I honestly admit, a few years ago I had no idea that CBD existed. I mean, sure, they taught me in school what chemicals are in marijuana besides THC. But that somehow didn’t stay in my head. Then I came across CBD products. I tried it personally and I really liked the effect. Only later did I find out that CBD products were made for animals too. I guess I’m not alone in wanting the best for my pets. So I went over the topic a little bit.
What Is CBD?
Cannabidiol (known as CBD) is a compound found in cannabis and hemp. Unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it’s nonpsychoactive. You or your pet won’t get high. It’s important to mention, most CBD products are derived from hemp and not from marijuana. This compound is under continuous testing and research. But already, some studies have proven that it may be helpful with some conditions. Anxiety, pain, cancer, and arthritis, these are examples where CBD has been useful.
CBD For Animals?
We need to understand that for the time being, these are little results in deciding how effective and safe CBD is. It is also important to mention that most of the researches discussed above were conducted in humans. There are no CBD products approved by the FDA for use in animals. For now, we can mostly rely on the experience of the owners. However, in many cases, they are linked to human cases.
Human studies have shown that CBD helps with the following diseases. Let’s see what about pets!
Arthritis is the abbreviation for osteoarthritis. This is one of the most common inflammatory conditions in dogs. One in four dogs has arthritis at least once in their life. And many more of them have some degree of this disease. Research has shown that CBD can reduce pain in dogs with arthritis. You should give your dog CBD twice a day at the right dose.
As with arthritic complaints, we can treat our dogs with CBD for other inflammatory pains. Human experiments have proven that products containing both CBD and THC are more beneficial for pain relief than when either is given alone. But as I will mention below, it is not advisable to give THC to dogs.
Most CBD research in humans is on seizures. Unfortunately, limited research exists for pets. Nonetheless, there are correlations. Especially in epileptic seizures, CBD has been found to be useful in dogs. However, these benefits were noticeable when dogs were given traditional anti-seizure medications.
Like seizures, there are many types of cancer with different treatments. There are also CBD researches to treat cancer directly and alleviate secondary symptoms of cancer and chemotherapy. Unfortunately, little research has been done on dogs, but it seems promising. However, chemotherapy-induced nausea was reduced in CBD rats. This gives us reason to trust that the results will be the same with dogs.
The most commonly reported effect of CBD is to reduce anxiety. Unfortunately, the situation is not too bright here for dogs. There is no evidence that CBD would help them in this case. More research is needed.
Other inflammatory diseases, aggressive behavior and loss of appetite. These are just a few examples of where CBD can still be effective.
Is It Safe?
When it comes to THC, the answer is clear. It does not have the same effect on pets as humans and can be dangerous to them. But what about CBD? Is it better? Probably yes.
According to a 2017 World Health Organization (WHO) report, it’s safe and well-tolerated by animals. Vets, on the other hand, agree that CBD should not be given to a pet who has liver problems. The situation is similar when an animal is taking a medicine that’s metabolized by the liver.
There is no scientific data on the side effects of CBD on animals. Still, we can infer from examining side effects in humans. These side effects are dry mouth, lowered blood pressure, and drowsiness. Always adhere to the recommended dose and, if possible, start with a smaller amount and increase gradually.
What To Look For?
Alright. You know the potential advantages and disadvantages. Then you decide if you want to give CBD to your dog. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Chances are you will buy CBD online. Remember, on the internet, they want to sell you a lot of things. Don’t fall for the marketing stuff. Look for online reviews. It’s not a bad idea to start with negative reviews. Check the company. How long have they been in business? Have they been sued? Do they work with veterinarians?
If your dog accidentally comes across an unlocked CBD box, rest assured he won’t eat the prescribed daily amount of it. To keep your dog safe, be sure that you keep any CBD products out of your dog’s reach. Also, do not keep it together with other treats.
Always Choose High-Quality Products
The price of the product should not be the deciding factor in your choice. Higher prices usually mean higher quality. Look for organic, so it’s less likely to have pesticides, fungicides, or solvents. Make sure it is free of additives.
The manufacturer also should provide the documents that tell you the amount of CBD in the product. You also need to make sure there is no THC in the product.
CBD products come in many forms. Treats, oils, creams, like human products, there is a wide selection here too. There is some evidence that the oil form was more effective than the others. Dosing is also much easier with this form.
According to one study, the most effective dose with arthritis was 2 mg per kg of weight. However, be skeptical and do not take it as a basic recommendation. Each dog will react a little differently. Most products will offer dosing suggestions. But keep in mind that these are only the manufacturers’ recommendations. Since CBD isn’t regulated, no one will be able to say for sure how safe or effective it is.
The best thing you can do is start with the smallest amount possible. Then increase the dose gradually. Pay close attention to your dog’s reaction. This will help prevent possible overdose reactions.
Always Talk To Your Vet
Last but not least, it is very important to talk to your veterinarian. He will know your dog’s medical history and breed information. He may not recommend giving CBD to your dog. I’m not saying you have to listen to him in this case. But at least you played a sure game and talked to a professional about the problem.
