DOG celebrates 10 years

Changes in canine medicine, training, laws highlight the decade


In February 1991, we rolled out the first edition of Dog Owner’s Guide, 16 pages of articles and ads featuring the Labrador Retriever on the front page and articles on training, veterinary medicine, the West Highland White Terrier, dog sledding, a group profile on sighthounds, and information on shelters and adoptions. In July, 1995 we established this website with 65 pages. Now we has more than 350 pages, two million visits and five million page views a year.

DOG has changed over the years, but not nearly as dramatically as advances in three areas we cover: veterinary medicine, dog training, and animal control laws.

Ten years ago biological controls for fleas and ticks were almost unheard of; orthopedic surgery, canine cancer research and genetic research were in their infancies; alternative medicine was scorned; behavior modification was seldom considered as a problem-solving tool; and few dollars were directed towards research into canine diseases.

Today veterinarians have better anesthetics and diagnostic tools; chemotherapy and radiology for cancer treatments; drugs for diseases common to older dogs; and more sophisticated treatments for dozens of diseases and injuries. There are more specialists in surgery, internal medicine, animal behavior, orthopedics, eye diseases, dentistry, and other areas, and more clinics practicing general veterinary medicine. Pharmaceutical firms have developed flea and tick controls that don’t involve bathing or dusting a pet with toxic chemicals and have fine-tuned heartworm prevention protocols so that only the necessary doses can be given.

[Dog Owner's Guide Health and veterinary information articles]

When we began in 1991, the use of homeopathic doses, herbs, acupuncture, chiropractic, and home-made diets was whispered about and dismissed as the stuff of witch doctors and kooks, but today some veterinarians, breeders, and pet owners are incorporating some or all of these disciplines in their daily routines.

[More on alternative medicine]

Ten years ago most dog trainers used chain training collars, yanked dogs that didn’t obey, and encouraged dog owners to be tough alpha figures in order to control their pets.

Today trainers have a bevy of collars to choose from and dozens of experts and books to help with low-key motivational training instead of the jerk-and-release, rub-his-nose-in-it methods. Researchers have developed chemical aids for use with behavior modification in treating severe behavior problems, and veterinarians work with trainers and pet owners to find workable solutions to separation anxiety, aggression, and other problems.

The American Kennel Club

AKC and its more than 450 member clubs have had a big impact on changes in veterinary medicine through establishment of and funding for the Canine Health Foundation. Each year, more than $1 million flows from the foundation to researchers working on the Canine Genome Project to map the genetic makeup of the species and for studies of thyroid disease, heart problems, autoimmune diseases, breed-specific maladies, bloat, and many more. The results of the research trickle down to veterinarians in clinical practice by providing access to information useful in diagnosis and treatment of various maladies and malformations suffered by purebred and mixed breed pets alike.

Association of Pet Dog Trainers

The formation of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers a few years ago has placed national emphasis on helping pet owners train their dogs by understanding dog behavior and using creative problem-solving to tailor the method to the dog. This organization has attracted hundreds of trainers throughout the country to its annual conferences featuring renown dog trainers and behavior specialists from all over the world.

Many members of APDT embrace the clicker method of training, a method developed for use in training dolphins and used in zoos to shape desired behaviors in some animals.

Training for shelter and rescue dogs has taken a giant leap forward as well, in part because of the influence of APDT. Shelter and rescue personnel know that dogs in their care have a better chance at a new home if they have good manners, yet they must have an arsenal of techniques to use on dogs that have developed bad habits in previous homes or on the streets.

The number of training schools has increased dramatically since the days when the three training clubs (Queen City Dog Training Club, Kuliga Dog Training Club, and Clermont County Dog Training Club) were the major source of obedience classes in the area. Veterinary clinics and pet supply stores offer training classes these days along with many new businesses that use a variety of training regimens.

Dog laws

Unfortunately, laws restricting dog breeding and ownership have also flourished in the past 10 years even while we learn better methods of training and improve the chances of a long life for the family pet. In the mid-1980s and early 1990s, breed-specific legislation, pooper-scooper regulations, and anti-barking ordinances increased in numbers, but then the dam burst with a flood of attempts to restrict dog ownership.

In some areas, groups claimed that the birth of purebred puppies caused the death of dogs in shelters and advocated ordinances requiring that all pets be spayed or neutered and that breeders pay high fees to keep intact dogs and produce litters. A few of these attempts were successful, but they changed nothing except to give more power to animal control authorities; responsible breeders continued to breed carefully and sell puppies only to qualified buyers and frustrated owners continued to surrender pets that they could not or would not train or control.

In other areas, neighbors complained about nuisances, and lawmakers responded with limits on the number of dogs an owner could have instead of enforcing anti-barking laws and leash laws already on the books.

Today, many Ohio and Kentucky dog owners face local ordinances that ban or restrict breeds and limit the number of dogs permitted in a household – ordinances that have the potential to increase the number of dogs dying in shelters. In addition, some jurisdictions place such heavy fines on owners when dogs run loose or are impounded without a license that dogs may be abandoned to their fate in shelters or on the streets.

The tide may be turning, however. Dog owners are banding together through coalitions and clubs to propose reasonable alternatives to punitive laws and to offer educational programs to both help people become more responsible dog owners and to help communities deal with various animal control issues and complaints. Locally, Cincinnati Kennel Club and Ohio Valley Dog Owners Inc. were part of the Cincinnati dog law task force, and OVDO has worked with local and state officials to draft more reasonable and effective animal control and animal welfare laws. Dog fanciers in Cleveland and Toledo have also organized in opposition to breed-specific and number limit laws.

[More on dog laws]

Norma Bennett Woolf

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We will be modifying the Dog Owner's Guide site with new and updated articles in 2021 as well as new booklists so check back often to see what's new!

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