Searching for a lost dog

animal-tracks-in-sandI can think of only a few things more traumatic than searching for a lost pet. The trauma is most likely a two-way street, as awful for the lost pet as it is for the frantic owner. A lost dog is not a lost cause, however, and the chances of being reunited are pretty good, as least according to the 2012 ASPCA study.

As a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I encourage you to take action immediately, should you find your inquisitive canine missing. Be sure to enlist the help of family and friends to ensure as much ground can be covered in the shortest amount of time as possible.  The Humane Society of the United States offers tips to finding pets, and here are some I would find useful.

Comb the neighborhood. With a picture of your dog, walk, bike, or drive through familiar routes and to favorite places. Is there a particular dumpster your dog loves to sniff on the morning walk? Check there. Call for your dog with an inviting tone. Sweet talk your dog by squeezing a favored squeak toy, shaking a tempting box of treats or another container that emits a sound your dog is familiar with. Ask your mail-person, neighbors, and delivery people if they have seen your dog? Give your contact information should they find your pet.

Notify the authorities. Contact every shelter within 60 miles of your home. (Or within the distance your inquisitive canine could likely travel on their own). File a report and visit the shelter, if possible. Many shelters post found animals online, but often shelters are understaffed so the postings may have to wait a few days. Contact your veterinarian’s office, notifying them of your pet’s disappearance, as they will be able to track his or her rabies tag number. If your dog is microchipped, contact the microchip company. They will issue a “lost or stolen” alert against that number. If you think your pet has been stolen, contact the police.

Social media can be a lifesaver. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can help spread the word of a lost pet very fast. Post a photo and/or video of your dog while including appropriate hashtags. And, be sure to provide your contact information.

Search the Internet. There are national Web sites that work on local levels. Some are Pet Amber Alert, Center for Lost Pets, and Fido Finder. Also, your community’s Craigslist.com is an excellent resource. Your veterinarian’s office and local animal control agency may have other Internet site suggestions.

Post bulletins. Create a notice with your dog’s photo, name, sex, age, weight, breed, color, and special markings. The Humane Society of the United States recommends omitting “one identifying characteristic and asking the person who finds your pet to describe it.” Hang the notices on community bulletin boards, vet offices, grocery stores, pet supply stores, coffee shops, and other gathering locations.

Place a lost and found ad. Use your local newspaper to advertise your lost pet, and remember to check the “found” section, too.

Don’t give up the search. Certainly you’ve heard tales of  dogs and cats returning home after months and years of absence. The Humane Society of the United States shares the story of Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) being reunited with her lost dog, Kiwi, who is microchipped, after more than a year.

Just as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, you can be somewhat prepared should you have to face the awfulness of searching for your inquisitive canine one day. Here are some of the things you can do:

  • Have your pet microchipped. Remember to keep record of the microchip number, company name and contact information, and notify them should you have a change in contact information.
  • Make sure your dog always wears a collar with its name, your name, address, and telephone number. There should be an ID tag on the collar, too, with the same information.
  • Keep recent photos of your pet accessible.
  • Be acquainted with animal services, such as shelters and veterinarian offices, in your area.
  • Think about why dogs run away. It can be out of loneliness or lack of stimulation, i.e. boredom. Here’s a post on enrichment activities for your inquisitive canine. If a pet is not neutered, it may be searching for a special friend or a night on the town. Maybe they are in a new surrounding and are looking for their former home. Something may have frightened them, such as thunder or a car backfiring. Do what you can to not give your dog reasons to run away.

Lastly, I’m sorry to say, be aware of scams. There are people out there who prey on others during life’s most vulnerable moments. If someone insists you wire or give money before the return of a pet, ask a trusted relative or friend to help you determine if this is legitimate. 

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Wanna join the conversation? Any experience and/or tips for finding a missing inquisitive canine? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Grieving the Loss of a Pet

Our beloved inquisitive canine Poncho the Dog - always remembered, forever loved.
Our beloved inquisitive canine Poncho the Dog – always remembered, forever loved.