As you can see, it is very difficult to give clear advice on CBD. It is a very little researched product, especially for dogs. This is likely to change in the future, as demand for it is already high. Personally, I may be going to give it a try in the future. At least if my dog is going to suffer from any of the problems discussed above.
Renters have an additional responsibility to make sure they are covered in the event of an accident or dog bite in their homes because they’re living in dwellings they don’t own. Simply put, if you’re renting, you should research the coverages and limits in your renters insurance policy to make sure you have adequate pet liability coverage for your dog breed and living situation.
If you have a renters insurance policy, it may already include some protections for pets such as liability coverage, which pays medical expenses and covers your legal costs up to the limit of your policy in the event that your dog bites someone. If your dog bites another dog, your liability coverage may also pay the vet expenses for the other dog. Your renters insurance liability coverage won’t protect you if your dog damages personal property that you own. However, some renters insurance policies include coverage for expensive personal property, such as expensive pet accessories, so if your pets’ designer dog dish is stolen or damaged, it may be covered.
What is the difference between pet insurance and renters insurance?
Renters who are dog owners should consider having a pet health insurance policy and a renters insurance policy with pet liability coverages because they serve different yet important purposes.
Pet insurance – Pet insurance plans help you pay for unexpected pet healthcare expenses, and, depending upon the coverage options you choose, it can also pay for pet wellness expenses.
How can renters insurance protect you and your pet?
A renters insurance policy pays for damages to your rented home and other people and their possessions when you or your pet are at fault. It also pays medical expenses when a guest is injured in your home, and it pays for extra living expenses if you can’t live in your home after a fire, flood, storm or other disaster. Some policies include liability coverage for injury and damages caused by you or your pet to other people outside your home.
An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the Insurance Information Institute found that there were 17,297 dog bite claims in the U.S. in 2018, and the average cost per claim was $39,017. Because over half of dog bite injuries occur in situations where the pet is familiar to the people it comes into contact with, it’s no wonder many landlords prefer renters to have a renters insurance policy. With policies starting at about $15 per month or $188 per year, having a renters insurance policy with pet liability coverage makes good financial sense. It could protect you from a possible lawsuit in the event of an accident or injury where you or your pet are at fault.
If you have a renters insurance policy that includes liability or damages coverages for your pets, it’s a good idea to check for coverage limits under certain conditions, such as whether an incident occurs in your rented home or outside it. You should have enough coverage on your renters policy to cover your personal possessions if they are lost, damaged or stolen and to protect you from being sued in the event that your pet injures someone or causes property damage. Your landlord may require that you purchase a renters policy as a condition of your lease or rental agreement.
Cost of renters insurance
The average cost of renters insurance is $185 per year or as little as $15 per month, but in the event of an accident or disaster, the benefits can save you thousands of dollars in damages. Considering that the average cost of a dog bite claim is almost $40,000 and about 1 in 5 people who are bitten by dogs require medical attention, it pays to have a renters policy with pet liability coverage if your dog causes damages or bites someone.
Because your renters policy won’t cover your pet’s healthcare costs, you should also consider getting a pet insurance policy. The average annual cost of pet insurance in 2017 was $516, and pet insurance for dogs costs more than for cats. Costs vary by type of animal.
There are different plans available with most falling into three categories: basic plans, comprehensive plans and pet wellness plans. Most basic plans cover vet procedures and treatment for accidents and illness such as cancer. Most of the basic plans reimburse for covered vet expenses, and many of them have caps on total reimbursements for a policy term. Comprehensive plans have more expensive premiums, but they include coverage for X-rays, prescriptions, office visits and lab fees, often with a lower deductible. Pet wellness plans reimburse for pet physicals, vaccinations and heartworm treatments.
If you have an expensive show dog, you may want to consider getting theft and life insurance policies for them so that you’re reimbursed if they’re stolen or they die in transport to an event. As a general rule, most pet insurance policies will cost less when your dog is young and the price will go up as he or she ages.
Make sure you and your pet are covered
If you have a renters policy with pet coverages, it pays to read the fine-print to see exactly what’s covered. You may decide to add additional pet insurance to your policy or to purchase a separate pet liability policy if your policy doesn’t cover everything you want it to.
Some policies only cover accidents and damages that happen in your rented home, not outside it. Others won’t cover dog bites, or they won’t cover dog breeds on their “bad breed list.” If your coverage is too limited, it may make sense to switch insurance companies or purchase an umbrella policy for additional liability coverage. Some insurance companies won’t sell you an umbrella policy if your dog is on the “bad breed list,” but some insurance companies have recently begun to offer canine liability policies to insure any dog breed.
Regardless of the type of policy you purchase, you can expect a waiting period of up to 48 hours for accidents and two weeks for some conditions to up to a year for others. Don’t wait until after something happens to purchase a policy.
What won’t renters insurance cover for pets?
The pet damages and liability coverages in your renters policy may not cover you for certain incidents or your dog breed may be denied, depending upon the state and the insurance company. Your renters policy liability limits may be significantly reduced or not applicable at all if you have one of the dog breeds on a banned breed list. You may want to purchase a personal umbrella policy or pet liability insurance for extra coverage.
