A Publication of St. Louis Critter Sitters
March 2007

Breed of the Month –The Alaskan Malamute

DESCRIPTION   The Alaskan Malamute is a large, strong Arctic dog with a thick, coarse double coat and a plumed tail held over the back. It is a ponderous dog, well built, with a solid body, wide head, and a proud expression. The feet are furry and have tough pads. It has erect ears and small, dark, almond shaped eyes. The eyes are obliquely placed in the skull. Eyes are brown, almond shaped and of medium size and look like those of a wolf, but with a sweet expression. Dark eyes are preferred. Blue Eyes are a Disqualifying Fault. The coat averages one to three inches in length and comes in white, black & white, wolf gray, wolf sable (red undercoat with dark gray outer coat), or red, often with darker highlights and sometimes with a dark mask or cap. The legs and muzzle are almost always white. In some areas, dogs may be either smaller or larger than the official standard.

TEMPERAMENT   The Alaskan Malamute is like a rambunctious puppy. The Malamute is extremely loyal and intelligent, sweet and most affectionate toward its master. They are great with children who are old enough to play with him safely. Generally they mature into a dignified and mellow adult dog. They are very friendly and therefore are not suitable as a guard dogs. Malamutes like the outdoors, but are happiest living indoors with companionship from their human ‘pack’.

Trash Talkin’

Thousands of years ago, wolves were attracted to the garbage humans threw away. Seeing their usefulness as companions and guardians, humans tamed and adopted them, and thus was the dog born. So the theories go.

Fast-forward to the present day, and our main occupation is keeping the dog away from the garbage. Never mind the noble history of our primitive ancestors -- you're tired of finding discarded vegetables and chewed plastic wrap all over the kitchen floor.

So how do you keep a dog away from the trash? Well, keep in mind that you have centuries of instinct working against you here. Trainers, speaking frankly, first recommend the path of least resistance: keep the trash away from the dog.

Put it in a cupboard; place it on a counter; seal it inside a heavy, immobile steel can with a pedal opener; lock it in a different room altogether. Problem solved. "It's better to avoid having a problem," said Carolyn Gasnier, a Hyattsville, Md., dog trainer with Excellent Dog. "That's easier than trying to do something about it, because it's not a really bad problem, like aggression."

Ms. Gasnier keeps her garbage in a lined wood can, topped with a lid, in the utility room adjacent to the kitchen. Her two Doberman Pinschers don't have the opportunity to get into the trash and don't try, although they do like to shred paper. She's coped with that issue by using a lidded trash can in the bathroom.

But sometimes options are more limited. Really determined dogs might not stop at a good lid, said canine behaviorist Amy Tester of Canine Insight, Jessup, Md. "Mine won't stop with the lid to the dog food bin.

Many of the garbage-tipping problems are best prevented than cured. You can do that partially by never giving the dog the chance to get in the trash, but that's only one step.

When you feed your dog human food, you acquaint them with its smell and taste. It's natural then for them to follow that smell to the trashcan, which is to their eyes a storage receptacle for those marvelous scents and tastes.

Dogs are attracted first to the smell, she said. That's why they'll dissect your entire garbage can instead of grabbing the leftovers on top. "They will dig through everything in the garbage to get to it, even if it's an empty container, because that's where the smell comes from," Ms. Tester said.

She doesn't recommend never feeding dogs human food -- in fact she advocates giving them some cooked vegetables and bits of meat. But she does warn people to watch how they serve it. When you feed a dog from the table, you teach it that that's where food comes from, and it'll follow the table leftovers to their next resting place -- the trash.

One prime example: a client who let his dog lick the dishes as he was putting them in the dishwasher. Then the dog decided that the cleaning was an egregious waste of food he could otherwise eat. The dog started guarding the dishwasher, growling at its owners to keep them away. "The dog claimed it – ‘This is mine,' " she recalled.

If you feed your dog human food, feed it only in its bowl, she said. The bowl should be the source of food, not the table or counter. Don't feel bad about crating your dog while you eat -- Ms. Tester did it, and her dog now goes automatically to its crate during dinnertime, and lies there waiting. She doesn't even have to close the door.

Then, when you're done, you can feed the dog in its crate, which it considers its room anyway, she said. It's not the best idea to feed the dog in the kitchen -- again, you're forming associations you may not want the dog to make.

Once the bad habits form, life gets more difficult. If you can't remove the garbage from the picture, there are a few different methods you can try.

If your dog approaches the trash can, you should interrupt it before it engages in the behavior, said Eugene Jubilee, a Baltimore, Md., behavior consultant and trainer.

You can do that with a shake can or command if you're home, or you can use a mechanical deterrent. There's the Snappy Trainer, a mousetrap-like device that startles the animal by making a loud "slapping" noise when triggered. Or you can try a Scat Mat, which gives off a mild electrical shock when stepped upon.

The intention is to make the garbage can itself the source of the correction, not the owner -- you can't be home all the time. "You ultimately want the trashcan to say æno' itself," Mr. Jubilee said.
If, later, the dog begins to approach the can and then stops, remembering the past correction, you should reward him for his good behavior, Mr. Jubilee said.

You can also work more actively with the dog. You can teach a "leave it" command, and use it when you're home and see the dog approaching the trash. When the dog stops, praise and reward it, saying, "Good leave it!" Ms. Tester said.

You can also work with leaving the dog alone with the trash in small time increments, she said. Put down the Scat Mat and leave the house for a few minutes. If you come back and the trash is undisturbed, praise the dog and reward him. Do this successively; increasing the amount of time you're gone with each trip. This will help with any separation anxiety facets of the behavior -- when the dog tears into the garbage out of nervousness.

