Category Archives: Tips

Dog Observations: Memphis (Part 1)

(The following is a 3-parter, about my observations of a Refuge dog. This is part of my current coursework for the ISCP Diploma in Canine Psychology. I have taken out any information of a sensitive nature, for confidential reasons).

For this assignment, I’m using the example of Memphis, a dog from the Refuge where I volunteer. Memphis was adopted in November 2015, so this account is retrospective. At the Refuge, I’m a Dog Walker as well as a Canine Carer, however, at the time I got to know and work with Memphis, I had not been inducted as a Dog Walker yet, so my experience with him is based solely on what I observed as a Canine Carer.

I’ve taken and modified the ISCP’s Case History template, to better answer this question:

Date of sessions : September – November 2015

Number of sessions in total : 10

Name of the dog : Memphis

Breed : Rhodesian Ridgeback Cross

Age : 2

Gender : Male
Is the dog neutered/spayed? : Desexed

Length of time owned, or in rescue kennels : 3 months at the Refuge

Who is the main carer for the dog? : Kennel hands are the main carers. Volunteer Canine Carers are allowed to enter the kennel and and interact with the dog.

Are there any other animals living in the environment, or visiting regularly? If so, how does the dog respond/react to them? : Memphis’ kennel run is part of a larger building, consisting of 20 runs, 10 on each side connected by an inside corridor. Access by Staff and Volunteers is via the inside corridor. Visitors are able to view the dogs from the outside of the runs, on both sides of the building. At the time of these sessions with Memphis, the only dog in close proximity to him was Otto, a young mixed breed dog. Memphis and Otto could see and touch each other’s noses, if they stood on their hind legs and reached through the chain-link wire fence between their runs. In all my sessions with both Memphis and Otto, neither ever showed any aggression towards the other. Although, I did observe that when I was with Memphis, Otto would often jump up and down clamouring for my attention, sometimes vocalising; and when I was with Otto, Memphis would do likewise.

Amount of daily exercise, and where this occurs : All dogs at the Refuge get taken out for a walk and/or yard time every day. Depending on the number of volunteer Dog Walkers, sometimes the dogs could go out up to 3 times a day. Each walking session or yard time is between 30-45 minutes duration. If the weather is too warm, and temperatures reach 35 degrees or more, dogs are not to be walked, but can have extra time playing in the yard. The Refuge has a dozen yards, of varying sizes – some are modified for fence jumpers, some are smaller for small dogs, there’s also one large yard with agility obstacles such as ramps, weaving poles and hurdles.


The Primary Emotional Needs of Dogs (ISCP Diploma in Canine Psychology)

Describe the dog’s primary emotional needs.

Why do dogs need mental stimulation?

(These were two separate questions in the same Unit. I have combined my answers, because I believe they are linked and relevant to each other – A.L)

Dogs have relatively simple emotional needs. If his physical needs are met – food, shelter, exercise/play and human/animal company – he’s happy. If he’s made to feel wanted, loved, included in his human family’s daily life, a useful member of his family – he’s happy. If someone praises him, talks to him affectionately, gives him pats and cuddles and treats – he’s happy. If he has a place to call his own, be it a blanket in a corner, a crate, a dog bed, a cardboard box, as long as he feels safe and secure and not threatened – he’s happy. Take a dog out for a walk in the park, take him to the beach, let him play off the lead with other dogs at a dog beach, take him to the yard and throw a few balls for him to fetch, give him the opportunity to sniff and sample the heady scents of a hedgerow or shrub, tree or lamp-post – he’s beyond happy. Dogs thrive on routine, encouragement and reward. Teach him a trick and when he’s learnt it, reward him with a treat – he’s happy.

Some dog breeds such as working dog breeds, need mental stimulation to avoid negative behaviours born of boredom. Breeds such as border collies, Australian shepherds and kelpies need to be given a task or mission, to keep them occupied. This is why they don’t do as well living in a city apartment, as when they have a 100 acre farmstead to run around in, and sheep or cows to herd. Dogs faced with hours of loneliness and boredom can express their discomfort by excessive vocalization, howling, chewing the furniture, digging holes, or the opposite extreme by becoming depressed and uninterested in anything.