Personal Umbrella Policy (PUP):Umbrella policies are designed to provide liability coverage for you and your dog where your regular policy won’t or when your renter’s policy limits are exhausted. A personal umbrella policy gives you coverage above and beyond your renters policy, such as if your dog bites someone outside your home.
Pet liability insurance: If you have a rottweiler or other breed that’s considered difficult to insure, you may need to purchase pet liability insurance instead of an umbrella policy. A pet liability insurance policy gives you additional liability coverage that your renters insurance may not include, such as coverage for dogs with a history of aggression, off-duty police dogs or extended off-premises coverage.
Why are some dogs considered more of a risk to insurance companies than others? If your dog has bitten someone, it is considered by insurers to be more of a risk than if it hadn’t, regardless of the breed. Other dogs, even if they haven’t bitten anyone, are thought of as dangerous if they are certain breed types.
Here are all the breeds on the study list, plus a few more that we found from different lists from insurance companies:
Perro de Presa Canario
With dogs being such popular pets in the U.S., it’s not a surprise that dogs can sometimes be a liability. That’s why it’s important to make sure you have adequate pet damages and liability coverages if you’re renting your home.
If you are looking to cover your pet’s health and medical costs, buy a pet insurance policy in addition to your renters policy, which you should review to ensure that you are properly covered for pet-related damages and liability. If you have a “dangerous” dog breed, consider getting an umbrella policy to cover the gaps in your renter’s policy or a pet liability policy. With the right coverage in place, if something happens later, you’ll be glad you did your homework.
Owning a dog with liver disease can be challenging. I know this for certain because my dog, Joey, a 13-year-old shih tzu, was diagnosed with a rare form of liver disease about three years ago. In his case, we found the problem quite by accident. During an exam for an unrelated issue, my vet found lesions on Joeys spleen, which subsequently had to be removed. During that operation, the vet noticed that Joey’s liver looked “odd.” He took a biopsy, which came back positive for copper storage disease.
My dog Joey, who, at 13, is still happy and doing well despite having liver disease.
That said, my and Joey’s situation was definitely atypical. Most cases of liver disease in dogs are diagnosed after symptoms appear. And since many of those symptoms are subtle, the dog may have advanced liver disease before a diagnosis is made. That’s why it’s so important for dog owners to know if their dog is at risk for liver problems and to be vigilant about spotting the signs.
Signs of Liver Disease in Dogs
The liver is a complex organ that performs many vital functions. So when it isn’t working properly, your dog may develop a variety of symptoms ranging from minor to very severe. Depending on the underlying cause (I’ll talk more about those later) they may come on suddenly or develop slowly over time.
Since there are many symptoms of liver disease, it can be helpful to look at them in the context of the functions the liver normally performs.
No. 1. Gastrointestinal Symptoms
The liver produces bile acids, which are necessary for the digestion of food, particularly fat. If this function is compromised by liver disease, your dog may have a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms. According to PetMD, these include:
A poor appetite, tiredness and vomiting and/or diarrhea may be the first sign that your dog has liver disease.
No. 2 Jaundice
The liver is also responsible for the excretion of bilirubin — a normal by-product of the breakdown of red blood cells. If the liver isn’t working properly, this yellow-tinged pigment accumulates in the body, which can give the whites of the eyes, the gums and other mucus membranes a yellow tinge. This is known as jaundice.
Excess bilirubin may also turn your dog’s urine very dark.
No. 3 Abnormal Bleeding
Another function of the liver is to produce proteins that help the blood to clot. If these proteins aren’t present in sufficient numbers, bleeding can occur. According to PetMD, signs of abnormal bleeding include:
Very dark stools
Red blood in the stool
Blood in the urine
No. 4. Ascites
Ascites is an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity. In liver disease, ascites is typically caused by a combination of abnormalities, including increased blood pressure within the liver itself and low levels of certain proteins. Dogs with ascites usually have a large, firm, distended abdomen, which may even interfere with breathing if it’s severe.
No 5. Neurological Problems
The liver is responsible for detoxifying the blood and preventing a variety of harmful substances from reaching other organs of the body. When this function is compromised, a condition known as hepatic encephalopathy (HE) may occur. Although the underlying mechanism isn’t well understood, the syndrome is probably related at least in part to the accumulation of ammonia — a byproduct of protein metabolism — in the blood. The symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy can be mild or severe, and include:
Mental dullness, failure to follow commands
A dog with hepatic encephalopathy may appear confused, wary or aggressive.
No. 6. Infections
The liver plays an important role in a dog’s immune system, so dogs with liver disease can get serious bacterial infections quite easily. Signs of infection may be difficult to detect in a dog who is already ill, but may include:
Causes and Risk Factors
Any dog can develop liver disease. However, certain factors may put your dog at increased risk. These can be congenital (the dog is born with the problem) acquired (for example, an infection or exposure to a toxin) or related to another disease. Let’s take a look at each of these categories one by one.
