The use of messenger dogs in war is not a new concept and has been mentioned in early war accounts as far back as 4000 B.C. However, at the beginning of World War I, the British military was not convinced that the dogs would be of use. They changed their minds after the War Department received the following communication for Colonel Winter, R.A.:
From O.C. 56th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.
To R.A. Headquarters, 11th Division.
In continuation of my letter No. 549 dated on the 7th inst., during the operations against Wytshaete Ridge, two messenger dogs attached to this Brigade were sent forward at 1 A.M. One was attached to the forward liaison officer, and one with the group forward observation officer.
After being led up through communication trenches during darkness, they went forward as soon as the attack was launched, passing through the smoke barrage….One was dispatched at 10:45 A.M. and the other at 12:45 P.M.
Both dogs reached brigade headquarters, traveling a distance as the crow flies of 4,000 yards, over ground they had never seen before, and over an exceptionally difficult terrain. The dog dispatched at 12:45 P.M. reached his destination under the hour, bringing an important message, and this was the first message which was received, all visual communication having failed.
Signed O.C. 56th Brigade, R.F.A.
The War Department received two more reports about the two messenger dogs from Colonel Winter as follows:
When the Germans withdrew their line in the spring of 1917, the dogs were taken up the night before to a wood east of Bucquoy. They were then sent up to a forward observation post, 4,000 yards to the east of the wood, and were released with important messages. They found their way back, through masses of troops on the march, to the wood, although they had only arrived there the night previously, and the ground was quite unknown to them.
On the attack on the Vimy Ridge the dogs were employed with an artillery observation post. All the telephones were broken, and visual signaling was impossible. The dogs were the first to bring through news (Richardson, Watch Dogs: Their Training and Management, 185).
It was mainly due to the reports of success from Colonel Winter that the British army was persuaded to establish a messenger-dog program.
Excerpted from Soldiers in Fur and Feathers – The Animals that Served in World War I – Allied Forces, by Susan Bulanda. Learn more about the animals that served valiantly in the Allied Forces during World War I in the European theater in this fascinating book. Click here to order the book.
Noise and shapes can spook or attract dogs and need to be considered distractions in their own right. If whatever happens causes a trailing dog to disengage from the scent trail of the subject, it is a distraction. I have often heard handlers tell me that their dog has a certain attraction or fear reaction to a certain “thing,” and they take it for granted that it is a problem. Rather than trying to fix it, they attempt to avoid the problem or let the problem shut the dog down. This is a bad habit and does nothing more than reinforce the reaction in the dog. If the dog realizes that the handler will give in to an attraction nor give up when the dog encounters something about which he is nervous, the distraction becomes stronger each and every time this happens. There will come a point at which the handler may not be able to correct it. As with the kitty, the attraction or phobic response should be dealt with immediately and never be reinforced by allowance.
Here’s another example using my own dog. For some unknown reason, my dog freaked out when he heard the crash of a trash-truck dumpster putting a load of trash into the bed of the truck. I have no idea why, and I do not remember a particular incident that triggered it the first time, but I am now convinced that it had happened before and that something I did reinforced the fear. I know this now after working with hundreds of dogs. Ronin was my first dog, and he was wonderful for me because he provided the basis for everything I did then and for what I am now. I am now intensely watchful of any dog’s body language at all times that I am with him. If the dog is for work, I am doubly watchful. The only way I learn about a dog’s attraction or phobic response to an animal or object is through his body language. There is no other way, because the dog cannot speak to me. I am charged with the duty to be cognizant of what affects the dog. My job is that of an interpreter, motivator, and leader.
When I finally recognized the problem regarding the trash truck, I had to take countermeasures to solve it. First, I needed to make my dog realize that I was not afraid. I am the perceived leader, and if the dog thinks that I am afraid based on my odor of physical reaction will be equal to or exceed my own. With my behavior, I affect what and how my dog responds to situations. If I am a rock in a stormy sea of stimuli, my dog will be easier to deal with. I showed Ronin that I was not afraid; I approached a truck confidently and with no hesitation. Second, I used motivation and reward (food) to coax him in close. This took time, but I got Ronin to the point that he could trail right past a trash truck and not give it a second glance. The reward can be anything the dog likes such as a ball, tug, or praise. Ronin was a walking stomach, and food was the key to everything.
