PugHearts of Houston Blog

UPDATE: 2010 Heartworm Incidence Map

Sunday, 21 August 2011 10:23 by robbic

The American Heartworm Society has just released an updated Heartworm Incidence Map showing last years cases.  While we are thrilled to see there has been a reduction of case throughout the country we were horrified to discover that Houston is still one of the highest ranking for Heartworm cases in the country.  Come on Houston, lets show the rest of America we love our dogs enough to keep them safe.  

Please read my previous post here to see how you can prevent Heartworms.

Robbi C
Pughearts of Houston

Categories:   Health | Heartworms | Update
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Popsee’s excellent adventure

Friday, 19 August 2011 20:59 by karenr

Three days ago I smelled something WONDERFUL!  I forgot about my people, I forgot about my yard, I forgot about everything but trying to get to what promised to be the BEST thing that ever happened to me in my short life.  Being a smart, manly dude, I managed to get out to find the origin of that wonderful smell and all the heavenly rewards it promised.  I looked really hard, and ran really fast (more about how fast I can run, later), but in the end all I managed to find were my people.  I didn’t understand, but they were really upset.  They put me in the car which was really exciting (I love car rides), but they took me out at a noisy place that was full of strangers barking, whining, and smelling of fear.  My people left me and a stranger took my picture (not my best…you can see it below) and put me in a cage with strange dogs barking, crying, and smelling above, below, and on both sides of me.

kennel card 2BARC

They were always mopping the floor and the cages with sharp-smelling water that made me sneeze and my eyes water.  My people were no where to be found.

I didn’t like that place.   I really didn’t like that place when they put me on a table and poked me with something sharp and put stuff in my eyes.  But I got kibbles…and I love kibbles. Three long days and nights I spent in that awful place and then today somebody came and put a leash on me and took me OUTSIDE!  Waiting for me was another stranger, but she smelled good.   Lots of happy doggy smells.  And best of all she opened her car door and I couldn’t wait to get inside.  I jumped from the ground to the seat in one big leap and then explored the front seat, the back seat, and a big space behind the back seat all in about 15 seconds.  Then the good-smelling stranger got in and I had to show her I like laps and give big sloppy kisses.

IMG_0374I went for a short ride.  I tried to drive, but the nice-smelling stranger wouldn’t let me keep my paws on the steering wheel.  I did manage to find several things on the floor to chew, though….  But then it was time to get out of the car and I saw a green fence and a big red gate.  I couldn’t WAIT for the nice-smelling lady to open the gate, so I tried to help her…showing how tall I can stand on my back legs, and how strong I can scratch.  But FINALLY she got it open, and inside was PARADISE.   And best of all, she took off the leash and I could show her how fast I can run!


There was water, fountains, and plants everywhere.  I took a drink after making two laps around the yard so I could reload to keep marking this great place!  The water felt so good on this hot day, I decided to see if I could dig it all out of the bowl.  The splashing water was really fun!

water closeupwater

And then I discovered I wasn’t alone in this garden.  There were two neighbors, but they were on the other side of a fence.  They were pretty friendly, though, so I gave them some good sniffs.  I minded my manners, though, and didn’t bark.


The nice-smelling lady kept following me with this big black camera, so I decided to pose for her.  First I gave her the pose I saw on TV when I watched the the dog show, and then I broke out my best close-up smile.


Then it was time to run again.


She managed to catch me a few more times, especially when she called my name.posing2


I visited the water bowl a few more times, digging until it was empty and I was all wet.  Then I decided it was time to go get some petting since she was sitting on the step.


See?  I can sit still too!  Aren’t I a handsome boy?  And my brown color is so special, especially when you compare with that ordinary pug on the other side of the door.  By the way, isn’t it time to meet the rest of the pack I’ve been smelling out here in the garden?

So then the lady opened the door and I got to sniff all these other dogs.  I bowed my head and looked away when the alpha bitch checked me out, and then I found a playmate to chase me!  Can this day get any better?

And then the lady put a harness on me and took me for another car ride!  But this time I couldn’t get out of the back seat since she tied the leash to the seat.  But I managed to stretch it out and get my front feet on the console so I could give her kisses and rest my head on her shoulder while she drove.  It wasn’t as much fun as jumping over the seats, but it was a longer ride, so that was OK.