Congenital and Hereditary Factors
Congenital liver problems are usually referred to as “inborn.” That is, the dog is born with a defect that causes problems to develop, either early on or later in their lives. Additionally, some hereditary factors predispose certain breeds of dog to liver disease.
Here’s a rundown on a few of the most common congenital and hereditary issues you may encounter in your dog.
Congenital Portosystemic Shunt
The most common liver issue in young dogs is a congenital defect known as a portosystemic shunt. According to the Merck Manual of Veterinary Medicine, a healthy dog’s liver filters blood coming from the intestines, which prevents toxins and other harmful substances from entering the bloodstream. But in dogs with a portosystemic shunt, blood bypasses the liver via one or more abnormal blood vessels, sending unfiltered blood throughout the body. This results in a variety of symptoms, such as stunted growth and neurologic problems, including disorientation and seizures. In advanced cases, the dog may also develop ascites.
Congenital portosystemic shunt is not hereditary. But it is more common in certain breeds of dog. These include:
Generally an inherited condition, copper storage disease occurs when abnormal amounts of copper accumulate in the liver, causing chronic hepatitis (inflammation) and cirrhosis (scarring). My experience notwithstanding, it is seen most often in specific dog breeds, including Bedlington terriers, West Highland white terriers, Sky terriers, Dalmatians and Doberman pinschers.
Bedlington Terriers are genetically prone to copper storage disease, as are West Highland White Terriers and several other dog breeds.
Amyloid is a stiff, fibrous protein that can accumulate in various organs and tissues, a condition called amyloidosis. When amyloidosis affects the liver, enlargement of the liver, high liver enzymes, liver failure and/or liver rupture may occur. The disease is often familial and is seen most often in beagles, foxhounds and Chinese shar peis, says PetMD.
Infections and Toxins
Filtering the blood of toxins and other harmful substances is one of the liver’s most important jobs. To facilitate this, the organ has a rich blood supply. And while that is physiologically beneficial, it also means that anything and everything that enters a dog’s bloodstream goes through the liver, often in an unaltered state.
A number of medications have the potential to cause liver damage, even those prescribed by your veterinarian. Some of the most common culprits are drugs in the class known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDS, which are often prescribed for joint pain. Although generally safe at prescribed doses, these drugs may be harmful to the liver, especially in dogs with pre-existing liver disease, explains the FDA. If you are giving your dog NSAIDs, watch her carefully for any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above. If any of them occur, stop giving the medication, and call your vet.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is another drug that can cause liver damage in your dog. This is typically a dose-dependent reaction, meaning the more of the drug the dog ingests, the more likely liver damage will occur. However, small or young dogs can develop acetaminophen toxicity from a single, relatively small dose, according to Dr. Colleen M. Almgren, DVM, PhD. To keep your dog safe, never give her Tylenol or any drug not prescribed by your vet, and keep all medicines in a safe, secure place.
Poisons and Toxins
There are many natural and man-made substances in the environment that can damage a dog’s liver. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual. some of the most commonly encountered environmental toxins that have the potential to cause liver damage include:
Heavy metals, such as lead, mercury and cadmium
Herbicides and fungicides
Rat or mouse poison
Amanita mushrooms (death cap mushrooms)
Cycad plants (Sago palms)
Aflatoxin, a substance produced by mold
If you suspect your dog has ingested a toxin of any kind, call your veterinarian at once. If your vet can’t be reached immediately, call your local poison control center or the Pet Poison Helpline any time day or night at 800-213-6680.
Amanita phalloides, or death cap mushrooms, are highly toxic to dogs
Almost any type of organism can take up residence in the liver, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. The most common infections that may cause lasting and even life-threatening liver damage are listed below.
Infectious canine hepatitis.
Caused by a virus known as adenovirus CAV-1, canine infectious hepatitis starts in the upper respiratory tract and makes its way to the liver via the blood, says PetMD. Once there, it replicates and begins to damage liver cells.
Most dogs who become infected with canine infectious hepatitis mount an immune response to the virus and improve in several weeks. However, some dogs will develop chronic inflammation and scarring of the liver, which can have more serious consequences. They may also experience damage to the kidneys and the eyes.
Fortunately, canine infectious hepatitis is preventable with a vaccine.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection caused by the organism Leptospira interrogans. Dogs often contract the infection by drinking water from contaminated sources, according to PetMD. The disease is treatable with antibiotics and supportive care. However, permanent liver and kidney damage may occur.
Both histoplasmosis and coccidioidomycosis are fungal infections that can severely damage the livers of dogs. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, symptoms include an enlarged liver and fluid buildup in the abdomen. The dog’s eyes and gums may be also be jaundiced (yellow-tinged.)
Treatment of both infections usually involves a course of antifungal drugs. However, the outlook for recovery from histoplasmosis is poor. Coccidioidomycosis may be treated successfully with very long-term administration of antifungal therapy, but relapse is common. Some dogs must take antifungal medication for life.
Although often associated with cats, toxoplasmosis can infect dogs as well, causing rapid destruction of liver cells. Caused by the parasite toxoplasma gondii, the infection usually affects young dogs or dogs whose immune system is not working well. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea and low energy. Signs of acute liver failure, such as jaundice and ascites, can also occur.
