Season’s Greetings and Open House

Please join us December 10, 2016 between 10am-2pm for our open house for all 2 and 4 legged family members!


Adventures from Dr. Darlene’s trip to Australia for Equine Dentistry

Darlene in Australia

Dr. Darlene visiting some new friends. She had the chance to do some touring and sightseeing while she was on this trip.

Dr. Donszelmann recently travelled to New South Wales, Australia to help tutor in a five day intensive course: Essentials of Equine Dentistry 2015. The course was hard work but alot of fun with new colleagues, past acquaintances and 26 veterinarians from around the world including Thailand, Chile, New Zealand, Africa and Australia. Dr. Darlene was able to bring home a few new tools to help with dentistry and lots of great ideas from around the world—she is looking forward to implementing them, both in practice and in her teaching of a popular fourth year Equine Dental Rotation at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine!

While in Australia, Darlene had a chance to try scuba diving and sea kayaking, as well as exploring the rainforest of Queensland to the beaches of Noosa, the great sandy Fraser Island, and the interior agricultural areas of New South Wales.

Dr. Darlene is now preparing to write her ICEVO (International College of Equine Veterinary Orthodontists) over May long weekend. And then will be offering advanced dental procedures like pulp capping, minimally invasive tooth extraction and more!

Thanksgiving Blog post: From The Canadian Vet Med Association


Brought to you from the CVMA website

Seasonal Safety Tips: Thanksgiving

October 23, 2012

Thanksgiving is a time to give “thanks” for the many things we are fortunate to have in our lives. Our feasts of turkey, ham and other delicious foods are a highlight of the holiday weekend. It is important to note, however, that while the family feasts, our pets need not do the same.

  • Offering pets fatty leftovers from the family’s Thanksgiving dinner is a risky practice. Dogs, particularly certain smaller breed dogs, are especially susceptible to pancreatitis – an inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas produces insulin and enzymes for digestion and when it gets irritated, serious illness results. Vomiting is a common sign of this type of digestive system disturbance. If a serious bout occurs, it can be life-threatening and may require hospital treatment.
  • Avoid feeding sharp poultry bones to cats and dogs.  A turkey bone can splinter and become lodged in the throat or further down the digestive system. Bone fragments can lacerate (cut) the delicate tissues as they move down the tract.
  • You should also avoid feeding raw sweet breads, giblets or necks to pets as a treat since most raw poultry and meat has bacterial contamination. This can result in diarrhea or more serious illness. People should also handle raw meats with care to avoid cross contamination.
  • Many pets are adept at finding food on counter tops and tables, so keep your dinner out of reach. The fridge or even the microwave can serve as a secure holding area as you prepare or clean up!
  • When disposing of your turkey, double bag the carcass and move it to a secure garbage bin immediately after the meal.
  • If you are expecting a crowd for Thanksgiving, it may be wise to make up a special room for the pets, equipped with beds, food, water and a source of pleasant noise like a radio tuned to soft music. All of the hustle and bustle of a busy Thanksgiving dinner may be stressful for a shy pet, and a territorial pet may be unhappy with the intrusion! By restricting your pets access to company, you can also help minimize the chance that your pet will escape through an open door and get lost!

If you really want to include your pet in your Thanksgiving festivities, offer a few tidbits of the regular foods he enjoys with some extra affection. Sometimes those big brown begging eyes are hard to resist, but remember, your decision to indulge your pet may result in serious health problems!

Itchy Scratchy Part 2

Continuation of Itchy Scratchy Blog. Because Allergies are so common and can present in a number of ways due to a number of causes we have a whole blog devoted to this topic. Hope everyone enjoys, and if you have any questions please give us a shout!

Allergies, allergies, allergies – Unfortunately allergies are quite common in pets, especially dogs. Rather than getting hay fever signs like people, their skin gets inflamed and itchy from allergens that are inhaled, ingested or contacted directly.allegeies

Food allergies – Symptoms can appear at any time in your pet’s life, even if she or he has been on the same diet for years. However, allergies to food often appear in young dogs, even those less than one year of age. The symptoms may wax and wane but are likely to be present year round. Itchy, inflamed skin is often in and around the ears, on the face, between the toes, in the armpits, and the groin region.