Then we pulled up to a new place.  It smelled pretty good, too, and there were more nice people there. 


My nice smelling lady told the new people my name was Popsee, which sounded pretty good to me.  I gave her kisses whenever she said it to show my approval.  I got to go outside and potty and then I think I smelled kibbles!  This has been the best day.

P.S. from the good-smelling lady:  Popsee is heartworm negative, young, boisterous, and a very unusual color.  He’s all boy, and needs to be neutered so he’ll never try to find those wonderful smells again.  Want to continue his adventure in your home?

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Friday, 19 August 2011 17:07 by karenr

I’ll never forget the fear and anger I felt in 2005 when my vet told me my newly-adopted pug, Chucky, was heartworm positive.  Since I’ve been involved with PugHearts we have taken in and treated hundreds of HW+ dogs, and I personally have cared for half a dozen pugs who have gone through the treatment.   It has never become routine for me, and I am angered each and every time.  This disease is totally preventable!  Monthly heartworm preventative costs so little compared to the treatment costs.

Heartworms are an internal parasite of both dogs and cats. These worms live in the bloodstream and cause life threatening disease. Heartworms are a leading cause of lung and heart disease in dogs and dogs are dying of this disease every day.  Just this month we lost sweet CoCo: 

Heartworm disease is caused by the parasite, Dirofilaria immitis. It is transmitted by mosquitoes and has been found in every state in the US. It only takes one mosquito bite for your dog to get heartworms and, without prevention; there is a 100% chance your dog will get it.

Last weekend we had an adoption event at Rover Oaks and I met an adorable little guy called Ricky.    This tiny little guy is severely heartworm positive, with an enlarged heart.  It broke my heart to watch him struggle to breathe.  This was much more serious than the cough we usually see as the first symptom.


The way a dog becomes infected with these parasites is the stuff of nightmares. Infected dogs are the breeding ground for the next dog to become infected.  When a mosquito bites an infected dog, it ingests immature heartworms known as microfilaria. Microfilaria is the larval form of heartworms that change within the mosquito to reach the third stage. It is the third stage that can infect your dog. When the infected mosquito bites your dog, it deposits third stage microfilaria on your dog's skin and the microfilaria enters the dog through mosquito's bite wound. The microfilaria then travel or migrate through the tissues (meaning skin, muscle, connective tissue) and mature to become a juvenile adult or fifth stage larvae.

heartworm copy

This process takes about 50-70 days in the dog. Sometime between 70 and 110 days after the dog is infected, the larvae reach the blood stream and end up in the arteries of the lung (pulmonary arteries). These juveniles then grow up to produce microfilaria of their own in about six months.

Heartworms cause the most harm just by being present in the major arteries of the lung, the pulmonary arteries. They wreak havoc in these arteries and the entire dog suffers. It happens on many levels and here is a list of the damages:

  1. Injury to the lining of the pulmonary arteries (pa).
  2. Pulmonary hypertension, or Increased pressure within the pa due to the presence of the heartworms, the thickening of pa walls, scarring and blockage of pa, and pieces of heartworm that lodge in pa or clots that form and lodge in pa (known as heartworm emboli). Pulmonary hypertension is then responsible for right sided heart disease, even right sided congestive heart failure. The severity of pulmonary hypertension is dependent on the number of adult heartworms, thus, the larger the number of heartworms, the more severe the disease.
  3. Changes within the lung itself. These changes include the infiltration of lung by eosinophils, a white blood cell that takes part in the immune response to allergy and parasitism. Eosinophils are capable of causing and perpetuating a severe inflammatory response which damages the lung and leads to scarring of the lung. Other white blood cells and inflammatory cells may invade the lung causing damage. The heartworms can actually block an artery (thrombosis) and, in areas where thrombosis has occurred, nodules made up of inflammatory cells known as granulomas may form.
  4. Vena Cava Syndrome. This syndrome strikes fear in the heart of every veterinarian. It can happen when there are excessive numbers of adult heartworms in the pulmonary arteries and the heart to the extent that they block blood returning from the liver and the back of the body. This results in severe pulmonary hypertension, the death of liver cells, and the destruction of red blood cells. Large numbers of adult heartworms can interfere with the closing of the valve on the right side of the heart (tricuspid valve) and cause increased speed of flow through this valve exacerbating these problems.
  5. Serious injury to other organs, especially the kidneys, due to the deposition of damaging immune complexes formed between heartworm proteins and antibodies the dog produces against them.