Some endocrine disorders predispose dogs to developing liver disease. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, the most common of these are Cushing disease, diabetes, and hyperthyroidism. If your vet has diagnosed your dog with any of these disorders, it’s important to be vigilant for any signs of liver disease.
Just like their human counterparts, dogs can develop cancer in many organs of the body, including the liver. Primary liver cancers (cancers originating in the liver) are usually hepatocellular carcinoma, a malignant tumor that originates in the tissue that lines the liver, explains PetMD. If the tumor is localized to one lobe of the liver, it can often be surgically removed. Sadly, however, the likelihood that the cancer has spread by the time surgery is performed is quite high, and many dogs succumb to the disease within several months.
Treating Liver Disease: What You Can Do
Obviously, liver disease in dogs is multifaceted problem, and medical treatment will depend on the underlying cause. In some cases, such as that of a young dog with a portosystemic shunt, surgery can correct the defect and your dog can go on to lead a long, healthy life. But for many dogs, inflammation and scarring from the underlying disease process leads to chronic, long term liver dysfunction. These dogs will need ongoing support from you and your vet in order to live their best lives.
Diet is of paramount importance for dogs with liver disease. Whether the illness is acute (short term) or chronic, your dog needs sufficient calories to maintain their weight while the liver tries to repair itself. (Yes, liver cells can regenerate!) This can be challenging, since your dog may have a poor appetite and vomit after he eats. He may also have diarrhea, which means he will have a harder time absorbing the nutrients in his food. Offer him small meals frequently throughout the day, and try hand-feeding him if his dietary intake is poor.
Your veterinarian may recommend a special diet, especially if your dog has hepatic encephalopathy. Most of these “veterinary diets” contain limited amounts of protein in order to minimize the amount of ammonia entering the blood. You should know, however, that limiting protein in the diets of dogs with liver dysfunction is controversial, and may not be appropriate for your dog. According to guidance from U.C. Davis Veterinary School, the need for dietary protein may actually be increased in many dogs with liver disease.
Eggs may be an option to add an appropriate amount of protein to the diet of a dog with hepatic encephalopathy.
Switching to a vegetarian diet with eggs and cheese as the primary protein source may be a good option for a dog with HE, since evidence shows that neurological symptoms tend to worsen after a meat-based meal. That said, always speak with your vet before changing your dog’s diet, and consult a pet nutritionist if you need additional guidance about meeting your dog’s nutritional needs.
Diets for Copper Storage Disease
If your dog has copper storage disease, limiting his copper intake can help prevent further liver damage and oxidative stress. This, too, can be challenging, since most commercially prepared dog foods add supplemental copper, and copper is also present in significant amounts in certain dog-food ingredients, such as salmon, lamb, whole grains and legumes. At the same time, currently available commercially prepared veterinary diets for dogs with liver disease contain very little protein, so they may not be the best choice for your dog. To solve this dilemma, I’ve chosen to feed Joey a homemade diet made with low-copper ingredients, limited fat and adequate amounts of protein. But make sure you speak with your vet before taking this route.
Many veterinarians recommend dietary supplements for dogs with liver disease. These include antioxidants such as vitamin E and vitamin C, S-adenosyl-methonine (SAMe) and silymarin (milk thistle.) On the advice of my vet, Joey takes Denamarin, which contains both SAMe and silymarin. He also takes a zinc supplement, which the vet believes may help to reduce the amount of copper in his liver by slowing down copper absorption from his gut. I also give him MCT oil (medium-chain triglycerides), because there is some evidence that it helps to protect the liver from further injury.
Silamarin, a supplement that may help dogs with liver disease, is made from the milk thistle plant.
Rest and Exercise
If your dog has active liver disease, she probably will not have the same amount of energy she had before she was ill. Liver disease in and of itself can cause your dog to be more tired, and poor nutrition due to gastrointestinal symptoms can sap her energy as well. Abdominal distention from ascites may make it harder for your dog to breathe, causing her exercise tolerance to drop. And, of course, if your dog has a fever, she will need more rest.
Pay attention to cues from your dog as to how much exercise she can tolerate at any given time. If she seems eager to go for a walk, by all means take her, but make it a shorter walk than the walks she took before she became ill. If she seems tired and listless, let her stay indoors except for potty breaks. Joey has good days and bad days, and I’m sure your dog will too.
As you can see from the above, liver disease in dogs is a complex problem with many underlying causes, some of which are easily treatable but many of which are not. Chronic liver problems are common following infections, the ingestion of toxins, or as a result of hereditary defects that doctors don’t fully understand. The important thing for you to remember, however, is that a dog with liver disease can lead a happy, fulfilling life with the right medical care, and lots of love and support from you.
Roll over is a classic doggy trick that serves little function but to entertain adoring owners. But don’t let the cuteness of this command trick you into thinking its an easy one to train.