Dogs bring pure joy into our lives and homes. The flip side of that is the devastating loss when they leave us. As a certified professional dog trainer and  behavior consultant, and dog mom, I would be remiss if I didn’t post about pet loss and its accompanying grief. The purpose of this installment is to offer some resources and to provide comfort during a very difficult time.

First, intense grief and sadness over the loss of a dog, or any pet, is normal – at least in my opinion. A dog is a family member and a big part of daily life. The human-canine bond can be very strong, and not all humans understand that. Mourning the loss of your dog is a way to deal with the sadness. I can speak firsthand about this matter, as we lost our beloved inquisitive canine Poncho one year ago today.

Grieving is a very individual and personal process. Everyone has their own way. And many of us are creating and finding our ways to grieve as we go along. It’s never easy and sometimes it may be the most difficult thing one faces in life. For myself and my husband, we found solace in attending both individual and group pet grief counseling sessions. Dr. Kathleen Ayl, who hosts these sessions, was our saving grace during what has been a very difficult time.

Animal welfare organizations, veterinarian offices, and other animal-related groups suggest the following to deal with the overwhelming grief pet loss can bring:

A memory table for Shadow, a beloved golden retriever.
A memory table for Shadow, a beloved golden retriever.
  • Give yourself permission to grieve.
  • Reach out to others who can lend a sympathetic ear.
  • Write about your feelings in a poem, story, or essay.
  • Call your veterinarian, local Humane Society, animal advocacy group, or mental health hotline to see if pet-loss support groups are offered in your area.
  • Prepare a memorial for your pet.

For more help on coping with the loss of a furry family member, you may find the Humane Society’s and Rainbow Bridge’s Web sites helpful. Or, a call to the Pet Loss Hotline,  (877) GRIEF-10, may provide comfort, too. Here’s a Web site of a veterinarian I know who specializes in honoring the loss of a pet: Kalee Pasek, D.V.M.

If your emotional loss and pain is unbearable, consider the services of a professional counselor or therapist.

Please know that the Inquisitive Canine family fully understands that the loss of a pet is one of the most difficult experiences. Ever. Our sympathy is with you.

Creating a dog-friendly Fourth of July celebration

Paw-triotic pooches Cooper & MacKenzie enjoying play, while being kept safe by mom and dad!
Paw-triotic pooches Cooper & MacKenzie enjoying play, while being kept safe by mom and dad!

Happy July and here’s to wonderful Fourth of July! It’s a fun and festive time for our country and local communities. While humans are reveling in picnic games, barbecue menus, and colorful theatrics in the sky, the holiday can be a totally un-celebratory experience for our inquisitive canine family and friends.

As a certified professional dog trainer, I know how terrifying a thunderous fireworks display can be for pets or how a quick sniff of meat in hot coals can turn into a painful burn on a cold nose. With some preparation and environmental management, the Fourth of July can be a star spangled holiday for all family members.

Here are a couple of previous patriotic posts that readers have found helpful in making the day a special one for their inquisitive canines.

  • This Doggie Blog post offers a variety of gentle reminders and suggestions to create a stress free holiday for all involved.
  • I offer some management and training tips to help make the Fourth an enjoyable day on this Noozhawk post.
  • This post on Edhat, Pooch Patriotism Means Celebrate Smart, is written from the canine point of view.
  • For those of you who prefer an infographic, check this out on petfinder.com.

Here’s to wishing all of us a safe and enjoyable holiday. Let freedom ring – bark, or howl!

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Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share patriotic pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Understanding Dog Displacement Behavior

Nail biting, hair twirling, and pacing are examples of nervous behavior in humans. In the world of canines, behaviors dogs use to cope, relieve stress, or stave off trouble (rather than deal with it directly) is called displacement behavior.  Called so because the behavior is out of place, or displaced. The behaviors themselves are normal but happen out of context – such as a dog shaking off as wet when dry. 

Displacement behaviorAs a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I know how subtle these behaviors can be, and I can’t emphasize enough the importance of  trying to understand what your dog’s body language is communicating. That’s why regular interaction between dog and human is so crucial, so you can tell if a behavior is out of context. When you notice something’s out of the norm, you may be able to prevent unwanted behavior between your dog and other beings.