Our director, Cindy, recently sent out an e-mail telling all foster families that the medication we use Merialto treat heartworms, Immiticide, is going to be unavailable for an indefinite period of time.   Merial, the company that makes this drug, is working to correct the issue, but at this time is unable to fill any new orders for Immiticide.  According to a Merial spokesman, the company is “officially out” of the drug, following an unexpected run on the supply after sending a letter to vets warning of a shortage that may “last several weeks to months.”   

There is a small supply available at Sugarland Pet Hospital, but small is the key word here. It will be reserved for special cases. Cindy and Dr Hendrix will work together to make decisions about which fosters will go through this treatment.

What will the impact be for PugHearts?  Heartworm positive fosters will have to wait longer before treatment and even potential adoptions may be delayed, meaning we will have more dogs to care for.   What do we do when our small supply of Immiticide runs out?   The American Heartworm Society supports a protocol using a combination of a heartworm preventative and doxycycline (an antibiotic) to manage infestation — a protocol the society is expected to release as as guidelines for practitioners on treating heartworm-positive dogs without Immiticide.

imageDr. Tom Nelson, a past president of the American Heartworm Society and a practitioner at the Animal Medical Center in Anniston, Ala., notes that the use of doxycyline in combination with heartworm preventive has been shown to reduce pathology, the number of adult worms and the infective potential of microfilaria in canine patients.  Treating heartworm is tricky business. An infected dog, for example, must not vigorously exercise because an increase in heart rate raises the risk that fragments of dead worms in its blood vessels could cause thromboembolism — the formation of an embolism, in this case of dead worms — to the lungs, which usually presents as acute shortness of breath. The condition is treatable with steroids but may prove fatal. Nelson notes that Immiticide quickly kills worms, thereby shortening the time that a dog's exercise must be restricted.

Slow-kill therapies, such as the use of heartworm preventatives, potentially allow for greater opportunity in which worms might block blood vessels, leading to worse lung problems.  Exercise will need to be restricted during the duration of the treatment which may be over a year without Immiticide. 

So now, more than ever, it’s extremely important to keep your dogs on heartworm preventative and to give it monthly on a regular schedule!  Lets all say a prayer for our heartworm positive rescue dogs, too.

Categories:   Health | Heartworms
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Heartworms. Is YOUR dog at RISK?

Friday, 19 August 2011 11:50 by robbic

Heartworms.  That word should strike fear into the heart of every dog owner.  They are insidious creatures, slowly and silently killing thousands of dogs in Houston and around the country every day.

PugHearts takes in an extraordinarily large number of heartworm-positive dogs every year.  It is especially prevalent in warm weather areas as they are excellent breeding grounds for mosquitoes who transmit the larvae to dogs when they bite them.  If we lived in Alaska, for example, your dog’s chances of contracting heartworms would be cut drastically.  But as we’re here in Texas, the chance of your dog contracting heartworms if it’s not on any preventative is extremely high. 

Think about how many times a year you are bitten by a mosquito or see one buzzing around you.  Your dog will encounter these little vampires every time it is outside as well.  We hear owners say “oh my dog lives indoors so they aren’t in any danger.”  Really?  Do you live outside? No. But do you get bitten by mosquitoes when you do go out? Yes.  Ever find a pesky mosquito buzzing around inside your house?  Wake up and find that one has been feasting on you during the night?

The same is true for your dog.  But you won’t die from the heartworms because they do not survive in your bloodstream.  It’s just a sad twist of fate that the dog’s bloodstream is so compatible for these horrible creatures.

And sadly, there is a severe shortage of the medication used to treat heartworms right now.  The manufacturer, Merial, has announced the medication is temporarily unavailable and they have none in stock.  Our vet (as well as all vets around the country) is unable to get anymore in right now to treat heartworms.  PugHearts has a small amount in stock and we will have to make decisions about treatment on a case-by-case basis.