Roll over is a complex command, meaning it takes multiple steps for your dog to understand what the full behavior looks like. And then even more steps to train them to do it based on a single cue. But that doesn’t mean your pooch can’t master the roll over. With a little dedication, some creativity, and an understanding of different trick training methods, you’ll have your dog rolling across the floor in no time.
Teaching Complex Behaviors
Remember back to your dog’s first days of training. The first command you probably ever taught them was sit. While every new command is a struggle for a young puppy or a new dog who isn’t familiar with listening to their human counterparts, sit is one of the most straight forward commands a dog will learn.
It involves only one movement: dropping their bum to the floor. On the opposite end of the trick training spectrum are more complex behaviors. Ones that require multiple movements to complete the trick. Roll over, for instance, requires your dog to lay down, drop to their side, roll onto their back, roll onto their other side, and then get up again.
If you try to teach this complex behavior as one fluid movement, your dog will probably give up before they learn the trick. Instead, you have to break the behavior up, rewarding each piece and then building on it as your dog understands what is being reinforced.
Teaching your dog to sit is fairly straightforward. But teaching your dog to run over and sit in a chair on command takes an understanding of more complex training techniques.
But how do you get your dog to perform these behaviors, in full or in part?
For the majority of complex behavior training, you are going to use a combination of luring and shaping. For very specialized behaviors or for dogs that struggle with luring, you may even have to resort to catching. Understanding how to use each of these techniques properly is key to training your dog any multi-stage trick.
Luring is probably something you’re already familiar with, even if you didn’t realize it. This is simply the act of manipulating your dog’s movements by enticing them to follow a treat or toy. The easiest way to teach your dog to sit is to place a treat in front of their nose and move it up slowly, which causes their rump to drop to the floor as they try to follow the treat with their nose.
This is luring. And this same technique can be used to get your dog to move in all sorts of interesting ways. You can use it to train anything from a leashless heel to running through weave poles on an agility course.
But the key with luring, no matter the trick, is to do it in short bursts. If you try to lure your dog through the entire stand of weave poles the first time around, your dog is going to lose interest in following the treat before you finish. Instead, you need to lure them through one set of poles and then reward them. Once they understand that piece of the behavior, then you can lure them through one set of poles and back through the next. And then reward them for that.
By building up pieces of the behavior in this way, you keep your dog interested. And the more frequent rewards keep their confidence up so they’ll keep trying to finish the behavior, no matter how complex.
Like a horse following a carrot, luring involves using an enticing treat or toy to get your dog to move in a certain way.
A similar technique to luring is targeting. To use targeting to teach your dog new behaviors, you first have to teach them to touch your hand or a target stick with their nose. You can then use your hand or target stick to manipulate their movements just as you would with a treat lure. One benefit of targeting is you can teach your dog to touch your hand or the stick with different parts of their body, like their paw, or even their hip. This makes it even easier to get them to move in the way that you need.
Shaping is another useful training technique, especially for complex behaviors. Shaping often comes into play after you have set up the basic behavior using luring or targeting. Once your dog will perform an approximation of a trick, you can shape it into what you want by selectively rewarding the attempts that most closely resemble the final product.
For instance, if I want my dog to wave, I would use targeting to get my dog to lift her paw when I raise my hand. At first, that behavior will be very brief: she’ll lift her paw quickly to swat at my hand and then set it back down. Once she is consistently lifting the paw when I give the cue, then I will start shaping it by only rewarding her for lifts that last one full second. Once she is consistently offering one-second lifts, then I will only reward her for lifts that last two seconds. Then I will only reward two-second lifts that are higher than six inches. Then higher than eight inches.
By selectively rewarding closer and closer approximations, I can shape a rough behavior into a polished trick.
Shaping requires you to pay extra close attention as a trainer. You need to be quick to mark any change in behavior, no matter how small, that is a closer approximation of the final behavior you are wanting to train.
If you’re trying to train your dog to perform a behavior on command, that you can neither lure nor shape into existence, then you’ll have to rely on catching.
One of the best examples of a behavior you have to teach by catching is training your dog to sneeze on cue. To do this, you would simply wait for your dog to sneeze, and then flood him with praise and treats. After rewarding the behavior when your pet does it naturally, you are increasing the likelihood they’ll do it again.
Now, it will take multiple reps before your dog realizes why they are being rewarded. And maybe even longer for them to use the behavior to actively try to get a reward. But eventually, your dog will start offering a sneeze in exchange for a treat. Once this happens, all you have to do is pair it with a cue and continue to reinforce them for doing it.
Teaching your dog to do a natural behavior on cue, such as sneezing or blinking, takes time to train since it can take time to catch the behavior while it happens. Marking a blink is harder than it sounds (and much harder than catching one on camera)!
Obviously, catching can be a time-consuming way to train a trick. But, it may be the only way to get your dog to perform certain behaviors on cue. Some dogs are reluctant to be lured. I’ve come across this phenomenon multiple times when trying to train small dogs how to down on command. In cases like these, catching may be the easiest (and the quickest, believe it or not) way to get results.
Now that you understand the different techniques that go into training a complex behavior like roll over, you are almost ready to get started. But, if your dog doesn’t know how to down consistently on cue, you’ll want to start by teaching or brushing up on that behavior first.