Secondary bacterial and/or yeast infections are common alongside the allergy symptoms and can worsen the itch factor significantly. Testing is available, either by intradermal needle tests or by a blood sample. A skin biopsy (small pieces of the skin removed, a stitch or two closes the small wound and the sample is sent to a lab to be examined under a microscope by a trained pathologist) can be done and can help rule out other causes of pruritis and give a general indication of allergic skin disease.

Beef and dairy are the most common food allergens in dogs, followed by chicken, eggs, soy, corn and wheat.

There are numerous other ingredients that can be the culprit causing your pet’s discomfort. The best method of testing for food allergies is by your pet’s response to a food trial with a hypoallergenic diet.

Commercially prepared diets are available as well as recipes for homemade hypoallergenic diets. We at Chinook Country Veterinary Clinic can provide you with commercial diets or recipes for nutritionally balanced homemade hypoallergenic diets. It is critical to the success of the food trial to ensure your pet does not get any treats, flavored medications, nutritional supplements not issued by your veterinarian, etc. during the trial period. Symptoms should significantly improve within 10-12 weeks on the hypoallergenic diet if it is to be effective. Additional food items can then be introduced one at a time to trial the response and if allergy symptoms are to result, they would most likely be seen within the next 7-10 days.allergy3

Allergies can be frustrating to treat. Obviously avoiding the offending food ingredients is essential but this can be more difficult than first expected with multiple family members (some that eat their meals in high chairs and love to toss tidbits to Fido!), visitors, caregivers, etc. involved in a pet’s life. There are many medicated shampoos, ear cleaners, nutritional supplements, anti-histamines, anti-inflammatory medications, antimicrobial medications and alternative medicine therapies that can be used alone or in combinations to help treat food allergy symptoms. It is recommended that you, as an owner, keep detailed records of what therapies help alleviate the symptoms so we can ultimately tailor a treatment plan most appropriate for your individual pet.

Inhaled allergens: Symptoms of allergies from inhaled substances, such as pollens, dust mites, weeds, grasses, mold, insects, dander, etc. etc. often appear in dogs between 1 and 3 years of age.It is uncommon in cats. In both species, it is felt that there is a genetic predisposition to this ailment.

Depending on what is causing the itch, symptoms are often seasonal. House dust mites may cause year round symptoms. The areas that are most often itchy are the feet, flanks, groin, axillae (armpits), face and ears. Secondary bacterial and yeast infections are also common and add to the itch factor. Testing is available through intradermal injections or blood tests. These tests may be recommended in more severe, stubborn cases to help give more pieces to the puzzle when trying to determine the cause of a pet’s itch. Skin biopsies can be helpful also for the same reasons as with food hypersensitivity.

Multiple therapies similar to food allergies are available and often a combination of them is used to control symptoms and minimize a pet’s discomfort. The fewer medications given orally to a pet the better so attempts at control are aimed at topical and nutritional treatments as much as possible. Rarely can the offending allergen be completely avoided. Hyposensitization shots (immunotherapy) can be tried in more severe cases. Allergy testing is first done to attempt to identify the allergens after which an injectable solution is made up. Injections are given to your allergic pet over the following months to a year before assessing if a positive response is noted.

In studies done, 60-75% of dogs getting immunotherapy show a good to excellent response. This is not a cure and relapses and itchy spells will occur throughout your pet’s life.

Contact allergens: These allergies are quite uncommon in dogs and cats. The skin may have a local allergic reaction to prolonged contact with such things as plants (eg. Grasses), carpet deodorizers, detergents, topical medications, natural fabrics, synthetic fabrics, concrete, plastic dishes, rubber chew toys, leather, rawhide, etc. etc. Secondary bacterial and yeast infections can accompany any allergic skin. Testing is often non-diagnostic but can be tried. Removal from the environment, even as drastic as being housed in a stainless steel kennel for 3-5 days and observing for significant improvement in the symptoms can be the most helpful diagnostic step.allergies2

Treatments are similar to other allergies and removal of the offending agent can result in a significant reduction in symptoms. Providing a barrier for the skin in the form of socks or a T-shirt can help. Bathing can also help minimize signs.