However, the fantastic news is that heartworms are completely preventable!  With simple, once-a-month medication, you can help prevent your dog from ever contracting heartworms.

There are many medications to choose from.  Pills/chews include Heartgard, Tri-Heart, Iverhart, Interceptor and Sentinel.  Topical medications such as Revolution and Advantage Multi will also prevent heartworm infestation.  All of these medications are effective against some worms and many of these also prevent fleas.  Most of these come in multi-packs, so you can buy a 6-month supply in one box.

What is the cost?  Well, that depends.  These medications are all sold in dosages based upon your pet’s weight.  As pugs are relatively small dogs, if their weight is maintained at a healthy level you should be able to get away with the “under 25 lbs” dosage – which happens to be the cheapest.  If not, the next level up isn’t much more expensive and that will take care of dogs up to 50 lbs in weight.  If your pug weighs more than that – you should call Guinness World Records ‘cause that’s unbelievable!

A 6-month supply of Heartgard will run around $40 from your vet.  Iverhart will be around $30. Revolution and Sentinel will run just over $100 (but remember they also kill fleas and treat ticks, worms and ear mites.)  You can also order these online for a little less, but will have to have your veterinarian authorize that.  It is a prescription medicine because your vet wants your dog to have an annual heartworm test.  Once you get that negative result, they will write you a year’s prescription. 

Okay, so what happens if it’s time for your dog’s heartworm medication and you’re strapped for cash?  Please do not even think about “skipping” a month!  It is a monthly treatment because the effects of the drug only last for 30 days.  If you skip a month, your dog will NOT be protected, even if they had their pill every month prior for the last 2 years.  So please talk to your vet about how to get your dog covered.  Maybe your vet can offer a generic alternative to the more expensive brand name.  If not, your vet will be happy to let you buy the medication in a one-month dose instead of paying for 6 months all at once.  That means for less than the cost of a Happy Meal, your dog will be protected from heartworms for another month.  Now THAT’s a value!

Please, we cannot stress it enough, make sure your dog is on a heartworm preventative.  It really is a matter of life and death.

Robbi C
PugHearts of Houston

Categories:   Health | Heartworms
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PugHearts on the Web

Monday, 8 August 2011 14:12 by robbic

There have been a few questions from members wanting clarification of what’s going on with PugHearts’ online presence.  What’s going on with our website?  What’s the Facebook group for? Are we on Twitter? What’s up with Petfinder? Hopefully we can get some information out there to get everyone up to speed on our changes.

Our website is not going anywhere!  We are extremely proud of the polished, professional site that we have to showcase our rescues.  In addition to the OurDogs page which features all the dogs, our website is a wealth of information on PugHearts and all things Pug!  We have information about the breed itself. We have educational pages that explain why you should adopt a rescue instead of buying a puppy from a breeder.  We have information about who we are, how we got started and our mission to save every pug we can.  We have detailed information about way to give, our non-profit status and contact details.  We have great stories from our fosters and other volunteers.  And of course we have lots of details about how to adopt. 

We do list some of our dogs on Petfinder.  In the descriptions for the dogs we list, we give details about PugHearts and how to adopt from us.  Each listing refers the reader to our website to complete our online adoption application.  We do not accept adoption applications or queries in any other format except our adoption application.  We use Petfinder to help people find us who do not know we exist.  Often times, people looking for a breeder will stumble onto us through this site, as they weren’t looking for a rescue in their search.  It gives us a chance to let them know about the beautiful Pugs we have and help teach them that buying from a breeder perpetuates the cycle of over-breeding and creates more unwanted cast-offs that end up in rescue.  Due to the listing software being rather awkward to use, we do not list every dog we have through their website.  However, we will continue to keep a presence on Petfinder  so that we can get the word out about pug rescue in Houston.