It is possible to lure your dog into a down position and then lure them over onto their side but it adds unnecessary complexity to an already complex trick. Plus, by teaching your dog to lay down first, you’ll have an opportunity to practice your luring skills.
How to Teach Your Dog to Roll Over
Find a quiet space in your house with enough room on the floor for your dog to roll around. You’ll be spending a lot of time on the floor too, so a comfy rug or carpet is a big plus. Load your treat bag with plenty of high-value treats.
You’ll need to use a positive marker to let your dog know when they have moved in the correct way. If your dog is clicker trained, you can use your clicker for this. If not, you can just use a verbal marker like “yes!” or “good dog!”
If your dog is familiar with trick training, you’ll probably be able to train this behavior in one session. If they aren’t familiar or are easily distracted, it may take three or four sessions. If your dog doesn’t easily lure, it may require you to use the catching technique, which could even take weeks! In any case, be patient and move at your dog’s pace.
Step 1: Lure into a side lay
Start by asking your dog to down. Once they are laying, check the position of their rear legs. If they are “lazy laying” you’ll see one leg kicked out to the side of their body. In this case, you’ll need to lure them to roll onto the opposite side. If they are in an upright down with each rear leg folded at their side, then you can lure to either side.
The image on the left shows a dog in a “lazy down.” It would be very difficult for this dog to roll to his left. The image on the right shows a dog in a normal down who can easily roll to either side.
Take a treat in your dominant hand and put it up to your dog’s nose. They can lick at it, but don’t let them get it. Slowly move your hand around toward the side of their ribcage. If you want your dog to roll to the left, you’ll move your hand to the right and vice versa.
Your dog’s nose should follow your hand until their neck is bent all the way around. At this point, move your hand up toward their spine slightly. This should cause your dog to fall onto their side. The moment their side hits the ground, use your positive marker, give your dog the treat, and praise them.
TIP: If your dog struggles to follow your lure, try moving slower or keeping your hand farther from their body as you move it back. If they still struggle, try a higher value treat. You may also have to play with the positioning to get your dog to roll onto their side. Don’t be afraid to get creative.
After you reward your dog, entice them into a stand then ask them to down again and repeat the process. Lure your dog onto the same side you did during the first rep. If your dog “lazy downs” with their legs on the side they need to roll to, get them up and ask for a down again. You may even have to lure them to get them to fold their legs back under themselves.
Continue luring your dog onto their side until they easily plop over without having to follow the full lure.
Keep practicing luring your dog onto their side until they will easily move into the position without having to follow your lure. If they move into the position faster than your hand moves, this is a good indication they are ready for the next step.
Step 2: Lure onto the back
Once your dog seems to understand that they are being rewarded for moving onto their side, we are going to start asking them to do a little more before they are rewarded.
Put your dog in a down and then lure them onto their side as you did before. Then keep luring them to move onto their back by moving the treat from the center of their ribs toward their back. Keep your hand and the treat parallel with the ground as you move it.
TIP: Make sure to move your hand slowly so your dog’s nose stays with it. If your dog flips their head around and rolls back onto their stomach, you’ll have to adjust your lure. Try moving your hand higher up so they can follow it easier with their nose. Or move your hand closer to their head so their neck isn’t bent as far.
Adjust your lure as needed to coax your dog to roll onto their back. Once they do, use your positive marker and reward them.
Repeat the above process until your dog will easily move from a down onto their back.
If your dog happens to roll off their back by completing a full roll over give them extra praise and an additional reward. If they only roll off their back the direction they came, that’s fine too. We’ll focus on getting them to roll the opposite way in the next step.
By breaking the roll over into steps and then building them on top of each other one at a time, you can create a more polished end behavior.
Step 3: Lure onto opposite side
Start with your dog in a down and lure them onto their back as you did before. This time, do not give them the treat once they are on their back.
Instead, continue to lure them to flop onto their opposite side by moving your hand from directly above their nose in an arch toward the ground. Wait until your dog’s entire side, not just their head, turns and rolls onto the floor.
Once their side hits the floor, use your positive marker and reward them.
Repeat this full process until your dog will easily move from a down and roll all the way on to their opposite side.
In this video, you’ll see how to start training the roll over command by luring your dog onto their side, then their back, and finally over onto their opposite side.
Step 4: Reduce the lure
Eventually, you’ll want your dog to be able to perform a roll over just by you saying the cue. But to get to this point, you first have to wean your dog off the lures you used to build the behavior.
The first thing we are going to do is get rid of the extra down command. With your dog standing in front of you, lure them into a down. Because you have been doing the same sequence of behaviors for multiple reps now, they should easily plop into a down without much luring.
Then start your lure to get them to roll as you did before. But this time, once your dog is on their back and starting to roll onto the opposite side, stop luring and stand up. Your dog should complete the roll and jump up looking for their treat. Mark the behavior and reward them.
TIP: If your dog rolls back the opposite way and gets up, don’t reward them. Try the above steps again, but this time lure them a little farther onto their opposite side before getting up. If they are already moving in that direction before you stop luring, they should have no problem finishing the roll on their own.