Mental stimulation toys, or enrichment toys, for dogs abound in this day and age. The ubiquitous Kong, with its robust rubber chewiness, is a great favourite. Many Kong models can be stuffed with all sorts of treats, even frozen to provide respite from hot days. More and more companies are coming out with better and better enrichment toys, such as puzzles that make the dog use their brains to figure out how to get to the treat within. There are even dog mazes and slow feeders where the dog has to move the object with his tongue or nose, to release it so he can then eat it. There’s even a toy shaped like a flying saucer, that works using centrifugal force – the dog has to spin or shake the toy to make the treats inside fly out the sides.

I read of a Kickstarter project called the Foobler that claims to work on a timer that releases food periodically, up to 9 hours, or the average time a working person is away from home. And here too: While this looks like a great idea – a self-feeder that also acts as an enrichment toy, that keeps a dog occupied for hours – I can’t help but think that it’s more of a lazy dog owner’s substitute childminder, an excuse for the owner to justify leaving their dog alone at home for longer and longer hours. There simply is no substitute for human companionship and contact, in a dog’s mind.

All these toys are well and good for dogs whose owners are out at work for much of the day, but nothing compares to the joy a dog feels when his owner returns home and spends time playing, training, walking and rewarding him.


What is the “Left Gaze Bias”?

The following is part of my coursework assessment from my ongoing ISCP Diploma in Canine Psychology.

Canine Psychology is very intriguing and I would encourage anyone who loves dogs to perhaps consider learning more about it. You’ll begin to understand and appreciate your own dogs better, and they’ll love you all the more for it. The field is very dynamic and fluid, with scientific developments being discovered all the time…okay, it may not be cutting-edge surgical medicine, but it’s still cutting-edge science.

I highly recommend the ISCP’s Diploma Course, which qualifies graduates to call themselves Canine Behaviourists. The ISCP advocates only positive reinforcement techniques. If you can’t commit to the Diploma Course, the ISCP offers stepped courses leading up to it, so you could start with the basics and work your way up to the Diploma. Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, the multi-talented and inspirational founder and Director of the ISCP, is just lovely and very supportive. ❤

Here’s the assessment question, followed by my answer:
What is the left gaze bias, and why do dogs use this?

In human beings, the expression of emotions, coming from the left side of the brain, is displayed first on the right side of our faces. We tend to look towards the right side of someone’s face first, to gauge their mood or emotions. We detect clues subconsciously from someone’s right side of the face, to tell whether they’re happy, sad, angry, etc. This is called the “Left gaze bias”, because, from our viewpoint, we are looking towards the left. The left gaze bias only applies when we are looking at another human being’s face, it does not apply when looking at inanimate objects or animals.

Dogs have somehow learnt to gauge a human being’s emotions by utilising the very same technique of left gaze bias. They only do it to humans, and not to other dogs. When a person goes up to a dog, the dog will first scan the right side of that person’s face, to see if the person is friendly, happy or means to do them harm. Dogs are one up on human beings in that, unlike humans, they do not lose the left gaze bias when shown an upside down face, or photos where the left and right sides of the face have been flipped over.

Dogs are the only animals other than human beings, that practice left gaze bias. This ability has not only made dogs one step ahead of humans in gauging body language and intention simply by looking at the person’s face, it has allowed them to adjust their own behaviour and actions in a split second, to either support a person who’s feeling sad (by placing their paw on the person’s hand or licking their face), or react to a person who intends to harm them (by either fleeing, or becoming defensive aggressive). That’s why when you come home to find your sofa torn to shreds by your dog, the dog can tell just by looking at your face whether you’re going to be upset and yell at him, in which case he’ll try to slink away unnoticed, or if you’re going see the funny side of it, in which case he’ll come bounding to you for pats and cuddles just like he normally does.



The image illustration above was taken from this site below, which also has an interesting video link testing out whether you’re right brained or left-brained:

Incidentally, I’m equally right AND left brained. 😄

The Love Hormone

What is the bonding hormone? Why is it important? (The following is from my coursework for the ISCP Diploma in Canine Psychology course I’m currently doing):

(Image source: Google Images search under keyword Oxytocin)

The bonding hormone is called OXYTOXIN. It is also called the “Cuddle Hormone” or the “Love Hormone”. (This is the same hormone that is released from eating chocolate, which is why some say “Chocolate is better than sex”!)