As Facebook is such a popular venue, we knew we had to have a presence on there.  After careful consideration, we decided to open a Facebook Group rather than a Fanpage.  We wanted a dynamic, interactive place for our supporters to find ways to get involved with our Rescue.  A Fanpage only allows a person to “Like” it and then do nothing.  But a Group keeps everyone involved!  So now, for those of you who want to commit to be an active supporter, you can join our Group. We update Group members on events and can even keep track of who’s attending via the Invitations.  We really want everyone who signs up for our Group to be an active participant, not someone who just adds us to their Friends. Remember, this is not a Fanpage; this is your chance to stand up and be counted as an active supporter of PugHearts in a way that our website doesn’t allow.  If you make the commitment to join our Group, we want you to roll up your sleeves, dive in and make an impact! This is your chance to post comments, share our pages and help get the word out about our adoptions and fundraising! Let everyone know you’ve donated, fostered or helped in some other way – have your moment in the spotlight!

If that’s too much of a commitment for you right now or you’re not ready to be actively involved, then please continue to visit our website for updates and information.  For those of you who are committing to actively participate: welcome to our Group!

Yes, we are on Twitter too!  We’ve had the account for a while, but have only posted sporadically.  Until now! We now have our volunteer Whitney doing a fantastic job of getting us active with this newest social network venture.  And as we gain more of a presence on Twitter, we are hoping more of you join up and Follow us.  Twitter is the perfect venue to give quick updates on new rescues and happenings, with links back to our website for details.

So as you see, our website remains our primary online resource.  All of our other online venues will always link back to  for the heart of our endeavor – adoptions.  These other forums offer ways for you to get involved that the website doesn’t offer, but when you’re ready to find the newest member of your family you know exactly where to come!

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Thoughts on fostering

Saturday, 6 August 2011 18:41 by robbic

Before Cindy dreamt up the idea of PugHearts, she was a foster for another non-local rescue group.  She already had a very good idea of what it took to run a rescue and what kind of needs she would encounter.  As she set up PugHearts, she called on people around her that understood those very special needs.  Some had already fostered for other groups, some had adopted rescues.  But all of us had that “whatever is best for the dogs” attitude. We all agreed that we wanted an organization that would treat the rescues just as they did their own dogs.  We did not want to open a shelter where our dogs lived in cages until they were adopted out.  We wanted to allow these rescues to live in a safe, nurturing home environment until their forever home was found.  We also insisted that we would not adopt out any dog to a home that we would not feel comfortable placing our own pets in. And so, PugHearts was born!

We’ve gone from a very small group of people that could all fit in Cindy’s living room (with our dogs running around, of course) to a vast network of people spread throughout the Houston area.  Our commitment to our dogs has remained. 

We now have around 100 dogs in foster care.  That takes a lot of people giving a lot of time and energy to these furbabies.  And we appreciate it more than we can possibly express.  But I’m going to take a moment to let everyone know what’s involved and just how much these volunteers contribute!

Unlike a lot of organizations, PugHearts takes a very “hands-on” approach to selecting both foster and adoptive homes.  In fact, we require the same standards for a foster home that we would an adoptive home.  It makes sense, as we want these dogs in the best environment possible during their stay with us.  So, a home visit is mandatory before approving a foster home.  We want to see the environment these guys will be living in during their fostering.  We aren’t worried about dust bunnies or décor; we want to know the environment is safe and secure.  If there is a backyard, is it fenced?  Are there other animals or children in the house and if so, how will they react to an “outsider” in their home?  Does the potential foster parent treat their animals as we want our rescues treated?

As a lot of our dogs come in to us abused or neglected, we also have to be sure they are going to a nurturing environment.  Some of these dogs have never had a person show them affection.  Many have never lived inside a house before.  These are significant challenges that our fosters work to overcome.  They teach these babies that it’s okay to trust humans, that they need to go outside to use the bathroom, they don’t have to “defend” their bowl against another dog eating near them.  They teach them socialization.  They teach them about love.  And that can take a lot of patience.

Medical Care
All of our fosters are responsible for seeing that any dog they have gets the necessary medical care.  Usually that consists of taking them in for check-ups, maintaining their Heartguard and Frontline administration and any after-care from spay/neutering or routine dentals.  Many of our fosters also administer daily eye drops or ear medications and see that follow-up visits with our vet are kept.  Some do much more, as some of our rescues have significant medical issues.   Unfortunately, we get a lot of dogs that are heartworm positive, so we need fosters who can care for these babies as they undergo treatment.  We also get dogs in with severe injuries that require intensive care.  We get the occasional hospice dog that needs a special home to live out their final days.   And of course, you never know when an unforeseen emergency will happen.  Our fosters need to be able to get our rescues to our vet in the event of an emergency, even if that means 11pm on a Sunday night. We have an amazing group of foster parents who look after these furbabies as though they are their own and help get them in the best health they can, so they can go to their forever homes.