I’ve seen my fair share of displacement behaviors, which happen because of frustration or conflicting impulses to behave in a manner that is impeded. The displacement behavior also manifests when a dog has conflicting emotions and does not know what to do. Here’s an example: a dog is “caught” sleeping on the couch when its humans come home. She’s happy to see them but fears being punished so she “looks guilty” and kind of slinks to greet them.

Please note that displacement behavior is a personal issue the dog is having. It’s about an individual dog and not about canine social hierarchy, pack mentality, or deference.

The following behaviors can signal an internal conflict in an inquisitive canine:

  • Nose licking, the tongue spitting out snake-like
  • Rapid eye blinking
  • Chattering teeth when not cold
  • Scratching
  • Shaking off as if wet, but the dog is dry
  • Being clingy with owner or other humans
  • Drooling (when not related to food)
  • Moist or sweaty paws
  • Whining
  • Panting when not overheated or not after exercise
  • Lowered body or slinking
  • Over the top licking, chewing, or “grooming” that can cause bodily harm
  • Stretching to relax

Displacement behavior often serves as a warning  – “Careful, I’m feeling real uncomfortable right now and I just might start lunging.” Should you notice your inquisitive canine exhibiting displacement behavior, change the environment to make your dog feel safe and comfortable.

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Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

 

#Train4Rewards Blog Party … Reward, Reward, Reward

Woofs and wags to Companion Animal Psychology and its #Train4Rewards Blog Party. You think I’d miss this party? Read on!

As a is certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I’m all about reward, reward, reward. Plus, it’s an extra-special party for me as it’s Poncho’s birthday. So here’s what I’m bringing to the paw-ty: A case study on reward training from Poncho’s column A Pooch’s Perspective.” 

A woman asked Poncho why her inquisitive canine, a 13-year-old lab, would sometimes discreetly pee in her parents house, though the girl dog never had an “accident” at home. Poncho breaks down his answer into four points.Dickens

Know Your Animal – Dogs eliminate when they feel the need, unless they have been taught otherwise. A couple of triggers dogs commonly react to are: texture and scent. For texture, think dirt, grass, tile, cement, and carpet. Oh, about wet grass … do you like a wet toilet seat? For scent, a dog’s world is one big perfume counter. Observing another dog going potty, updating status by “marking” territory, and previous learning are a few triggers that give dogs the urge. Additionally, dogs understand “safe and dangerous” as opposed to “right and wrong.” Maybe the lab had a previous accident and got into trouble, so the lesson she learned was to “go” when no one was around. Please note: 13 years is on the senior side of a canine’s life, so a visit to the vet may be in order to rule out any medical issues.

Communicate Clearly – Humans need to determine what they want from their dogs. Go potty in a specific spot? Or just not indoors? Take the time to teach the wanted behavior and manage environments to help your inquisitive canine to make better choices.

Reward, Reward, Reward – It’s all about the reward. In the lab’s case, upon arrival at the parents’ house, the human should put the lab on a leash, take her to where she should go potty and wait. And wait and wait. If necessary, wait some more until potty victory. Then, celebrate! Give her a big whoo-hoo! Some chin chucks and scratching followed by an edible treat … and the big reward: being allowed inside. Once inside, be sure to keep an eye on her so she can be brought outside immediately should you observe signs she is likely to go.

Should her motivation be marking her territory, then follow basic house-training: keep an eagle eye on her and reward, reward, reward for eliminating outside, along with ignoring areas she likes to claim as her own. Take her to places she’s allowed to mark to provide an outlet to fulfill her doggy needs and wishes, while having fun and bonding together.

Set the Stage for Success – Extra time is needed when bringing the lab to her “grandparents,” who need to be in on the game plan. (They may need a little training themselves.) If the grandparents are distracted easily, they may want to keep their grand-dog on a leash or in a roomy, comfy crate. If allowed to wander at will, something may trigger the lab’s urge to go. Setting her up for success, not failure is key.

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Paws and reflect – It’s best to use house-training basics: teach, reward-reward-reward, and manage the situation. Inquisitive canines don’t know the right thing to do by instinct no more than humans do. For example, if someone were to visit your house, you would show them where the bathroom is. If you didn’t they may choose a bathroom on their own and it may not be the one you’d like guests to use. You’d have no one to blame but yourself if they went in the wrong place.