Perhaps the reason why dogs became and remain to this day humankind’s best friend is because they have inadvertently tapped into the secret of releasing Oxytoxin in both their humans and themselves. Research has proven that when dogs and their owners stare into each other’s eyes, just like when two lovers gaze at each other, the hormone is released in both human and dog. This hormone acts to strengthen the bond between human and dog. Stroking the dog increases the levels of oxytocin in both human and dog. Oxytocin also lowers the heart rate and blood pressure, calms both humans and dogs, and reduces stress levels. It makes both humans and dogs feel good. The therapeutic effect dogs and other animals have on humans has been proven, that is why many hospitals and hospices engage the services of therapy dogs (and other animals such as cats, rabbits and even chickens) to make their patients feel better and perhaps even recuperate or recover faster from their ailments or surgery.

The stronger the bond, the more likely the human is to protect the animal from harm, because the human now has a vested interest in the animal. Put simply, Oxytocin is what causes humans to love their dogs, and dogs to love their owners. The ability of humans and dogs to bond works in favour of both species – humans get the companionship, protection and assistance of their four-legged friends, while the continued existence and survival of dogs is almost guaranteed by staying close to humans.

Oxytocin is what makes us treat our dogs like family members rather than just household pets. The bond can be so strong that when a dog dies, it’s almost as if your daughter or son has died.

Dogs and Emotions (ISCP Diploma in Canine Psychology Coursework)

What emotions have you noticed in dogs you have known? How did the dogs express those emotions?


When I open the door to the living room in the morning (the dogs sleep there), Shelagh my pit bull greets me with an enthusiastic full-body wag. She approaches me sideways in a simpering manner, head curving down to one side, eyes looking at me coyly, body swaying in time with her tail. When she gets to my feet she throws herself down and exposes her belly, eager for a tummy rub. Her mouth is open, tongue lolling, the area around her eyes are crinkled. I would say Shelagh is HAPPY to see me, and maybe she’s even laughing with JOY.

Scruffy, my little lotsabitsa, shows his HAPPINESS at seeing me in the morning in his own way. He’s half the size of Shelagh, so he decides the best way to get my attention is to jump up and down on his hind legs, staying out of Shelagh’s way, while smiling with his gently open and relaxed face, tongue hanging out. Later, out in the garden, after he’s done his business, Scruffy expresses his HAPPINESS by doing crazy zoomies, darting past me here and there, feigning to the left, then to the right. At breakfast time, he does a HAPPY dance by prancing around in circles.

When Shelagh is feeling UNCERTAIN, I notice she has a way of rolling her eyes in my direction, showing some white, and the underside of her eyes crinkle up. Sometimes her brow furrows at the same time, as if she’s trying to ask me a question, or is seeking reassurance. If she’s AFRAID, her tail drops right down and curves underneath her body. When she slowly regains her confidence, her tail comes back up again. When Shelagh was a puppy, she used to be quite FEARFUL whenever she’d piddled on the floor instead of on the newspapers I put down, and sometimes she’d even pee herself if I so much as raised my voice at her.

When Scruffy is UNCERTAIN or AFRAID, he tends to run away with his tail between his legs, and hide under the car. His ears will be flattened back against his head, and if I try to coax him out from under the car, he may thump his tail on the floor and “smile” at me almost apologetically, but he will refuse to come out and may even crawl deeper underneath the car away from me.

When Scruffy is AFRAID, he skulks close to the ground, tail under him. If he thinks I’m about to punish him when I bring my hand close to his face, he sometimes bares his teeth at me, but only for a second, before turning his face away and “apologising” by swishing his tail on the floor and rolling over onto his side submissively.

When both dogs are RELAXED, Shelagh’s ears are laid back. Scruffy is more highly strung, and has a more nervous nature, but when he’s RELAXED he tends to roll over and sleep with his legs in the air. Shelagh loves her afternoon naps in my bed with me, and shows her CONTENTMENT by curling round and plonking her head against my side, and sometimes rolling over to expose her tummy, begging for a rub. If I make a fuss of her by stroking her face, ears and tummy, and then stop, she asks for more by bumping my side with her head and turning her head round to lick my hand.