The worst thing to do is to coddle! A handler should not coddle his dog when the dog is scared. What I mean by coddling is, when the dog shows a fear reaction, the handler reaches down and pets and fawns over him, cooing sweet nothings into his ear. This behavior reinforces the fear because, in reality, the petting and cooing are telling the dog that he is right to be afraid of what he is balking at. Dogs are not children, and they do not rationalize things the way people do; stroking and “rewarding” fear behavior tells the dog that his fear is well founded.
The best way for a handler to correct his dog is to firmly say “no,” confidently walk up to the “thing,” inspect it with no fear, and then motivate his dog to come over. If it takes six months to fix this situation, so be it.
From K-9 Trailing: The Straightest Path, by Jeff Schettler. Published by Alpine Publications. For more information or to order the book, please visit K9 Trailing: The Straightest Path
We called Trapper our Little Red Sled dog.
Being a dark tawny brown with creamy markings, he could hardly be called red, and at 85 pounds, one would not call him little.
This was about 30 years ago. One of our first sled dogs, the old malamute could no longer keep up with the faster Alaskan huskies we’d acquired. Gradually, he had slipped into a life of leisure.
Trapper had been a great wheel dog. When the sled slid off the trail into deep snow, he was one of the rare few who would cross the towline to the opposite side to torque it back on. But, like all good malamutes, pulling and power were his pride and joy, not speed.
We retired the grand old dog to a plush life living inside and running loose in the yard. Sometimes we let him come along behind the team, but it wasn’t the same.
People who think that having a dog pull in harness is inhumane should have met Trapper. They must think that once retired, he lived in perfect bliss, the best of all worlds. No confinement, no work.
They’d be wrong.
Trapper became subdued. He lost his booming “Yo-ho-ho-ho!” when the harnesses came out for the other dogs. He moped around inside, and sadly watched the team speeding away to haul wood or run the trapline or do other important jobs, leaving him behind.
Poor old sled-less dog.
Then one day Julie brought him out to the woodlot. She piled firewood onto one of those little red plastic child’s sleds, put Trapper’s harness on him, and snapped it to the load.
“OK Trap! Go back!”
The old malamute leaned against the webbing, dragging the sled forward.
His tail bounced up. He lowered his head and drove proudly ahead, striding off toward the cabin, hauling the heavy load behind him. He did so well that within a few days Julie could load his sled and send him home for me to unload.
Trapper’s appetite came back. His bounce came back. Even though he only hauled a few loads a week, he was in harness again, being productive, pulling his weight. And he knew it.
Once again, he could “Yo-ho-ho-ho-!” with pride. When he had a choice of running around loose or coming out to work, he chose work every time.
He wasn’t little, and he wasn’t red, but Trapper was the best darn Little Red Sled dog we ever had.
by Miki and Julie Collins, authors of Dog Driver, A Guide for the Serious Musher. Read more or order at http://www.alpinepub.com/DOG_DRIVER.html
In summer, many people are more active with their dogs. With this increased activity, there is also an increase in the possibility of being in an emergency situation. Here are several pointers on Emergency CPR, fish hooks caught in the dog, heat exposure and sunburns that could be very useful.
DOGS IN NEED OF EMERGENCY CPR
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is the simulation of vital functions. You do for your dog what he cannot do for himself – breathe and pump blood. You must compress the heart and lungs to make them perform their vital function.
Causes: Serious bodily injury.
Signs: Dog not breathing, gums purple, dog out.
Prevention: Accident avoidance. Vigilant attention to your pet and his surroundings.
Treatments: Immediate care is necessary to save the dog’s life.
Begin chest presses (CPR-1) every five seconds for one to two minutes. If gums do not turn pink, attempt mouth-to-nose (CPR-2) for one to two minutes. If there is still no response, perform massage in addition to mouth-to-nose breathing (CPR-3).
