster

The calendar may say summer doesn’t officially start until Thursday, but one step outside proves otherwise.  Heat and humidity offer a too-close-for-comfort embrace, making anyone want to evacuate towards the closest air conditioned space.  It also makes me reach for cooler clothes, with generally less (still appropriate) fabric.  Aware for quite some time that “winter” was nowhere near long enough, the dogs have been preparing for the upcoming heat the last few weeks with the start of seasonal shedding. What started as a small bundle of fur floating to the floor after a tummy rub, or a few loose hairs set free after a back scratch has recently turned into a full on shed-fest.  Short-haired and bare-bellied Doggie even makes significant contributions to the fur pile. His white hair, often mistaken for Pumpkin’s lighter flank fur, he gladly lets her take the blame.  Daisee and Pumpkin seem to shed their body weight in fur on a weekly basis.  An innocent love pat, shake, or stretch releases enough fur to coat the carpet.  Knowing this process allows for a new, healthy coat to grow, it’s shocking to think that much fur was needed for a mild Texas winter.  I’ll admit, I am continually amazed at the shear generation of dead hair and find amusement when I look down at the floor after some distracted petting and see a mound of hair.

On a doomed mission to stop the shedding, I know I will never succeed!  A dog’s hair grows in a three-phase cycle.  First is the anagen phase in which the hair grows rapidly.  Just before it reaches full length, the short catogen phase is entered and hair growth ends.  Finally, the Labrador’s favorite stage, telogen, during which no growth occurs and the shedding onslaught begins.  Knowing that shedding is a natural process that can’t be stop, what’s a dog lover to do?

Brushing, of course, is a good first step to displace loose hair.  I use a FURminator on Pumpkin and Daisee with great success.  The amount of hair littering the yard after a furmination looks like an oversized plush toy recently run over by a lawn mower, and is limited only by the tiring of my arms. Without a doubt, the FURminator works on our Labs.  It also works fairly well on our cat who only endures the process for 2-3 minutes before claws come out.  As its main function is to remove fur belonging to the undercoat, I do find, at least for Pumpkin, her fur to be a little less soft after a good furmination.  Neither of the Labs enjoys furmination of the tail, and Pumpkin often doesn’t tolerate the treatment on her Golden Retriever-like flanks. 

Doggie is a bit more sensitive, and with his short hair, a Kong Zoom Groom (rubber brush with stout nubs) works well.  The nubs dislodge loose hair on the top coat and provide somewhat of a massage in the process.  Some in the Retriever community give high praise to an undercoat rake.  With no firsthand experience, comments suggest the FURminator “cuts” hair that is not loose, while an undercoat rake simply removes hair that is already loose. A good bathing does wonders for all three of our dogs, though the results seem short-lived.  A dog’s coat does provide much needed insulation, even in the summer months, so make sure you opt for a trim and not a buzz cut if you go the grooming route. 

Best of luck to all who try to tame the shed monster this summer!

Written by Lori Burkhardt- HOTLR volunteer, former foster mom, adopter and dog lover

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Back to Obedience School -

I recently put myself and my two year old black Lab Chuy back through obedience school (more for my benefit than his).

A little bit of first adopted rescue Nikki was a handful. She needed to learn social skills to deal with people and dogs. Our first walks together became super stressful because she would react to every dog and every person she saw. I knew we needed guidance from professionals. We were lucky enough to take a few classes with the late Lee Mannix. He jokingly called my yellow Lab "Blondie" and said she was super smart; she just needed a job. We diligently followed through with the steps of the program and become a human "pack leaders". Nikki responded beautifully. She went from the "worst in the class" (always in timeout) to top of the class. She learned to look to us for guidance rather than react to all situations. Today, we accept the fact that she will never be perfect, but she has come a long way. For the most part her public behavior is acceptable (we can proudly take her to Petsmart and only on rare occasions will she decide to have a melt down and bark at a dog that looks at her wrong). She will always be shy and a little reticent to meet strangers but I know she now has coping mechanisms.

Having been through extensive training with Nikki, you would think when we adopted eight month old Chuy we would have used the tried and true approach with his training. Not so. Chuy is the opposite of Nikki; friendly and outgoing with all humans and dogs. We spoiled him rotten. When he turned two we realized we had created a monster. He knew the basic commands, but was very stubborn about whether or not he would obey them. He did not see us as "pack leader" but saw himself as center of the universe (my interpretation). I decided that the best thing for Chuy was for "me" to go back to obedience school. I won't say that Chuy was the most improved in the class, because he started out in a pretty good place, but he has improved immensely. I needed to re-learn what I should have been doing. I also have a new fresh perspective that training should be on-going and fun for both you and your dog.

Written by: P. Miner - Heart of Texas Lab Rescue Volunteer Coordinator, adopter of two rescues.