When Shelagh senses it’s time for her walk, she starts whining EXCITEDLY. She has a funny kind of whining routine, it sounds more like a yelp-whine, with whole volleys of very verbal and loud “Wowowowow”s interspersed with whines. In the car, on the way to the beach, perhaps, Shelagh will keep up this continuous yelp-whine. On the way home, now that her need has been SATISFIED, she’s surprisingly quiet. I first observed Shelagh’s strange yelp-whine routine when we were in our backyard swimming pool, and she would often do this when she’s decided not to jump in to fetch her ball, and it’s sunk to the bottom of the pool (it’s more like a leather sack with several large holes in it, than a proper ball now). Perhaps whining is for EXCITEMENT, and yelp-whining is for EXCITED FRUSTRATION?

For many months I have been observing Otto, one of my favourite dogs at the Refuge where I volunteer. Otto has a thing for certain men, he’s quite happy to play nice with some when they stand outside his enclosure, but with others he launches himself into a FURY of non-stop barking, until they go away. The sight of Otto leaping high into the air, literally bouncing off the walls and ceiling of his enclosure, barking his head off at a person, is one to behold. At some stage in his social development Otto may have been abused, FRIGHTENED or THREATENED by a man, so much so that whenever he sees a male visitor outside his enclosure, he decides in a split second whether to completely ignore the person, be his usual happy self, or go all out kamikaze batshit crazy.

And yet, even after such an outburst, I’ve always found it possible to distract Otto and calm him down by simply tempting him away from the source of his DISCONTENTMENT by using treats. On several occasions, I believe I was able to get Otto to feel COMFORTABLE and RELAXED, by soothing him with TTouch strokes, to the extent that even when visitors appeared outside his enclosure, Otto was HAPPY enough to let them pass by without batting an eyelid, literally.

Otto always welcomes me into his enclosure right at the door, by standing on his hind legs and nuzzling my hand with his head. He expresses his HAPPINESS by running to get his favourite toy while I open the door and let myself in. Sometimes Otto gets EXCITED when we’re playing and I’ve hidden his toy behind me, and he will bark at me. Not aggressively, but rather in a PLAYFUL “Hand it over already, woman!” way. He will do the same if I’ve gotten him to sit but am withholding his treat.

Django, another of my favourite dogs at the Refuge, also welcomes me at his door by nuzzling my hand with his head, or offering his head up for a scratch. When I’ve entered the enclosure, Django expresses his AFFECTION and LOVE for me by rubbing his entire body sideways against my legs, rather like a sinuous feline. He also loves to curl up by my side as I sit on his trampoline bed, and he’ll place his head in my lap, rather like my own dog Shelagh at home. I’ve tried TTouch strokes on Django and even managed to make him fall asleep for 10 minutes, he got that COMFORTABLE.

When I approach Django from outside his enclosure, through the fence, he often displays an APOLOGETIC manner, ducking his head down and coming towards me sideways, presenting his body for patting. He looks almost SORRY for himself. Again, I’m reminded of my own Shelagh when she thinks I’m about to scold her. Some kind words, strokes and treats soon puts him right again.

Justin is one of the Refuge’s dogs currently recuperating from a cruciate ligament operation. As a volunteer Canine Carer there, I sit with him to keep him company, and to make sure he doesn’t go off his head with BOREDOM. Justin is a Kelpie, an Australian working/herding breed known for their intelligence and active lifestyle, rather like Border Collies. Poor Justin was so bored cooped up in his cage by himself that one day, when I put the lead on him and took him out to the Puppy Yard next door so he could stretch his legs, relieve himself and have a little play, he thought I was taking him for a long walk. When he realised he was just going to the Puppy Yard, he took his FRUSTRATION out on my lead, by pulling it between his teeth and tugging on it and shaking it repeatedly. I settled him with some treats and an enrichment toy, and he was GRATEFUL enough for the distraction to bump and nuzzle me, at one point he even crawled onto my lap for a cuddle. When he sensed that it was time to go back into his cage, Justin expressed his FRUSTRATION again, this time by mouthing my elbow with his teeth.