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Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Dog Training: Why hitting or using pain are not the ideal choices

Dogs are my world. What can I say, I love canines! It’s no wonder my chosen profession is certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant. Oftentimes at social events, when someone learns I specialize in dogs, I’m asked about my training philosophy or solicited for advice.
Recently, a journalist asked for my thoughts on “why hitting or using pain doesn’t work” for an article she was writing. Further, she wanted to know what resulting behavior(s) dog owners can expect when using this type of training and what should a dog owner do when they feel frustrated, angry, and are tempted to hit.IMG_0038
I have lots and lots to say on this subject, however, I decided to whittle my thoughts to some key points, which are not in any particular order.
The Inquisitive Canine 9: 
Why Hitting Dogs or Using Pain in Training Doesn’t Work
  1. Using coercion and force-based methods can cause physical harm! Plus, permanent bodily damage can result – to the dog and/or the human.
  2. A dog learns to associate pain, being uncomfortable, or “in trouble” with anything else in their environment, such as other people, animals, situations, and the like. This type of conditioning can lead to fear based reactions such as “I better do what they say otherwise I’ll get in trouble,” “Uh oh every time [insert name] is around I get in trouble or hurt. I don’t like [insert name]. How do I make them go away!” The dog learns to anticipate and begins to panic, as displayed by its body language, behavior, etc. The dog also can become fearful and upset, leading to an increase of undesired behaviors – barking, lunging, growling, and even biting with hopes of making the scary thing go away.
  3. The dog shuts down altogether. This is called “learned helplessness.” Essentially, the dog learns the best way to behave is to not do anything in order to not get in trouble.
  4. In a particularly frustrating and heartbreaking scenario, the dog ends being reinforced for the undesired behavior. Meaning that the behavior increases, which causes the owner to escalate their behavior, increasing the force of the punishment.
  5. Coercion and force-based methods don’t let the dog know what the right behavior is. The owner is focusing solely on the undesired behavior, therefore the dog doesn’t know what to do.
  6. The likelihood of reinforcing or punishing an unintended behavior is high unless the timing is precise, which is fairly difficult.
  7. There is an increased risk of the dog becoming aggressive and retaliating. Some dogs could care less, some freak out and back down (learned helplessness), and others say, “I’m not putting up with this!” and that could lead into snarling, growling, and biting the owner.
  8. A vicious cycle is perpetuated if the intensity of the punishment needs to be so strong to stop the behavior that the owner needs to continue to escalate the intensity, which leads to more harm to the dog and increased frustration of the owner. And so on.
  9. It harms, or breaks, the special bond between dogs and their owners. Dogs who are hit or physically harmed might find it difficult to trust the person(s) who treats them with a heavy hand and virulent heart. Also, a dog will spend so much energy on being afraid, it won’t be able to become the complete wonderful creature it is intended to be.

As mentioned earlier, I have lots and lots to say on this subject. I believe the above reasons are enough to illustrate that using coercion, force-based methods for modifying a dogs behavior is ineffective, unproductive, and downright cruel. They’re also unnecessary, considering all the wonderful alternative choices available!

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Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine?  We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Pet Planner and Organizer for when you’re away

As the saying goes, “variety is the spice of life.” For many, this is true. On the flip side, we also find comfort in our daily routines, as do inquisitive canines. Meal time, walk time, play time, nap time, snack time, snuggle time, bed time, just to name a few. As a certified professional dog trainer and  behavior consultant, I can’t overemphasize the importance of preparing, well in advance, for those times when you’ll be away from home for just an afternoon, a family vacation, or forever. So much of the information you have in your head needs to be written down to ensure your inquisitive canine’s routine is stable, and comfort level isn’t jeopardized, should you be unavailable. 

Planning for time away from home includes pet planning.
Planning for time away from home includes pet planning.

Hard copy pet-planning workbooks might not be as easy to find as those on the best-sellers lists, but fortunately organizations such as 2ndChance4Pets have created a very thorough product that fits the bill, in digital format no less. The DIY option would be another route you could take: notebook paper, pen, and paperclip will do the trick, or feel free to get as fancy as you’d like. I’ve listed the basics below. Adapt and tailor to your inquisitive canine.