Conclusion: If you think that your pet may have an allergy, contact one of our vets here at the clinic and we can work with you to provide relief and a solution to your fur kid’s reactions!


Photos credits:


Itchy Scratchy Pets… Part 1

Itchy Pets

“Doctor, my pet seems very itchy lately” is a common concern of owners when they come to the Chinook Country Veterinary Clinic. Sometimes the cause for the scratching or biting at the skin is obvious and a simple solution is available. However, pruritis (itchy skin) can be quite complex and difficult to manage.

The first step to reaching a proper diagnosis and an effective treatment plan is to get a thorough and accurate history from you, the owner. Owners should come prepared to discuss what symptoms are present, how long they have been present for, if symptoms are constant or intermittent, what exposure to other animals is happening, if any littermates to your pet have similar symptoms, what diet your pet is on and for how long, if any home remedies or previous veterinary treatment has helped or worsened the condition, etc. etc.

Common causes for pets to be itchy:

Parasites: There are lots of “critters” that can cause your pet to be itchy, such as fleas, lice, ticks and mites. A detailed history is needed to investigate potential skin parasites. What is your pet’s level of exposure to other animals? Has there been a recent purchase of a kitten or puppy from a source where there were lots of cats/dogs interacting? Does your pet have frequent stays at a kennel or doggy day care? Has your pet recently been to a groomer? Has there bdemodexeen recent travel or camping experiences to areas where external parasites are more prevalent? Many parasites are visible to the naked eye and the diagnosis is fairly simple. Anytime you see a crawling “bug” on your pet, we recommend you capture it and submit it to the Chinook Country Veterinary Clinic for identification. Mites are too small to be seen and a skin scraping is required to try to find them. Most are easy to find on a scraping with the exception of sarcoptic mites which burrow deep in the skin and are rarely seen on a scraping. The appearance of the skin and the response to therapy is often the route to diagnose this very uncomfortable and contagious condition. Fortunately most external parasites are easily and successfully treated with oral and/or topical therapies.   imagesX7Z85W93

Infections: Bacterial, yeast and fungal infections can occur on the skin without an apparent underlying cause. Variable levels of itchiness occur from such infections. Minor trauma can inflame the skin and allow the opportunity for overgrowth of normal micro-organisms that cause further inflammation, make your pet scratch the area, creating even more inflammation and a nasty cycle is set up. Microscopic examination of skin cells and culturing of the offending organism may be suggested to aid in the diagnosis and design the correct treatment plan. Clipping overlying hair, cleansing the areas with anti-microbial soap and appropriate anti-microbial medications, either topically or orally are in order. Also important to the treatment of infections is the prevention of self trauma from scratching or biting at the lesion and T-shirts, socks, or Elizabethan collars (cones) are psot

Allergies, allergies, allergies – Unfortunately allergies are quite common in pets, especially dogs. Rather than getting hay fever signs like people, their skin gets inflamed and itchy from allergens that are inhaled, ingested or contacted directly. Allergies can present at paw or body licking, ear infections, swelling around the eyes, hot spots and more.

Part two of this blog will be devoted entirely to allergies so stay tuned!


Dr. Donszelmann and Penny attend a Seminar with Dr. Sophia Yin

Penny and I had the opportunity to attend a Low Stress Handling seminar on dogs and cats this past weekend in Edmonton. Dr. Sophia Yin is a veterinarian and renowned small animal behaviourist. Dr. Yin’s website, videos and blog at are very useful for pet training and socialization.

