Kefir! It tops my list of favourite supplements to add to my dog's diet (and my own!).
Let's start with what exactly Kefir is. Pronounced kah-fear, this is a beverage that resembles yogurt. By definition, kefir means "feel good" in Turkish! Kefir grains are used to ferment a liquid, most commonly milk, and the result is a vitamin packed probiotic beverage that has a slew of health benefits so powerful we might as well call it medicine! Chock-full of healthy bacteria, protein, vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 (and B12 depending on which milk was fermented), D, K2 and folic acid, Kefir is also rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and the amino acid tryptophan.
That's all fantastic, but what are the benefits when we add Kefir to our pet's diets? Better breath, less bloating and gas, better digestion (it is FANTASTIC for clearing
up a bout of diarrhea), healthier skin and coat, helps manage histamine levels and relieve allergies, kills unhealthy yeasts...and the list goes on! If this little blurb piqued your interest, here's some more reading on kefir, the benefits of probiotics and information on proper dosages:
I trust that once you start giving this to your dog, either with food or as a little treat in the day, you'll love the changes you see and it will become a regular part of their diet - and maybe your own!
Coconut oil is something I'm sure you've heard is good for us. It's good for our hair, our nails, our skin - the world is screaming out "we love coconut oil!" and the world is RIGHT! I do love it - it goes in my morning smoothie and it goes in my hair and on my face and well, I could go on but we aren't talking about my beauty regimen.
When my dog first came to us, she was itchy and uncomfortable in her skin. She had a skin infection and had been given strong antibiotics to treat it and they weren't working. I knew we needed to treat her issues with food and one of the things I started looking into was coconut oil. While switching her food was important, coconut oil was exactly what her body needed to accelerate healing and fix her skin for now and forever!
Fatty acids in coconut oil are known for being anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiviral and that's a pretty solid base for a supplement that I wanted to use to "fix" her issues. On top of that, coconut oil helps increase energy levels, is a great immune booster (for us, too!) and speeds healing, as well as regulates metabolism to maintain a healthy weight. Need more convincing? Here you go!
I have a 4 pound tub of coconut oil that sits on my counter and I find myself using it more and more every day for a variety of things. To moisturize, to heal, to cook - it's a brilliant thing to have at hand and I'm certain you'll soon agree!
Slippery elm (Ulmus fulva) is one of the safest herbs commonly given to dogs, and one of the most beneficial.
What is Slippery Elm you ask?
It is a herbal treatment prepared from the inner bark of the Slippery or Red Elm tree. The term 'slippery' refers to the remarkable viscid gel that is formed when the powdered bark comes in contact with water.
The simplicity of preparation is everything here. Following the directions on the package for proper dosage; mix a dash of water with the powder, add it to their food and voilà! Give your pet a bit of time to get used to the smell, sometimes it'll take them a minute to try. If they still aren't going for it, try mixing it with peanut butter or coconut oil.
Your pet has the runs or struggling to poop?
Slippery elm is commonly used among pets with digestive disturbances, including both diarrhea and constipation and it is relatively mild in its effects, but quick to take action.
The lubricating qualities may also help soothe the upper respiratory passages of pets with bronchitis symptoms such as excessive coughing. The lubricating qualities are considered to be higher in dried powdered extracts of slippery elm.
Slippery Elm can be picked up in powder form at most pet stores. Ask them to grab it for you from behind the counter! It's a 'must-have' for us and our pets at VDP.
Shaping Dog Behaviour:
Teach your pup new tricks! ...Let's play with "Ring a Bell"
Set the bell where you would like it to be (i.e. next to the door, to signal to go out to pee).
Start the training session near the bell area. Wait and observe!
If your pup friend "looks" at the bell - Mark and Reward -this means to praise with a word followed by a food treat. You can also use a clicker instead of a word.
Reward a few looks at the bell. Then raise your criteria for rewards, now the dog has to take one step towards the bell to get the treat.
Be patient! Some pups might walk straight to the bell, while others will take a while to figure out what it is they need to do.
If you pet moves a little bit towards the bell - Mark and reward. Even if it was only one step.
As your pooch gets better, keep raising your criteria and reward only as he gets closer and closer to the bell.
Now you need to understand the concept of a "random reward". The first few times your pup does the right behaviour you must mark and reward every single time. However, after a few trials, you should start giving out rewards randomly, in a way which they can't predict when he is getting food and when not. This is the most important concept in shaping dog behavior. By rewarding at random times, your puppy will keep on trying. As you raise your criteria you reward every single time, until repeated success then randomly then raise your criteria again, reward every time, then randomly... and so on.
When your dog is close to the bell raise your criteria: mark and reward only if he touches the bell.
Repeat step #8 but with this new criteria. Reward every time for a handful of trials, then back to random treats.
Now that your pooch is touching the bell consistently, start rewarding only the trials in which he makes the bell ring loudly and not the feeble ones.
Finally, you can add a command by only rewarding if your kid rings the bell after you prompted with the cue. If instead, you want him to ring the bell to go pee outside, then use going outside as the reward instead of a food treat.
Have fun playing with this method and trying out all different kinds of tricks or recalls!