From what I’ve experienced, dogs always smile with a panting face. Sometimes they just pant from exertion or the heat, but whenever a panting face is accompanied by wagging tails, prancing around and generally exuberant body language, I know they are smiling.

Taco, a boarder at the Refuge, is a tiny little chihuahua with a big attitude. I went to walk him one day, and he was FEARFUL of my approach, as I was a stranger to him. He barked himself into a corner, then flashed his teeth at me. As I went closer to slip the lead over his head, he flinched and moved away, growling at me. I crouched down to get closer to him without intimidating him, but Taco danced nimbly away from me. Once again, he was defensive aggressive towards me, flashing his teeth and trying to nip my fingers. I finally managed to corner him. As I dangled the lead over him and he cowered in the corner, he suddenly decided not to flee or fight, instead he froze. Taco lay on his side completely still, trembling with his head facing me, and I was able to slip the lead over his head. Once he was on the lead, Taco’s character changed just as suddenly as he’d frozen. He jumped up, tail wagging upright, and almost pulled me out of the kennel in his EXCITEMENT to go for his walk. Once in the exercise yard, I was able to slip off his lead easily, and off he went exploring. However, when the time came to put the lead back on and bring Taco back to his kennel, it was a repeat performance of what we’d gone through previously.

More on Dog Enrichment Toys

Yesterday’s post was about Dog Enrichment Toys. In my research online on the subject, I came across dozens of different types and brands. It certainly seems like there are a lot of manufacturers out there jumping on the doggy bandwagon, all hoping that their product is The.Best.Dog.Toy.Ever.

That’s not going to happen, luckily for some and unluckily for others, whichever side of the retail market you happen to belong to. Dogs, like children, adore novelty. The scientific term for this, (yes, there really is one), is “neophilia”. Click here for the Science.

So, in effect, any toy that’s new is The Best Toy Ever to a dog. For the next few minutes anyway, until the novelty wears off. But, before you despair, and go out and splurge on more new toys, here’s some really good news…Put away a toy in a cupboard for a few days, and meanwhile let your dog play with its other toys. It’s a matter of “Out of sight, out of mind”. When you reintroduce that toy to your dog again, it will again be The Best Toy Ever. You could even fill the same treat dispenser with a different type of treat each time, and your dog wouldn’t care less that it’s the same old dispenser, he’s more interested in what’s inside it.

Here are just some of the more unusual enrichment toys available on the market. I won’t name them or provide links, as all you need to do is Google “Dog Enrichment Toys”, and you’ll be presented with a shedload of sites offering these products. I will however say this: try the DIY ones first, as you may already have the materials needed to make them at home, and save a lot of money AND have some fun yourself in the making of the toy. The retail manufactured ones can be quite expensive to buy.


















Here are some examples of DIY dog enrichment toys.




As you can see, the first 2 above are essentially the same, only one uses PVC piping and the other uses empty drink bottles. The principle is the same – the dog needs to tap the bottles hard enough that they spin on their axis (the horizontal pole) and the treats fall out.

In the last picture, the toy is again made from PVC piping, (check the plumbing aisle in your local DIY store). The ends have been capped with a tennis ball. You can also buy end caps from the same aisle you get your pipes from. Drill some holes randomly in the pipe, fill from the end with kibble treats, and your dog’s challenge then is to push the toy this way and that to get the treats to fall out.

The trick is keeping the dog keen while it figures out how to get the treats out. Some dogs are very smart and will test out different ways of getting to the treats. Others will lose interest after just a few failed attempts.

Dog Enrichment Toys

Since I’ve recently become responsible for providing Enrichment Toys to some of our more needy dogs at the Refuge, I seem to have developed an interest in researching different types of Enrichment Toys for dogs.

Enrichment Toys for dogs, cats and other pets come in different styles and levels of “difficulty”. I use the term “difficult” very loosely, because really it’s not fair to compare a dog’s ability to a human’s. Dogs lack opposable thumbs, for one, and only have their snouts, mouth and paws with which to open or close anything. Whereas we as adult humans would think nothing about twisting the top off a jar of pasta sauce, or using a peeler to peel carrots.