The biggest take home message from the weekend for me was incredibly simple:

Life with a dog is like a dance. Someone needs to lead and it needs to be you. Dr. Yin showed some incredible footage of her ‘dancing’ with her dog walking forwards, backwards and doing quick turns—it looked perfectly choreographed at a fast tempo. The dog’s attention was focused completely on her during the exercise. The handler’s energy is one major component in providing leadership and decisiveness for your dog.  Dr. Yin led a fast paced training exercise for several participants at the seminar to demonstrate the tempo that is desirable for working with dogs. The timing of the steps was about equal to counting to eight in 2 and a half seconds!

Have a look at Dr, Yin’s website and when your dog needs to follow you remember to provide clear, decisive leadership and keep his attention with a fast tempo!

Celebrating Small Animal Dentistry and Dental Needs

Please brush my teeth

Many people are very surprised by a veterinarian telling them that Fido or Kitty has tartar build up, gingivitis and teeth that need extraction for various reasons. In fairness to owners, we don’t see our pets’ teeth unless the effort is made to periodically lift up our pets’ lips and examine the oral cavity. Face it, our dogs and cats don’t smile so we rarely see their pearly whites! Sometimes it is a foul odor and or drooling  from the mouth that has prompted an owner to seek veterinary advice on oral hygiene. Often by this stage, the pet has experienced discomfort or even pain in the mouth and a drain on overall health from infection.

Regular brushings

Seldom does a dental problem cause a pet to stop eating, as nature provided them with a strong instinct for survival and often the dental discomfort or pain has been a gradual onset problem for them. It is not uncommon for a veterinarian to hear “but my dog/cat is still eating normally”. If you, as an owner, have had a cold sensitive tooth, a canker sore, or some other localized oral pain, it is likely you have not gone without eating for much longer than part of a day, provided you have a normal, healthy appetite. You adjust by chewing on one side of the mouth or just grin and bear it to dull the hunger pangs and get through the meal as soon as possible. You also have the benefit of complaining to your spouse, friend, parent, etc. about the problem and if it persists, you are going to seek advice from your dentist and likely gain a solution to the problem.

As an owner of a pet dog or cat, you owe it to them to be attentive to the care of their teeth and oral structures in order to maintain a healthy and pain free mouth. It should part of a routine at home check over of a pet’s weight, demeanor, searching for lumps and bumps on the skin, etc. to check the teeth for tartar build up, red gums, broken teeth, redness or swelling anywhere in the mouth. You should expect a thorough oral exam of your pet from your veterinarian at a wellness exam, provided your pet’s temperament permits this safely.  When budgeting for proper pet care, it is realistic to plan for the expense of dental exams. Cleanings and treatment of your pet under general anesthetic at the veterinary clinic every one to three years is reasonable, depending on your pet’s age and dental concerns that can vary with owner’s oral care at home, pet’s lifestyle (trauma) and genetics. Dental equipment is expensive and coupled with anesthetic and close monitoring of your pet, as well as skilled professionals working on your pet; you can expect the basic dental exam and cleaning visit to be a few hundred dollars and extractions to increase costs significantly. However, it is a rewarding investment in your pet’s overall comfort and well being. They are dependent on you to plan for these expenses.

Regular cleaning helps keep teeth in great shape

Regular cleanings can helps keep teeth and gums in great shape


The following is a review of some of the more common dental concerns in dogs and cats that we see as veterinarians:

Puppies and Kittens:

1/.Malocclusions: These situations can occur and will be evident at the young puppy or kitten visits for wellness and vaccinations. Underbites and overbites can be seen which may or may not be of significance to proper function. Your veterinarian will advise accordingly. Occasionally the lower jaw is narrow, causing the lower canine, or “fang teeth” to dig into the gums or palate of the upper jaw – ouch! It is important to attend to problems with the pet’s “bite” early in the first few months of life while the jaw is still growing to have the best effect from intervention.