  • About your inquisitive canine. The name s/he responds to, the name on the license and where licensed, microchip number, tag or nameplate. Address, phone number. Contact information for a neighbor, or two, who know your dog. Description including fur color, short/long hair, distinguishing marks, height, weight. Photo of dog, and photo of dog with human family.
  • Some small print. Breed, any AKC registration info. If your inquisitive canine is in your will or trust, your attorney’s name. Name and contact info of caregiver designated in will/trust.
  • Regular vet visits and emergency situations. Doctor’s name, contact information, and location of regular vet. Info for an emergency and/or after hours vet. Request and fill out a treatment authorization form, or create your own. Include dollar amount you are willing to pay for treatment and euthanization decision making criteria. Pet health insurance policy information.
  • General health. Regular medication and dosage. Any allergies. Unique behavior tendencies – any fears or triggers. Scary noises like fireworks and thunder. Grooming and hygiene concerns such as bathing, brushing, teeth brushing, nail care, and groomer appointments. Groomer contact info.
  • Eating. Inquisitive canine’s regular menu choices and portions. Foods to avoid. Special treats.
  • Lifestyle. Meal and walk times. Common commands. Where does your inquisitive canine sleep? Tuck-in rituals. Favorite toys and games. Bathroom times. Humans your inquisitive canine may feel necessary to protect you against, e.g. mail person, skateboarders, delivery personnel, gardeners, etc. Other animals your inquisitive canine should avoid.

It may help to think of the pet planner as a combination instruction manual and baby book. The above gives a good start to planning for time away from your inquisitive canine, whether you’re going on vacation or not. No surprise, there is tons of information on the Internet, too. I found a lot of great info at care.com. Special thanks to the San Francisco SPCA for a pet planner they produced in 2004 (no longer available) that I found very helpful.

So, tell us inquisitive pet parents, what would you add to your pet planner? Share in the comments section below.

Puppy Parent Tip Sheet

Georgie-with-ball-grassThere is no peak season for puppies, but my experience as a certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant has shown summer to be one of the busier training times for young inquisitive canines. Any time is a good time for puppy training. Summer, though, has the added benefit of kids typically being out of school, which allows extra time for bonding and training with their pups. Kind of puts a brand new meaning to “dog days of summer,” doesn’t it?

Training is fun for inquisitive canines and their humans. Dogs are social animals. They want to interact with humans. Keeping things pawsitive sets the stage for quick learning on both ends of the leash. Following are pointers to make the most out of your training sessions. You may want to keep it handy on your phone or print it out to post on your refrigerator. 

Inquisitive Canine’s 9 Top Tips for Puppy Parents

Have realistic goals and expectations. Start small and work up to more challenging exercises. This may sound “uh, duh,” but it’s easy to forget in the all cuteness and excitement of puppyhood. Successful eye contact is a HUGE step for a puppy.

Keep training sessions short and sweet. Five minutes at a time! Take a cue from show business and leave ’em wanting more. Your inquisitive canine has a short attention span. Little by little, it will lengthen. There’s no need to try and cover more than a puppy can take in. (Oh, if only some other things in life were kept to five-minute intervals.)

It is best to train when your puppy is hungry – not stuffed after a meal nor famished. If puppy’s motivation is higher, the steeper the learning curve. Waiting until your dog is ravenous is unhealthy and unproductive, who can learn when they can’t think straight because they’re so hungry.

Use a variety of deliciously smelly treats. Mix it up. It will keep your inquisitive canine attentive and curious. *Make sure all foods are puppy appropriate and vet-approved. 

Take frequent “fun” breaks from training with a quick game of “fetch,” “follow me,” or “hide and seek.” Break time is part of a new behavior’s gestation. It allows the brain to refresh and clear itself.

Remember to think about your feedback and your timing. (The clicker really helps with this!) Feedback must be immediate. Period. Humans are capable of understanding delayed gratification, but this concept is often lost on pups. 