We have a fantastic website that allows people to look at a dog’s photo and biography to determine what dog might be a good fit for them.  Those photos and bios usually come directly from the foster themselves.  They take the photos you see.  They write up a bit about the dog they are fostering, ‘cos who knows them better?  They tell us, and potential adopters, what kind of home would be best for their rescue.

Meet & Greet
One of the big differences with PugHearts is how we screen our potential adopters.  In addition to the adoption application with reference checks, we also want to see how our rescue will fit into that new home.  So not only do we conduct a home visit to see the environment, we take the potential adoptee around to meet the members of the family and get a feel for how they will do in that home.  We call it a “Meet & Greet.” Most often, the foster parent takes the dog themselves.  We feel that since nobody knows that dog better, they are the best judge of how it fits into that home.  Sometimes another volunteer does the actual home visit and the foster instead meets the family someplace else for the Meet & Greet.  Either way, the foster has taken time out of their schedule to try and find the right home for their rescue.

Adoption Events
We have a lot of people that are looking to adopt a dog, but they can’t quite narrow it down to just one to meet.  Sometimes we schedule multiple home visits, but sometimes it’s a lot easier to tell that person to come to an adoption event where they can meet multiple dogs.  So, we ask our fosters to bring their dogs to these events throughout the Houston area.  That means our volunteers are giving up their Saturdays, or evenings, or sometimes entire weekends (like the Reliant Dog show) to try and find a forever home for their rescue.  We cannot begin to thank them enough for giving up so much of their time.

So, as you can see, our fosters are pretty special people.  They give up a lot to help us help these furbabies.  It’s a lot more than just putting a roof over their heads.  It’s time, patience, heart and soul.  It can be sleepless nights, tears, stress and yet it can be the most fulfilling and rewarding feeling ever.  We are eternally grateful for all they do.  Somehow it doesn’t seem enough just to say it, but Thank You!

I also need to take a moment to clarify what fostering actually means.  When you foster a rescue, you are agreeing to provide a temporary home for a dog until we can find a permanent adoptive home for it.  Fostering is NOT a “test drive” to see if you want to adopt a dog.  When you agree to foster, you do so with the understanding that the dog belongs to PugHearts and we are trying to find it a permanent home.   We require the foster to play an active role in finding a forever home for that dog so that includes bringing the dog to adoption events and Meet & Greets.  We also require the foster to be able to get their rescue to and from the vet as needed.  We pay for the medical care, but we need our volunteers to be an active participant in the dog’s medical treatment.  We do not pay for food, treats or toys – though whenever we receive donations of these items we will gladly pass them onto our fosters.  Obviously, we cannot pay our volunteers for what they do for these little guys.  But I can assure you that you will get back far more than you put in with these furbabies.  Their unconditional love and the feeling of satisfaction you will get cannot be measured.

For those of you who are reading this and think you’d like to help, we encourage you to get in touch with us to discuss fostering.  We would love to have you help!  We do ask that you be sure you are able to fulfill the commitments we require.  If you have the time, space and love to give, please fill in our Contact form and select “Fostering” to let us know you’re interested.  Or ask us in person next time you see us at a local event!

Robbi C
PugHearts of Houston

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Pug Rehabilitation – behavior modification

Tuesday, 2 August 2011 14:43 by karenr

I have shared with you how I assembled my pack of pugs/pug mixes, but once I learned how to be a good pack leader, I began fostering for Pughearts.  I’d like to share some of my techniques and successes in addressing pug behavioral issues.  This can often be a longer process than healing the physical results of neglect and abuse.

For the most part, pugs have wonderful dispositions.  Bred as companion animals, with a generally trusting nature, pugs really love their humans, and usually get along well with other 4-legged members of a family.  In rescue, however, you sometimes get a dog who who has issues with fear aggression, dominance, resource guarding, or socialization as a result of abuse or neglect in their past life.   

What is resource guarding?