Baby cats and dogs, like humans, get baby teeth before their permanent set. This transition takes place roughly between 3.5 to 7 months of age.  An extra dental wellness visit at 5 months of age, which is usually after the vaccine series visits are finished, is wise to monitor the transition of deciduous, or “baby” teeth to permanent teeth. It is relatively common, especially in toy and small breed dogs, to have the baby canine (fang) teeth retained even when the permanent canine teeth have erupted. This causes the permanent tooth to erupt in an abnormal position and can lead to problems in the pet’s future plus excessive food and eventually tartar build up results if the extra tooth is not removed. Extraction of these retained teeth is indicated as soon as possible. These can lead to dental problems in the future. A dental exam of permanent teeth can be easily done at the spay or castration of the pet if it is done at 6 months of age. Sometimes there are missing, abnormally developed  or extra permanent teeth. Your veterinarian can assess the need for intervention in these situations.

Sometimes a baby tooth will get fractured from trauma – banging the teeth into something or too forceful a pull in a “tug of war” game – careful! The fractured tooth should be extracted soon after the incident to prevent infection of the root of the baby tooth, which could affect the health of the adult tooth waiting to erupt.

Adult dogs and cats:

1/. Periodontal disease – This is a similar syndrome to what most of us human work diligently every day to prevent in our mouths and what prompts us to visit our dentists regularly for cleanings and examinations. Plaque and tartar build up on the teeth results in gingivitis and if severe enough, erosion of the support structures for the teeth, namely the ligaments and bone around the tooth. How do we deal with this? We brush our teeth. Prior to the advancement of personal hygiene of modern times, humans dealt routinely with frequent decay and loss of teeth, especially if they lived past the typical life expectancy of their 40’s. Did these people suffer oral pain from this phenomenon? You bet. Why would a dog or cat be any different? Thus, regular brushing of the teeth of pets helps tremendously with the war against periodontal disease.

Please brush my teeth

For the majority of owners that don’t brush, regular dental cleanings at the veterinary clinic can greatly compensate for the lack of oral hygiene displayed by animals that cannot brush their own teeth or owners that do not attend to this on a regular basis. A typical dental visit for a dog or cat involves pending most of a day at the veterinary clinic. First of all, the pet is assessed for overall health, possibly getting some blood and/or urine tests done if needed, such as concurrent disease or concerns for advanced age. Then he/she will undergo a general anesthetic, preferably on intravenous fluids throughout and then getting a detailed and proper dental exam with probing the teeth and gums for gingivitis, infection, bone erosion,  etc.  Dental x-rays are often done to supplement the information about the structures not visible above the gums., such as the roots of the teeth.  A cleaning of the exposed crowns of the teeth and the small space under the gum line that is a hideout for harmful bacteria and inflammation is performed. Beware the “dental cleaning” done in an awake animal by self-professed animal “dental hygienist” that hand scales visible chunks of tartar off the teeth with a sharp tool. This gives the appearance of cleaner teeth but is very limited in the successful treatment and prevention of periodontal disease. Aggressive hand scaling of the teeth can cause permanent damage to the tooth enamel. No matter how quiet natured a pet is, the ultrasonic scaling over the outside and inside of all teeth (water spraying throughout) coupled with curettage of the pocket under the gums (uncomfortable for sure) could not possibly be accomplished without the dog or cat undergoing a light general anesthetic. With the modern equipment and drugs used, general anesthetic is regarded as a safe and routine procedure in veterinary medicine, provided the pet does not have serious concurrent illness.

Teeth with advanced periodontal disease need to be extracted to eliminate the source of infection and pain for the animal. Antibiotics and pain relief are included in the protocol in these situations. Dental blocks or “freezing” are used in pets as well to decrease the pain felt when waking from anesthesia after extractions.

Fractured teeth: Trauma can result in the fracturing of teeth, resulting in the exposure of the internal blood supply, called the pulp. This allows bacteria from the mouth to be exposed to the root underneath and the potential is high for a root abscess to occur. If you’ve not had the distinct pleasure of experiencing this painful predicament , just ask any human friend or relative that has had a tooth root abscess just how painful it was and it should prompt any caring owner to tend to fractured and contaminated teeth in their pet with a high priority. Some teeth can be salvaged with a root canal, often at a specialty practice, or extraction is indicated.