So, what “difficult” means for dogs in the context of Enrichment Toys would be more akin to “How long does it take the dog to figure it out?” As in, how quickly can Rex learn to push the treat dispenser in such a way that the kibble within falls out so he can eat it. Or, can Rex figure out how to use his nose and tongue to push the treat along the maze until it emerges so he can gobble it up.

There are many, many different types of Enrichment Toys, also known as Puzzle Toys, Slow Feeders, Activity Toys, Boredom Busters, Enrichment Dispensers etc. Some are very simple, consisting of one piece only, such as the ubiquitous Kong:


(Image: Google Images)

Others are complex and contain many different parts, and require the dog to stand on levers to release the treat. There’s even an ambitious one that works using centrifugal force…you put kibble in the middle of the flying-saucer shaped dispenser, and when the dog nudges or rattles it around, the kibble within spin out. An example is shown below, designed by a Swedish woman named Nina Ottoson. You can read about Nina’s personal story here, and check out her many products for “activating” pets (her own term for it) here.


(Image : Google Images)

You only have to Google “dog enrichment toy”, or “dog activity toy” to find hundreds of examples of both manufactured and homemade DIY versions of such toys.

At the Refuge recently, we had 2 of these funky flying-saucer treat dispensers. One was given to a dog named Wolfie, whose technique was to chew on it. I tried the other out with a greyhound named Pi, and he amazed me by thinking outside the box. Instead of nudging the dispenser around, like I was expecting him to, Pi’s technique involved stamping down on the side of the flying-saucer disk, and making it flip over and over, so the kibble dribbled out. Clever Pi!

The Genetic Studies of Dr Elinor Karlsson

For anyone interested in learning how dogs can truly be Man’s Best Friend and even save his life in more ways than one, the work of Dr Elinor Karlsson is essential reading. As part of my ISCP Diploma in Canine Psychology course, I had to do some light reading on this subject. It’s exciting and intriguing, and I wish I had more Science residing in my brain cells, but hopefully here is a summary of Dr Karlsson’s scientific ambitions, in a (very small) nutshell:

Why are the genetic studies of Dr Elinor Karlsson and her team so important?

The main principle behind Dr Elinor Karlsson’s research is the premise that humans and dogs share not only many common genes but also a wide range of diseases, including cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, narcolepsy, obsessive compulsive disorder, heart disease, eye diseases, deafness etc. On top of that, these diseases also display clinical manifestations that are remarkably similar in both humans and dogs. Dr Karlsson hopes that by mapping the dog genome, and by getting dog owners to contribute towards a doggy DNA pool (the Dog Genome Sequencing Project) for further research, she and her team will be able to pinpoint exactly where diseases can occur in specific breeds of dogs, as in the exact location or loci on the dog’s genes, and how to prevent/treat/cure them, and, ultimately, how to transfer their findings to human research and testing.

Dogs live alongside humans and are exposed to similar pollutants in the environment. Diseases occur spontaneously in dogs, just as in humans, over the course of their lives. As dogs have a lifespan around 7 times shorter than humans, diseases of “old age”, such as cancer, manifest earlier in dogs and run their course in a few short years. Treatment for dogs necessarily proceeds more rapidly, and results are seen faster. Clinical trials that might take 5-15 years tested out on humans, will only take 1-3 years in dogs. So, it is hoped that dogs can provide a suitable testing ground for new and novel therapies. If it works on dogs, it might just as well work on humans. Dogs could REALLY prove to be Man’s Best Friend, in more ways than one.

More information on Dr Karlsson’s research can be found on this link, which makes for intriguing (if rather scientific) reading:

(Photo of Dr Elinor Karlsson taken from this site: which gives people the opportunity to help Dr Elinor Karlsson’s work by contributing their own dogs’ DNA to her growing database for further research. Photo by Michael J Butts).

Zoonotic parasites

Which parasites affect humans as well as dogs?

This is from my ISCP Diploma in Canine Psychology course:

Ectoparasites are parasites that live on the skin of animals, endoparasites are those that live inside the organs of animals. Common ectoparasites that affect dogs are fleas, ticks, mites and lice. Common endoparasites that affect dogs are heartworm, hookworm, tapeworm, roundworm, whipworm.