Repeat that sequence a until your dog completes the behavior correctly multiple times in a row. Then, lure them through down and onto their side again, but this time stop luring and stand up as your dog is moving from their side onto their back.
If they complete the roll, reward them. If not, lure a little farther before standing up and then work to reduce that lure with each rep.
As you reduce your lures, keep in mind that your dog has been watching more than your hands for cues of what to do. How you lean down, kneel, or sit also needs to be reduced incrementally. If you go from sitting while teaching roll over to suddenly standing, your dog is likely to get confused.
By only rewarding your dog when they complete the full roll, you are shaping the behavior into a polished trick. Using the shaping technique helps you get rid of your lure.
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Step 5: Introduce the cue
Once your dog will easily roll over when lured into a down and onto their side, you are ready to add a cue.
We’ll call this behavior “roll over” but you can name it whatever you would like. Just keep the cue consistent. We’ll also build a hand cue for this command out of our remaining lure, but for now, we will focus on the verbal cue.
This time, before you lure your dog into a down, say “roll over!” in an excited tone. Lure your dog only as much as needed and then praise and reward them once they complete the roll.
Repeat this process over and over. We want our dogs to learn to associate the word “roll over” with the behavior they have been doing. Associations like this take time to build, so be sure to do a couple dozen reps with the new cue before moving on.
In an attempt to get their reward faster, your dog might try to roll onto their back then quickly flip back the same way and jump up. Make sure you only reward them for completing the full roll.
Step 6: Remove remaining lures
Once your dog has made an association between rolling over and the word “roll over” then you are ready to get rid of the remaining lures.
This can be tough for many dogs, especially if you’ve moved too fast through any of the previous steps. If your dog gets confused and stops performing the roll at any point, back up a few steps and try again.
With your dog standing in front of you, say “roll over” and move your hand with a treat quickly from their nose toward the ground. But this time, only bend over yourself, don’t kneel. Once your dog has downed, quickly move your hand in a large circle near their head in a less exaggerated lure than what you were doing before.
If your dog completes the roll over, praise and reward them. If not, try again but move more slowly.
During the next rep, repeat the same process, but this time do not hold a treat in your hand. Your hand will still be used to guide your dog in the right direction, but they’ll be following it for guidance, not to try to get a treat.
Repeat this process until you have a few successes in a row.
From that point, continue making your lures less exaggerated and using only an empty hand. In addition to reducing your hand movements, you also need to bend over less and less each time.
Work at this until you are able to give your roll over command, make a small circle in the air with you hand while standing up straight, and have your dog perform the full roll over.
In this video, you’ll see how to reduce your lures, introduce a verbal cue, and transform your remaining lures into a simple hand cue.
Troubleshooting the Roll Over Command
As I mentioned above, luring doesn’t work for all dogs. If your dog struggles to follow the lure, and upping the value of the treats doesn’t work, you may have to try a different technique.
Catching the behavior and reinforcing your dog for doing it is the next best approach. But this doesn’t mean you have to wait around all day for your dog to happen to roll over. You can try different things to increase the odds that your dog will roll over on their own.
For instance, many dogs like to roll on their backs on the grass or after swimming or getting back from a long walk. Consider when your dog typically rolls and try to create that situation. Once your dog rolls onto their back, use your positive marker and reward them. Repeat the process as many times as your can.
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Once your dog understands what they are being rewarded for, they should start rolling intentionally to earn a treat. At this point, you can start shaping the behavior by selectively rewarding only the times your dog rolls from one side to the other. Then shape it further to only reward your dog once they roll all the way over and get up.
Many dogs (apparently not this one!) will only roll over on soft surfaces. If your dog is struggling with this trick, try moving to a carpeted area or putting down an extra rug.
Trick Training is Fun!
Sound like a lot of work? It shouldn’t be! Trick training is all about having fun with your dog. Unlike normal training commands like sit, stay, and wait, trick training has no serious implications. You should use it as an opportunity to have fun with your dog.
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Not only does working with them in this way provide an opportunity for doggy mental enrichment, but it should also help you learn to better communicate with them. As you teach your dog to roll over, consider how your body language affects them and how you can apply this to your everyday interactions.
If you keep this in mind as you train, not only will you come out of this exercise with a fun new trick to show off, but you’ll also gain a stronger bond with your pooch.
As a clinical veterinarian food issues come up with my clients every day. Like so many things in life, there are a lot of choices good and bad to sort through.
Can My Dog Eat This ? Toxic Foods For Dogs.
Let me throw a little background in here for you. When we are talking about dog food there is one giant difference between us and dogs. We eat a variety of foods to balance our nutrition, dog food is totally balanced. Every piece of kibble or mouthful of pate has the proper nutritional balance. So every item we add to the diet unbalances it. It’s tough to accept, I know. We spend our lives learning about food groups and balance and we try to apply this to our dogs, but it doesn’t work. So all of the non-dog food items should be considered treats, and should be kept in very low proportions, ideally less than ten percent of the total daily calories.