A word about cats: Cats have a much higher tendency to have a condition whereby the tooth undergoes focal erosions and eventually resorption of the tooth into the jaw bone. The cause of these lesions is not fully established and there are definitely some cats quite prone to them, despite even the most attentive owners to their cat’s dental hygiene and diet. Visibly an examiner will see a very inflamed spot of gums, where the tooth meets the gums, with a dark pink thickened appearance to the gumline. Under this inflamed area will be a deep pit in the enamel of the tooth, exposing the nerves and causing pain to the cat. This is detected with the probing portion of the dental exam under general anesthetic. With continued erosion, the exposed surface of the tooth weakens and can actually fracture off from a minor force, such as chewing on food, grooming etc. The same process goes on under the gumline in the roots of the teeth. These eroding teeth need to be examined, x-rayed and treated with varying degrees of extraction, then the gums are sutured over the painful tooth and after a short healing period, presto! – a pain free mouth.

In summary, we hope we are successfully educating pet owners about the importance of dental health in the lives of their pets and bringing the level of care out of the dark ages, as has occurred in the human world. Pets are faithful members of the family and with careful planning, proper dental care for your pet can be a routine part of your veterinary visits and your pet will be very grateful for the improved overall health and lack of pain and discomfort in the mouth.

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

Even Mini's need their teeth looked at

With spring shortly upon us, many horse owners and riders are thinking about gearing their horses up for the upcoming season (be it mountain riding, competition, 4-H, etc.). Often this means increasing time in the saddle, and getting their horse’s annual health check and boostering their vaccines. An over looked aspect of equine health is their dental health.

Many of your  horse’s teeth are  constantly growing/erupting. This growth, how they chew, and the feed they are on, can lead to the development of sharp points on the edges of their teeth or abnormalities to the grinding surfaces of their teeth. These changes can cause damage and ulceration to their sensitive cheek tissue or their tongue, or lead to more complicated dental issues.

If you are noticing changes such as: dropping feed, tilting its head while eating or being ridden, weight loss, head tossing, poor or abnormal riding performance, a foul odour from the mouth, facial swelling, and/or nasal discharge you should have your veterinarian out to do a complete physical exam as well as dental evaluation.

Even Mini's need their teeth looked atIf you have never had a licensed veterinarian examine your horse’s teeth, now is the time! Often based on a dental exam your veterinarian can determine if your horse needs to be floated, and then how often afterwards he/she should be rechecked. We recommend annual dental exams to ensure your horse’s mouth stays happy and healthy. This evaluation should be performed before a horse goes for training, or back to work; an uncomfortable mouth can lead to riding and performance issues. Annual examinations allow veterinarians to observe and treat any issues (i.e. retained caps or baby teeth, pockets in the gums, fractured teeth, sharp points or hooks, etc.) before major dental work or surgery may be required. Depending on your horses individual needs they may not need to be floated on an annual basis, but should at least be evaluated during their annual physical.

By maintaining proper dental health for your horse, you should see that your horse is more comfortable in the bridle, can utilize feed more efficiently, and may even perform better or live longer!

At Chinook Country Vet Clinic we recommend an annual examination of the entire horse, including their mouth. When a horse is floated it should be with the assistance of sedation to make your horse more comfortable and less stressed. This will allow us to fully visualize, examine, and treat the whole mouth.  Horses should be floated and checked for wolf teeth or caps, before going to the trainer or heading back to work to ensure your horse has a comfortable mouth, and can focus on its job at hand. Horses of ANY size (mini to drafts) should be evaluated and floated if a veterinarian deems it needed.

If you have any concerns, questions, or would like to have your horse(s) evaluated please contact the clinic.

Posted by Dr. K Shacker

Diet and Exercise for a Trim Kitty

Mighty Hunter

Mighty Hunter

Obesity affects up to 80% of our cats. Obesity can cause cats to be more prone to urinary tract disease, arthritis, diabetes, and asthma. Domesticated cats burn far less calories than their wild, hunting counterparts. With the need for survival hunting reduced, cats spend far more time sleeping and often have a lot of pent up energy. In addition, our domestic cats are much more likely to gorge on food as well. Diet and exercise and the type of food are critical factors in feline obesity.