Does your dog growl at you when you approach his food bowl? Is your pug possessive about toys and rawhides? Does he snap at you when you even step near him when he’s got a bone? Does your dog bare her teeth when you approach the couch?   The goal of rehab is to keep your pug in the blissful state of loving your approach to his food bowl or other prized possessions.  Something to understand is that resource guarding is an absolutely normal dog behavior. However, it’s not something we humans appreciate. Fortunately, resource guarding is also a behavior that we can change.jojo2

Meet JoJo.

JoJo was surrendered to Pughearts by his owner, who was left with him and two breeding females as a result of a divorce.  On the phone, he threatened to shoot the dogs if we didn’t come get them right away.  Upon arrival, we discovered three sick, very skinny dogs, living in a small rocky enclosure with no food bowls.  If the dogs ever were fed, apparently a small amount of kibble was thrown on the ground, and the dogs were left to fight over it.

You might think that pugs are about as far from the ancestral wolf as you can get.  But all predators come programmed to guard resources that are crucial to their survival.  Food was definitely in short supply at JoJo’s home and the two females were even skinnier than he was.  Broken toothed, scarred and skinny JoJo was still top dog in the pack, and it was beneficial to his survival to look after his food against other  members of his group.

Resource Guarding Myths

According to Jean Donaldson in her book Mine! A Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs, there are several myths we need to dispel:

  • Myth #1: Resource guarding is abnormal behavior.
  • Myth #2: Because resource guarding is driven largely by genetics, it can’t be changed.
  • Myth #3: Resource guarding can be cured by making a dog realize that resources are abundant.
  • Myth #4: Resource guarding is a symptom of “dominance” or “pushiness.”
  • Myth #5: Resource guarding is the result of “spoiling” a dog.

IMG_1222So how do you take a chewie away from a growling dog?  Simple. Make him understand that the approach of a human to his food, toys, chewies, space, etc. is a Good Thing. The process is called classical conditioning.  You probably have heard about clicker training.   Just as the clicker is associated with treats a dog’s mind, the approach of a human hand, face, or other body part to the resource he’s guarding should mean better food is on its way.

jojo3Details on how to do this are readily available in print (like the book I mentioned earlier), or online, such as the following article: Food Aggression.  I read these and everything else I could get ahold of, implemented a training regimen, and JoJo responded beautifully.  To maintain his progress I continue to feed him separately from the rest of the pack, make sure he sits calmly before getting his food, and several times a month I approach him while he’s eating,  pick up the bowl, and plop in a handful of treats before setting it back down. I do the same with toys or chewies.   We also practice “give” or “drop-it”, replacing the surrendered object with something else.


JoJo Rehabilitated

JoJo is neither aggressive nor truly dominant.  He readily submits to Cupid, my alpha bitch, and will play wrestle with hands or toys using gentle bite discipline.  He usually goes out of his way to avoid invading the space of the other dogs in the pack.  That said, he does consider his humans worthy of protection.  He is accepting of strangers if he’s properly introduced, but woe be it to the unwary meter reader who enters the yard unannounced!  In stressful situations such as adoption events, he’s somewhat clingy, and may snap at other dogs who get too close.  He also has been known to snap at children even after being introduced, so a home with little ones would not be the best fit for him.  He will need reinforcement of what he’s learned for the rest of his life, but he has so much to give to some special family.

nick and jojoRehabilitated From a hard life where no one took proper care of him, JoJo is now sharing his love and taking care of others.  We fostered a male pug with medical issues and a seizure disorder for a couple of months, and JoJo took it as his job to see that Nick was happy.  He would share his dog bed with Nick, and would come get us if there was something wrong:  alerting us in advance of an imminent seizure and giving him kisses in the aftermath.

cold jojoJoJo is now heartworm negative, healthy, and happy.  He has the softest coat, and loves to snuggle on the couch, or to share my pillow on the big bed.   Because he may require reinforcement training to keep him from backsliding on his resource guarding, he would probably do better as an only dog, or as a member of a pack with a more experienced (2-legged) leader and no small children.   He was a bit overwhelmed during a home visit with a family who had two large dogs.

JoJo has been waiting nine months for his forever home.   While he’s my best companion while I’m out in the studio painting, I would love for him to share his lessons with a new family!

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