Humans can be susceptible to the bites of ectoparasites that attack dogs. Fleas can leap off dogs onto their owners, and bite their way up from ankles to the torso. Their bites are very itchy! Lice can also find their way from dogs to humans. Mites cause mange in dogs, there are three main types – Demodectic mange, Cheyletiella mange and Sarcoptic mange. Mange is generally seen as itchy, scaly, flaky, bald patches on the skin of the animal. Mange mites can also transmit to humans.

In Australia, the tick to watch out for is the Paralysis Tick, or Ixodes holocyclus, a native tick endemic on the East Coast of Australia, especially on the Gold Coast, that causes paralysis first of the lower limbs of affected dogs, which creeps up the central nervous system and can cause heart and organ failure, and subsequently death, if not caught and treated in time.

Humans can be affected by heartworm, hookworm, tapeworm, roundworm and whipworm, from coming into contact with the parasites during different stages of the parasite’s development. This could be via touching contaminated soil containing worm casts, or from touching dog excrement containing worms, from dog saliva containing larvae. It is important therefore to medicate house pets against these endoparasites regularly, to stop the life cycle of these parasites completely. There are many products available on the market that kill these parasites (the term for them is “parasiticide”), some target specific parasites (e.g Advantix for ticks), while others claim to be broad-spectrum and kill many if not all known parasites (e.g Revolution). Some only kill adult parasites (e.g Capstar for dogs, which targets only adult fleas), others destroy the life cycle of the parasites (e.g Advantage for dogs, which kills adult as well as larvae fleas).

Revolution’s website contains a great table listing its effectiveness against ecto- and endoparasites, compared to several other leading brands.

Another parasite that can affect humans as well as dogs is Ringworm, which is not a worm at all, but a class of fungi called Dermatophytes. Ringworm in humans appear as circular, raised and itchy bumps resembling rings, hence the name. In dogs, Ringworm presents itself as bald patches, where the fungi has caused the hair shaft to break off. It may or may not be itchy. Here is a useful link showing photos of affected dogs and humans:

Coccidia and Giardia are 2 protozoal endoparasites that live in the bowel and cause bloat, cramps, diarrhoea and weight loss. Giardia causes mucousy diarrhoea, Coccidia causes watery diarrhoea. Because the Coccidia and Giardia protozoans are found in dirty water, it is easily transmitted to both dogs and humans. Humans can “catch” the diseases by ingesting the same infected water, or through contact with infected animals, or through contact with contaminated soil.

Diseases that can pass from animals to humans are termed “Zoonotic”. All the above ecto- and endoparasites and protozoal parasites are Zoonoses. The following link contains a list of many zoonotic diseases, not confined to just dogs but also to other livestock and primates:                


The Essential Needs Of Any Dog

What are the essential needs of any dog?

(The following is from my Diploma Course in Canine Psychology with the ISCP):

The essential needs of any dog are very simple. A place to sleep that is away from the sun/rain/danger, a place that’s familiar and comfortable to it that it can come “home” to each time, enough food to sustain its survival, companionship, affection, exercise and play. Dogs aren’t fussy about what their home is like, as long as it contains familiar smells and associations; it could be happy with a cardboard box, a crate, dog bed or even a simple blanket on the floor in a corner of the kitchen, or even by its homeless master’s side on a sidewalk. As long as the dog feels secure and not threatened, and as long as there is food in its belly, most dogs are content.

All dogs also need some form of companionship, be it with fellow dogs or with humans. Dogs that have grown up in isolation, having been kept alone tied up in a shed or away from its own kind, often have a hard time acclimatizing to society afterwards. Being exposed to other dogs, humans, all kinds of external stimuli (traffic conditions, vehicles, loud noises, children, construction noises, changing weather conditions, different terrain, fireworks, etc) as a puppy is important, as that is how dogs learn, through experience, multiple exposure and gradual desensitization. So, with this in mind, I would add that good socialisation skills would be almost just as important to a dog’s life, if it is to take its place alongside humans in every activity we do. If all dogs were well socialised from a young age, by responsible owners, and trained in basic skills, there would be far fewer dogs relegated to shelters due to being reactive to other dogs and people, biting incidents, unruly behaviour, resource guarding etc.

(Image source: Google Images)