You must be present and alert if you expect your pup to be. That’s only fair, right? Clear your decks, turn off the phone, and give all your attention to your puppy.

Speak from your heart. Keep your tone of voice in mind. Positive and upbeat is the training tone. Dogs may not have large vocabularies, but they sure can understand tonal language.

Make training a part of your everyday routine, not a chore. Dogs flourish with learning and enriching their mind. Incorporating their training into your daily routine will yield great pawsitive results.

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Wanna share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page.

Upcycle Leftovers Into High Value Dog Treats

Last week a private training client mentioned that their dogs had some dietary restrictions, but were allowed to have salmon. Fortunately for me, I had just roasted salmon for our dinner and had some left over, along with brown rice and chopped herbs. Yay! Aside from working with dogs and their humans, I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen, especially when I have a goal of coming up with special treats for inquisitive canines.

Thanks to the food processor, an egg, and some flax seed, the mixture turned out quite lovely. Low and slow in the oven (40 minutes, 325 degrees convection), cooled and sliced up with pizza cutter made for quite a large batch of these morsels that both dogs found quite rewarding.

So, before you decide to swipe your plate into the trash, or toss all the old containers out, experiment with creating your own custom canine creations so you can continue to reward those behaviors you want. Your dog, your budget, and our landfills, will appreciate it!

Custom Salmon Treats

Add all ingredients into bowl (salmon, brown rice, herbs, ground flax meal mixed with water)

Salmon Treat Ingredients

 

 

 

 

 

Place in food processor and blend until smooth

CustomSalmonTreats

 

 

 

 

 

Add one egg, blend until smooth (helps with binding, alternatively double flax meal)

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Spread onto baking sheet lined with oiled foil (so doesn’t stick).

Bake at 325 degrees 35-45 min or until firm.

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Cool and cut into desired size pieces. Note, this batch made a lot. I am keeping extras in the fridge and will experiment with freezing too.

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Dog Rehabilitation: Your choice is in jeopardy

Skyebalancefinal
As a certified professional dog trainer, I find Karen Atlas of HydroPaws, an animal rehabilitation and performance center, amazing. Karen is a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist (CCRT) and an experienced and licensed human Physical Therapist (PT), as well. Along with her work as Director of Rehabilitation at HydroPaws, Karen is the President of the California Association of Animal Physical Therapists, and the CAAPT is on a mission.
CAAPT seeks toplay a leading role in making recommendations to lawmakers on how to protect consumers while keeping access open for rehab services by allowing humans to choose qualified, safe, and competent non-vet rehabilitation therapists for their pets.

Sophie Laser PicCAAPT’s tagline says it all: “We exist to protect your right to choose your own qualified non-vet rehabilitation therapist and to ensure consumer protection through mandatory educational standards for all who practice in the specialty field of animal rehabilitation.”

