Wednesday, January 25, 2012

First forays into raw feeding

I've been hibernating. The house is in the process of being prepared for sale (packing, painting, storing, staging...), dogs are demanding attention, work is work, and I've been fighting a pretty serious case of the blahs.

I've also been trying out a predominantly raw diet for the dogs. I've heard people extol the virtues of raw feeding: healthy teeth & gums, healthy coat, small poops, no dog-stink, improved energy levels, etc. I want in on the action. I'm intensely curious on how Cohen's condition might improve - she's always been fed high quality kibble (Orijen 6-Fish) and is in pretty dang good shape already. Mega might see more drastic results - she's not exactly in shape, and still smells a little yeasty.

To make matters more complicated, Cohen doesn't do well with chicken. Chicken for dinner normally results in diarrhea the next morning. She seems to have a rather sensitive GI tract. Megatron seems able to eat just about anything without any repercussions. Tinydog's insides are a well oiled machine.

So far I've been switching over pretty lazily. I've been buying premade patties, and supplying the dogs with the occasional bit of whole meat on bone. If I were in a position to jump in headfirst I'd want to source my own meats and provide more whole meals, but for now the patties are going to have to do.

Everything was going well until I gave Cohen a particularly large section of beef neck bones. In the past she's been fine chowing down on a vertebrae and it keeps her occupied for a good hour. I bought some larger sections and tossed one at the dog a few days ago (which she cleaned happily) and the following day Cohen was a mess. She threw up chunks of bone a couple times, had some vicious diarrhea, and was practically comatose until well into the afternoon. She refused a small chunk of raw food, but perked up after I got her to eat some kibble and drink a bit of water. She was feeling pretty sorry for herself. And now of course I'm worried about giving her another neck bone snack.

She's been fine since then, and eats frozen patties happily. We've been doing mostly raw for 2-3 weeks now, and I've yet to see any of those benefits I've been told about. I'll obviously keep up with it for a good few months before I really step back and assess her condition, but I'm a bit worried that I'm going to be experiencing the added effort and cost of the diet without seeing its supposed benefits. Only time will tell!

Does anyone have any stories of the changes they may or may not have seen upon starting their pups on raw? Tips? I would love to hear them.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Body language and learning to play

Pictured: A Mexicanine Standoff

Historically, Cohen has not played well with others. 

It's a shocker, I know. My loud, pushy, nervous, insecure, tunnel-visioned herding breed has a hard time interacting healthily with other dogs. A lot of dogs are intimidated by her constant barking while she seems blissfully (or intentionally) ignorant of their discomfort. 

Then something changed. Cohen has learned to play. She will try to initiate a game of chase or biteyface with just about any interested party. She'll toss her butt into another dog's face (an Aussie specialization), roll over on her back then take off at top speed. She'll even tug. 

Disclaimer: I almost never let Cohen tug with other dogs, but these two were getting along well and were very closely monitored. 
These are all skills that she should have learned as a puppy, but I'm thrilled that she's finally figuring them out. She's 2 years old for goodness sake - it's about time. 

Along with the increased confidence in play comes an increased awareness of dog body language in general. As I said, Cohen is rather insecure with other dogs. She's easily intimidated and is prone to the occasional reactive episode if she sees a trigger dog/breed (she takes particular issue with Airedales - go figure). As she approaches a group of new dogs she will exhibit a number of appeasement gestures and calming signals - looking away, lip licking, slow blinking, paw lifting. She'll roll over if she's feeling particularly shy. Once the greeting is over with it's game on. 

I've been impressed by how clearly I think Cohen "speaks dog". She's not perfect, but she's come a long way over the last year or so, and I anticipate continued improvement. I get so much joy watching Cohen run at top speed in long winding paths around me - she has a look of pure joy on her face, and it brings a smile to mine.