CPR-1 – Chest Presses
Push in on the chest at five-second intervals to assist breathing (contraindicated with penetrating chest wounds, broken ribs, and any other significant chest trauma).
Note: One quick chest press can clear an obstructed airway and should be done before attempting mouth-to-nose respiration.
Place your dog on his side and stimulate his inner nostrils with a cotton swab or a stem of clean, smooth grass. This may initiate a sneeze followed by breathing. If not, gently grasp and pull out his tongue, checking his mouth for foreign bodies and color. Begin chest presses to compress the lungs and stimulate reflexive breathing. Slowly depress the chest for one second, release, and allow three or four seconds for the chest to expand and inhale air. Repeat presses every five seconds for one to two minutes. Stop occasionally to observe if breathing has spontaneously resumed. Monitor the color of the gums and tongue. A return to pink is a sign of recovery.
Feel for the heartbeat in the lower anterior chest between the dog’s elbows. If present and the gums remain pink, continue chest presses until dog regains consciousness or breathes on his own. If there is no response in two to three minutes, administer mouth-to-nose resuscitation (CPR-2).
CPR-2 – Mouth-to-Nose Resuscitation
Firmly grasp your dog’s tongue and pull it out. (You can use a clean rag for traction if one is handy.) Look and explore for anything that may be lodged in the throat or mouth, obstructive or otherwise. Attempt to remove anything that might be present.
With a brisk chest press (CPR-1), clear the airways.
If (a) nothing is expelled and the gums remain purple, (b) no heartbeat is felt, or (c) the dog is still unconscious, begin mouth-to-nose resuscitation.
Clasp your dog’s mouth with your hand and cover his nostrils with your lips. Blow in for one second, gently at first; release; after a second, push lightly on chest to assist exhalation. Repeat until gums become pink and the dog begins breathing on his own. Feel for a heartbeat; if heartbeat is present, continue until the dog is able to breath on his own and his gums become pink. If there is no heartbeat, begin heart massage (CPR-3).
CPR-3 – Heart Massage
When there is still no heartbeat and no pink gums in response to mouth-to-nose breathing, start heart massage and continue mouth-to-nose resuscitation. Squeeze the heart with your fingers placed between the dog’s elbows. Use firm, repetitive one-second bursts to pump blood.
Continue mouth-to-nose resuscitation.
Use chest presses to assist exhalation of the air you have blown in. If you are alone, alternate mouth-to-nose with heart pushes, with the pattern of one force breath, five heart pumps.
Repeat for ten minutes or until breathing and heartbeat are restored.
FISH HOOK AND LINE PROBLEMS
Causes: Fishermen and fisherwomen who are careless about their casting techniques, improper storage of hooks.
Signs: Hook embedded in the skin or mouth.
Prevention: Do not leave hooks about, especially hooks baited with liver for catfish.
Treatment: Have an assistant restrain the dog with a half nelson stretch. Hook removal hurts the dog, so be sure he is properly restrained before starting.
Wash your hands and disinfect the area.
If the hook enters and exits the skin and the barbed portion is visible beyond the exit area, clip the barbed portion off with wire cutters and roll the hook out from its entry wound.
If the barbed portion is imbedded in flesh, tie or loop a strong line around the bend in the hook. Press down on the eye of the hook, and give the line one hard yank away from the entry site. Alternatively, hemostats can be used to grasp and remove the hook, but this can be a slower, more painful process.
If several attempts are unsuccessful or the dog resorts to biting you, abandon the attempt and head to the vet.
Line or Wire Encirclage
Encirclage is the wrapping of line or wire around a limb, or occasionally the neck, of a dog. Sometimes line wrapped around limbs is hidden in the hair or becomes imbedded in the flesh before anything is noticed. Limping and swelling becomes apparent when the line tightens. Exercise can worsen the condition and cause theline to become further imbedded.
Causes: Fishline or wire that wraps around limb or neck. Collars that shrink or become too small for growing dogs can create neck sores.
Signs: Limping. Swelling of affected limb. A bad smell is sometimes the first sign of encirclage.
Prevention: Do not leave hooks or line unattended or baited.