Why is this so important? Here are a few reasons:
  • The California Veterinary Medical Board (CVMB) has a history of taking prior action which would have resulted in the loss of consumer choice of qualified non-vet practitioners.
  • The CVMB has indicated they will continue their efforts to mandate direct supervision of all persons, including qualified licensed physical therapists with advanced training in animal rehab, under the premise of “consumer protection and safety.”
  • The CVMB’s approach, if anything like their attempt in 2015, will likely drive up costs, limit consumer access to qualified professionals, and potentially reduce the quality of services provided to pets since, historically, the CVMB has not included any minimum education standards in this specialty niche of animal healthcare. It is important to know that rehabilitation is not currently mandated or even part of most veterinary curricula, so competency of the veterinarians themselves is not ensured, which could pose risks of harm to animals.
I think you’ll agree with me when I say I find being able to make health care decisions for my pets is of extreme importance. I want choice.
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Of course, the issue is complex and layered. In an interview, Karen reduced the issue to its basic points, illustrating the importance of it.
Q: How does your situation compare to the world of human medicine — primary physicians and their relationship with PTs?
A: It parallels quite nicely with the human medical model, except that MDs are accustomed to working in collaboration with other allied healthcare professionals, while veterinarians are not. So it is taking quite a bit of education to have veterinarians fully understand our scope of practice, what we are trained to do, and how to incorporate our work for the benefit of our mutual patients. In my community, we have a fabulous, collaborative network of veterinarians. They understand my unique skill set and our working relationships are founded in mutual respect for one another’s expertise. The benefits of an improved quality of life for our mutual patients are clearly seen when this spirit of true collaboration exists between the two professions.
Q: I see it as doctors refer, but PTs work independently. I don’t need to see my PT out of my doctor’s office.
A: Correct. In the human medical model, it used to be that a person would see a doctor, get a diagnosis, and be sent to a PT, who worked by referral but without direct supervision of that doctor. MDs are not required to be on the same premises as the PT in human practice. Animal rehabilitation should be no different. We do not feel we need a veterinarian directly supervising a properly trained and licensed PT, as that would likely increase the costs to consumers to necessitate two high level professionals on the same premises. And since there is no evidence to support that properly trained PTs pose harm to our patients, it is not reasonable to mandate that a veterinarian be on the same premises to directly supervise the PT for safety reasons. It comes down to competency. If a practitioner is able to meet certain criteria to demonstrate competency, then they should be allowed to practice in an indirect supervision format without the need for a DVM to be on the same premises. We are not proposing taking the veterinarian out of the plan of care. On the contrary, we believe the veterinarian plays a vital role in making medical diagnoses and a veterinary medical clearance or referral should be required to ensure safety of the pet.
Q: Why do we need to regulate animal rehabilitation and how can it be accomplished here in California?
A: Regulation of this emerging specialty field is necessary to ensure consumer protection and maintain safety for pets. But since this area of animal healthcare lands directly between the purview of two boards, the Physical Therapy Board (PTB) and the Veterinary Medical Board (VMB), it appears that a legislative remedy will be needed to give one of the boards the authority to oversee the professionals. Through statute, other states have successfully either added animals to their PT Practice Act or granted their VMB the authority to oversee another licensed professional (in this case, qualified PTs) to enable the board to discipline, inspect premises, or  handle consumer complaints and concerns as needed. We believe this can and should happen in California.
Q: The laws vary state by state, right?
A: Yes, other states have been very effective with their regulatory language to allow for indirect supervision of properly trained PTs, and there have been no formal complaints of harm or neglect by a properly trained PT in California (or in any state that I am aware of) that would warrant a mandate of having a veterinarian be on the same premises. So it already has been proven to be a safe and effective way to regulate. Remember, in California, there is direct access for human PTs. People can go see a PT now without having to see a doctor initially for a referral. We are NOT, however, seeking direct access for veterinary PT. We believe a vet medical clearance and/or referral is appropriate to ensure safety of the pets.
Q: What state models are being run like you want or structured like the vets want?
A: We wish to model California either after Colorado, Nevada, or Nebraska, to name a few. The leading trend is to structure PTs under INDIRECT supervision of a veterinarian, meaning a vet does NOT need to be on the same premises. An animal would need a veterinary medical clearance or referral to see a qualified PT.  
Q: How can people help the cause?
A: First, they can learn more at the California Association of Animal Physical Therapists Web site. They can like and share HydroPaws’ already viral Facebook video and follow us on Facebook at California Association of Animal Physical TherapistsAnd, of course, due to the nature of political activity, we are seeking donations of any size. We have a Go Fund Me site or checks can be made out to Animal Physical Therapy Coalition and sent to: CAAPT/APTC – ATTN: Karen Atlas, P.O. Box 4422, Santa Barbara, CA 93140. 
 
I.C. HydroPaws_021916In addition to my professional opinion, I’d like to say something from a dog-mom point of view. Karen and the HydroPaws team took such good care of Poncho, as they do all the animals in their care. (Poncho was the original Inquisitive Canine and he left the Earth July 2015.) HydroPaws is the rare place where the science of medicine and art of compassion are in perfect balance. In the spirit of a picture is worth a thousand words, I invite you to watch the amazing work HydroPaws did with Rocky 3, who was hit by a car.
 

The CAAPT’s vision under Karen’s leadership is worthy of your attention and help to ensure consumer choice of qualified practitioners in California. I hope you’ll join me in supporting the cause.

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Wanna share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page.