22 April 2010

Poster Dog

Blaze (Varazs Kedves Quasar NAVHDA NA Prize III) is the poster dog for the month of April in the Vizsla Society of Ontario's 2010 Rescue Calendar. Below is the winning photo taken by Blaze's owner, Barna Tanko of Alberta.  Blaze is (IMO), a very handsome boy.

20 April 2010

AZ Diaries

From our home in Ontario to our home in Arizona is about 3,594 km or 2,233 miles (one way).  If we were to drive non-stop, it would take us 35 hours.  Of course, that’s impossible for humans and canines to do in one stretch, so the first time we made the trip, we did it in four days.  Why ‘so long’ you might ask?  Not that we are a ‘little older’, we humans find sitting for 9 to 10 hours produces a lot of stiffness so we set that timeframe as our maximum target per day.  And, once outside of Indiana, there are huge stretches of "nothingness" so planning our itinerary was dependent on locating a pet-friendly hotel that didn’t tack on huge surcharges for dogs and somewhere decent to eat.

Our Vizslas have generally always been good travellers.  Over the past 30 years that we’ve been owned by this breed, only one Vizsla, "Buster", was initially a terrible traveller even though he actually loved being in a car.  Buster suffered badly from motion sickness when we acquired him at the age of 16 months, to the point where just sitting in a car without any motion was enough to produce buckets of drool.  However, with the help of Gravol (an anti-nausea drug), it took about two years to desensitize him so that he wouldn’t drool or vomit on any trips. Eventually, he didn’t need any Gravol whatsoever. Of the six puppies Buster sired, a daughter developed similar symptoms but the owners chose to not deal with it and so she never became accustomed to travelling. But since I compete with our dogs in a variety of venues, they ‘have’ to like going in a car and as puppies, I always introduce them to the car in a gradual way.  So it was a bit of a novel development in our current brood that one dog has developed a car anxiety. "Tyro" had been a good traveller for the first year of his life until our 15-year old Vizsla, "Sasha", passed away. Twice a week up to that point, the two of them would accompany each other on a 25 minute trip for their swims at a hydrotherapy spa in Georgetown, ON.  The car never bothered Tyro but soon after Sasha crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I noticed that Tyro would start to pant after only about 5 minutes in a moving vehicle. There was no drool or vomiting, just panting.  Putting him in the front seat made it even worse.  After discussion with my vet, we tried a drug to see whether he was actually feeling nauseous as opposed to anxious, but the drug had no effect on him. 

So the prospect of taking a dog with a car anxiety on a 3,600 Km road trip was very daunting, especially for him.  But being a dog and not a human, he didn’t know what lay in store and couldn’t fret about it beforehand. However, I seriously considered leaving Tyro behind for our two-month stay with a good friend of mine but in the end, decided that a few days of discomfort would hopefully be more than offset by the prospect of being with his people and getting away from the cold, snowy, and icy Canadian winter for two months.  But, what could I do to make Tyro feel less anxious in a moving car?  Since I shape my dogs’ behaviour and use positive reinforcement, I tried ways of making the car positive.  All the methods I used were only successful when the car was not moving.  As soon as it started to move, Tyro would not accept any treats. 

Then I read about the calming properties of lavender oil in Dogs In Canada magazine and decided to try it on Tyro.  Well, I was surprised and delighted to see it actually had a positive effect!  Sprinkling 3 or 4 drops onto his bedding in the car helped him so much that travelling for 25 minutes back and forth for his hydrotherapy sessions almost became non-eventful.  But how would he fare over the course of 3,600 Km., in a moving vehicle for 9 to 10 hours per day?  Given how much time dogs spend sleeping, I was certain he would not be able to stay awake for an entire day and would eventually fall asleep.

Well, we just had to bite the bullet and hope that the lavender oil would do the trick.  And it did for about three to four hours before needing more.  It definitely helped to reduce Tyro’s anxiety but it never completely eliminated it because during the time we were in motion, Tyro never slept. The girls would be passed out in their crates for most of the daily journey, but Tyro always had his head up, eyes half-open for the entire time in the car.  I tried putting a Bowsers Donut Bed in Tyro’s crate, hoping that he might at least rest his head. He came close several times but never chilled out enough to drop off to sleep. So, it was never very long after we checked into a hotel each night that Tyro would pass out cold for the night.

While in the US, I was able to purchase two spray bottles of DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) which has some scientific basis as a calming agent in canines.  I hoped this might be the panacea for Tyro but it wasn’t as successful at reducing his anxiety as the lavender oil. (DAP is available in Canada but only through a veterinarian.) In the end, I hope Tyro agrees that the discomfort of being in a car for the long journey to our winter home in Arizona is worth the four-day drive to be with his people and to experience mild winters!

Below: Diva getting acclimatized to her new home in AZ.

No human furniture yet but the dogs,
Tyro & Diva, have their Bowser's Beds to sleep on.

Diva  (below) exploring the new dog park.