Treatment: Restrain your dog and attempt to lift the wrapped line away from the body with tweezers, hemostats, scissors or a barbless dulled fish hook. Clip or untie the line and remove it. Clipping the hair, cleaning the area, and soaking may facilitate locating and cutting the string. After the line is removed, flush and soak the area. Rest the dog. If swelling persists or the dog has no feeling below the encirclage, seek veterinary treatment.
Caution: Do not pull on a swallowed fish-hook line or cut all of the line away. If the hook and/or line are swallowed, it is very unlikely you will be able to successfully or safely remove it. Prevent your dog from eating anything and seek veterinary care.
Causes: Overexertion in hot weather for obese, aged, inexperienced, metabolically diseased, or under-conditioned dogs.
Signs: Weakness, refusal to continue exercise, inability to move, frantic panting, bright red tongue, muscular weakness, collapse. Severe signs include paralysis, bloody diarrhea, unremittent panting, and glassy eyes.
Prevention: Allow for plenty of rest and fluids in hot going. Gradually condition and accustom your dog to arid conditions.
Treatment: Reduce your dog’s temperature by bathing him in cool water and evaporating the water with cool air. Provide shade. Monitor the dog’s temperature and other vital signs. If the vital signs deteriorate, it may be necessary to submerge him in cool water to reduce his core body temperature. Take care to not let any water near his head. Offer electrolyte water to restore proper muscle and nervous function. Seek veterinary assistance if your dog’s condition does not improve.
SUNBURN OF THE NOSE (COLLIE NOSE)
Causes: Overexposure to sunlight in sensitive, white-nosed dogs.
Signs: Redness and swelling of unpigmented skin along the top of the nose.
Prevention: Apply sunscreen to unpigmented areas before setting out. Repeat as needed. Avoid excessive exposure to sunlight for sensitive dogs. Wind and snow-reflected sunlight aggravate the condition.
Treatment: Minimize or prevent any further direct sunlight. Apply cold water compresses. Apply Thermazine salve to affected skin in severe cases.
EXCERPTS FROM FIRST AID FOR THE ACTIVE DOG, BY SID GUSTAFSON, DVM
You’ve done your research and have located the perfect spaniel breed for your needs. Now the little guy is tumbling around at your feet, and you’re wondering how to get started. Have no fear, the only thing you need is your healthy seven to twelve week old spaniel puppy and a strong desire to train him on your part. So, other than the necessary equipment, you’re set!
A quick note on the equipment: You will need a simple flat collar, short lead, flexi-leash, and some puppy-sized retrieving dummies. Training will be taking place in your home and yard.
Once you have your equipment together, you are ready to proceed with the training of your puppy. Remember, the more quality time you can spend with him regularly, the better relationship you will develop. You will understand him, and he will understand you. As you are getting acquainted with him, expose him to as many situations as you can that you foresee him encountering later in life. Choose a call name that is short, one to two syllables, and doesn’t rhyme with any of the commands, such as “Joe,” “Mack” or “Ray” as they sound like “no,” “back” or “stay.”
Since your puppy is still very young, most trainers begin with the play-retrieve. Start to teach the play- retrieve when the puppy becomes comfortable around you, and will happily pick up different things and tote them back to his “house” or “lair.” Once he is doing that by himself, place yourself between where he picks up the toy and where he takes it and playfully con him out of it. This conditions the pup that you are his “secondary lair.”
Familiarize your puppy with the puppy dummy. Hold him by the collar and show him the dummy, as it’s something new to him and it may be scary at first. Let him smell it and mouth it, but don’t allow him to run off with it. Don’t tease him with it; just let him get familiar with it. When he appears to be comfortable with the dummy, go close to his “house.” Tease him with the dummy, tap it on the ground, wave it around, talk excitedly, whatever it takes to get him really wanting that dummy. When he really wants it, toss it a short way off. If he goes after it, picks it up and goes by you, grab his collar and bring him to a stop. Do not take the dummy at this time! Pet and praise the pup enthusiastically for a minute or two, and then see if he will let you take the dummy. You don’t want to take it too soon, as he may run away from you next time as he feels that it is his and you shouldn’t have it. If he won’t let you have it, continue praising him and petting him until he’s ready to let you have it. Then toss it again.