Cats need enrichment in their lives and environment to help keep them active, busy and out of trouble. Enrichment can take several forms. Many cat owners play with their cats using cat toys or a laser pointer dot to keep them active. After taunting him or her with that feather toy , i-pad game, or laser dot, be sure that you give them something to take their frustrations out on so that they don’t take it out on you or end up anxious with pent up energy. A catnip stuffed toy, some honeysuckle, or a treat will work well.

By simulating hunting and feeding behavior, your cat will be motivated to be more active and reduce the likelihood of gorging on food. Cats that have to play hunt or work for their food are more likely to notice the signals that the brain is sending to tell them ‘I am full’ and stop eating. Low cost cat Play-n-Treat Balls or Kong™ toys can be filled with dry kibble and placed in a 5cm deep casserole or cake dish. The cat is rewarded by gradually receiving kibble for batting the ball around the dish. Many cats will stop playing long before the ball is empty of kibble. A much more complex version of a cat food puzzle toy is the Pipellino™ which holds more than an entire meal for kitty and has adjustable degrees of difficulty. The Pipellino™ works well in multiple cat households. Other options for cat food puzzle toys include ‘Spin a Treat’ and homemade boxes with holes in them. Another alternative to stimulate hunting behavior and activity can be to hide food in small piles around the house for your kitty to find.

By keeping your kitty more active, stimulating hunting behavior, and reducing the likelihood of them gorging on food, you can maintain a healthier, fit kitty.





Crate Training by Dr. Donszelmann


Travel carriers or crates can be a cozy, safe haven for dogs or cats to retreat to. Both dogs and cats can be taught to sleep quietly in their crate at night. When comfortably accustomed to their crates, most pets will travel more calmly. Dogs that are trained to spend extended time in the crate alone are less likely to develop separation anxiety when their humans leave.

Conditioning pets to enjoy their crate is a simple process that generally takes only a few days and involves their regular meals and some treats. Begin by feeding your pet his meals just outside of the crate. Once he is comfortable eating near the crate, move the food bowl for his next meal just inside the door of the crate. For pets that are really jumpy, it may be useful to remove the door of the carrier for the time being. When your pet is willing to eat his entire meal with his head inside the crate, begin to move the food dish farther inside the crate with each meal.

Once your pet is eating his entire meal inside the crate, begin giving him several treats in a row all the way inside the crate to stop him from immediately darting out (being careful to not mistakenly encourage him to come forward to get the treat, rather reward him for pausing or staying there). Initially, you will feed the treats in rapid succession then gradually slowing the rate of positive reinforcement by feeding a treat every 3-5 seconds. If your dog reaches outside of the crate for a treat, he doesn’t get it. Alternatively, you can toss the treats into the crate, being sure to not accidentally lure him out of the crate. When your dog is calmly waiting for the treats inside the crate, treat him another 5-10 times.

Throughout the day, hide a tasty treat well inside of the crate for your pet to find, or affix a frozen food/treat stuffed Kong™ toy to the inside of the crate. This will help the pet learn to enjoy the comfort of the crate even more. Continue the positive reinforcement (treats) as you practice closing the door of the crate in order to prevent him from bolting out. Periodically toss treats into the crate when your dog has been quietly in there. Gradually increase the time between the treats. A MannersMinder™ can be used to reward the pet every at few second intervals (gradually increase the interval to five minutes) providing that he is quiet. If your pet is barking or whining, do not give treats until there is a lull or he is quiet again. A MannersMinder™ can also be set so that you can deliver treats by remote control when your pet is quiet. While crate training, remember to let your pet out before he is anxious or full and no longer interested in food.

With time, you should be able to teach your pet to get into the crate on a cue word. Some pets will be easier to train using attention such as scratches or patting in place of treats as the positive reinforcement. Time spent crate training your pet is invaluable. Making the crate a comfortable and safe environment for pets to travel, sleep, or spend time away from their owners will reduce their anxiety.