If the dog overturns the trashcan while you're gone, say nothing. Just take the dog from the room and clean up the mess out of its sight. It's pointless to discipline the dog unless you catch the animal in the act -- it won't understand why you're correcting it.But if you possibly can, try not to tempt the dog in the first place. Remember, those smells are terribly difficult for an animal to pass up. "It is a lot to ask," Ms. Tester said.

Labs are still Numero Uno!

For the 16th year, the Labrador Retriever is AKC’s number one dog in individual and litter registrations with numbers that dwarf the totals of the second place Golden Retriever. A total of 137,867 individual Labradors were registered in 2005, down a bit from 146,714 in 2004.

Remaining breeds in the Top 10 were: Golden Retriever, 48,509; Yorkshire Terriers, 47,238; German Shepherd Dogs, 45,014; Beagles, 42,952; Dachshunds, 38,566; Boxers, 37,268; Poodles, 31,638; Shih Tzu, 28,087; and Miniature Schnauzers, 24,144.

This is the Yorkie’s first time in the number three spot; the little terrier jumped from fifth spot in 2004 to pass both the Beagle and the GSD.

AKC registers 154 breeds of dogs. In sharp contrast with the Top 10, the bottom 10 may as well be categorized as rare breeds. Here are their stats beginning with the Komondorok in 145th place with 76 registrations. Sealyham Terriers and Canaan Dogs had 75 registrations each; Finnish Spitz had 61; Dandie Dinmont Terriers, 51; Glen of Imaal Terriers, 49; American Foxhounds, 48; Otterhounds, 44; Harriers, 42; and English Foxhounds, 22.

Overall registrations were down from 958,641in 2004 to 920,804 in 2005 but are higher than the 2003 total of 915,671.

St. Louis Critter Sitters
Recipe Corner

Beef Jerky Bait

  • ½ cup Honey
  • 1 cup Crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 cups Chicken Broth or Water
  • 1/3 cup Peanut Oil
  • 1 cup Rolled Oats
  • 1 cup Oat bran
  • 3 – 4 cups Oat flour


Preheat oven to 350 ° F (180 ° C).
In a small dutch oven or large saucepan, combine honey, peanut butter (try to find a brand that has no added suger, salt or other ingredients; ideally it should only contain peanuts), chicken broth, and peanut oil. Heat, stirring often, until mixture begins to simmer. Remove from heat. Stir in rolled oats and oat bran and let cool until lukewarm -- or cool enough to work with. Gradually blend in oat flour, adding enough to form a stiff dough.
Transfer to a floured (oat flour or rye flour) surface and knead until smooth (about 3-5 minutes). Shape the dough into a ball, and roll to 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick. Use a mini-cookie cutter or cut into small squares. Transfer to ungreased baking sheets, spacing them about 1/4 inch (6 mm) apart. Gather up the scraps, roll out again, and cut additional biscuits. If the dough becomes too crumbly to work with after a few rollings, sprinkle with a little water to bind it together and knead it for 30 seconds or so.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and turn over. Bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until golden brown on both sides. After you finish baking all batches of biscuits, turn off the oven, spread all the biscuits in one baking pan and set them in the oven to cool for a few hours or overnight. The extra time in the oven as it cools off helps make the treats crispier. These make a more delicate crunchy biscuit, so we use them more for special or training treats, not tartar control.
Makes several dozen small treats that keep and freeze well.

Hurricane aftermath: More puppies; more attention to disaster plans

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita highlighted the need for a national disaster plan for animals, and the American Veterinary Medical Association established a core committee to conduct a summit meeting to address the issue. Participants will be the AVMA, including representatives of its four veterinary medical assistance teams; veterinary colleges in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas; federal departments of agriculture and emergency relief management; the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; and the Humane Society of the US.

The relief effort to save dogs and other animals made homeless by these devastating storms was monumental. Groups that responded were immediately made aware of the lack of resources and training for handling thousands of animals that needed food, medical attention, and a dry place to sleep. Ultimately, thousands of dogs and other animals were moved from the disaster area to shelters, rescues, and foster homes throughout the US. Many were eventually reunited with their owners, but most were released for adoption to new families. The cost of transportation, medical care, housing, and food was borne by individual shelters and foster families and by donations to HSUS and the ASPCA.

Meanwhile, because spay and neuter campaigns and services are lacking in the region, many dogs remain in the storm areas, fending for themselves and producing the next generation of shelter puppies.

Caring For Your Dog

A dog relies on its owner to keep it in good health, both physically and emotionally. There are many important things that you can do to ensure the well-being of your dog in both of these areas.
There a number of signs of good health. They include: healthy flexible skin, devoid of scabs, growths or red patches, a healthy coat, whether long or short, bright shiny eyes, a cool moist nose, firm pink gums, and a regular temperature and heart-rate.

To help ensure good health you can provide regular vaccinations for your dog. This will help keep your dog free of serious illnesses. Also, consult your vet about spaying or neutering. This does in fact reduce risks of certain injuries and stresses. A spayed female doesn't attract males in the same way as an unsprayed female, and neutered males are less prone to wander. Other than this, your dog's personality will remain unchanged.

Emotionally, dogs need attention. The amount depends on the breed, but all dogs seek affection in one way or the other. Your dog's physical and emotional health will be enhanced by regular activity, again, in increments depending on breed. Some dogs can actually suffer from too much activity, so balance is key.

Make time for your dog. A scratch on the ear is good, but a walk with a game of catch, complete with regular pats on the head when the ball or stick is returned is far superior.

"The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That is the essence of humanity."
...George Bernard Shaw