Repeat this two or three times. Don’t over do it. You want to keep him excited and wanting the dummy, not tired and worn out. Keep it fun. With a pup that won’t bring it back, you will have to attach him to the flexi-lead and bring him back to you, with or without the dummy. You may also use a small alleyway where he doesn’t have a place to run except out and back. Do not take him off the flexi-lead until he is regularly bringing the dummy back to you. Otherwise, you may inadvertently train him to bring it to you only when he is on the long lead.
Once he’s reliably bringing the dummy back to you in front of his “house” go into your backyard. Continue to keep the tosses short, five to ten feet. Move around the backyard as he demonstrates a reliable return. If he doesn’t readily return to you, place him back on the flexi-lead and work with him until he comes back to you without you having to pull him back in.
Keep the sessions short. Three or four retrieves is plenty. You can have another session an hour or so later, but keep them all short. Work slowly and let him improve at his own speed . Once he is reliably retrieving with you in various places, he is ready to move on to the next steps. This would include teaching him a command for the retrieve, whistle commands, and introduction to cover, birds, gunfire and water.
The first step in field training starts in the house or within the confines of your yard. As soon as the dog is accustomed to his new surroundings it is time to play hide and seek. Playing games with the dog is an excellent way to begin training as it immediately associates training with fun. Put the collar and harness on the puppy, walk away from him and try to hide. Praise the puppy for following and finding you. Distract the puppy with a toy to get the puppy to focus on the toy and not you. Leave and hide just out of sight of the puppy, around a corner or behind something, then call the puppy and wait.
If the puppy becomes frustrated and cries, call him. If he can’t seem to figure out where you are, call him again or catch his attention by waving and then ducking down. Praise him for finding you. As he figures the game out make it more difficult. Have someone hold him back as you walk away, calling him, and disappear out of sight. Hide and then tell the holder to let him go. Call the puppy once and wait. Again, lots of praise and pats for the successful puppy.
Hide behind furniture, yard objects, doors, boxes or other objects. Make the game quick and fun in the beginning and gradually make it more difficult as the pup gets the hang of it. Move the game outside or to a bigger area. Once the puppy understands the game it is time to begin developing his skills by looking for strangers. You now move from being the quarry to being the handler.
Start the hide and seek game again but this time attach a lead to the puppy’s collar. Have the runner walk away, calling the puppy and stepping out of sight. Move the lead from the collar to the harness and give the puppy the “Find!” command. Release the tension on the lead and let the puppy go after the runner. If the puppy doesn’t start searching have the runner call him. When the pup moves forward give him the working command again and encourage him. Don’t pull or steer him with the lead, just keep it slack.
If the pup stops or gets distracted have the runner call him and make sure the runner gives the puppy a treat or lots of attention when the pup makes the find. Make sure it is a big deal so the puppy is willing to try again! Puppy trails should include some trails where the person is within sight of the puppy but further away so that all the puppy has do is run to them. Mix in some hidden runner trails but keep things fun and consistent. Be sure to start each trail with the command to work and encourage the dog along the way.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks for a working dog is to have a handler that steers or guides the dog by using pressure on the lead. Remember that you are learning to follow the dog who is following the scent, something that you can’t see. You have to learn to trust the dog. In these early stages watch the path the runner takes, the jogs and the turns, and then watch the pup as he follows. Notice how closely he follows the trail and watch his body language. You will be learning the dog’s signals and how he may operate in the field.
Kady would signal turns and changes in the trail by changing the way she held her tail. This is very common. When the dog is on trail and working, the tail is held up; in areas of contamination or areas where there is a scent pool the tail drops to half-mast. Once the dog picks up the trail the tail goes back up and if the trail ends suddenly the tail drops. If the dog comes across a body or detects fear the tail drops and curls under the dog. some handlers refer to these tail movements as alerts or flags. Get to know how your dog signals trail changes.
Excerpt from On the Trail by Jan Tweedie
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