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Alpha-Dog Dog Obedience and Training Consultants (Earl Preeper) is a dog trainer working in Greenville, Anderson, Easley, Seneca, Spartanburg, Greenwood and surrounding areas of Upstate South Carolina. Alpha-Dog (Earl) is a Master Trainer/Behaviorist capable of teaching you how to handle all your dog issues while you learn how to become a benevolent Alpha Leader. Discover the "WHY" behind dog training! CALL or TEXT 864-353-2716 today for a no obligation, in home consultation. Visit my WEB SITE at www.alpha-dog.org

Wednesday, July 27, 2011



When we train our dogs, we actually “condition” them.  Conditioning is the process in which the frequency of a behavioral response is increased through reinforcement.  Many behavioral dog training consultants today use a form of Operant Conditioning.  Classical conditioning techniques are sometimes employed also.  Classical conditioning involves making an association between an involuntary response (reflex) and a stimulus, while Operant conditioning is about making an association between a voluntary response or behavior and a consequence.

As above, Operant Conditioning involves the modification of voluntary behavior, operates on the environment and is maintained by its consequences.  For example, a dog jumps onto you when you return home from the grocery store.  What do you do when the dog jumps?  What you do will be the reinforcing property or the consequence.  In other words, if you reward (consequence) the dog for jumping (behavior) it will continue to jump.  The reward is the consequence!  To correct jumping, one must modify the voluntary behavior in all environmental situations that cause the dog to jump.  We can do this by positively reinforcing a more desirable behavior.  Remember, a consequence can be either rewarding or punishing.  A rewarding consequence will cause a behavior to occur with greater frequency while a punishing consequence will cause a behavior to occur with less frequency.

Operant conditioning involves four types of reinforcement.

Positive Reinforcement: This occurs when a behavior is strengthened or repeated as the result of receiving a positive stimulus.  As in the example of our dog jumping, the behavior is strengthened if the dog receives positive stimuli such as attention.  This will strengthen, thus increase jumping behavior through positive reinforcement!

Negative Reinforcement: This occurs when a behavior is strengthened or repeated as the result of eliminating or avoiding negative stimulus.  To use potty training as an example, if a dog is admonished (negative stimuli) for potty behavior in an inappropriate location (inside the house), they will soon begin to “hide” (eliminating or avoiding negative stimuli) where they go potty when going inside.   This too will strengthen, thus increase the behavior through negative reinforcement!
Punishment: This occurs when a behavior is weakened or eliminated as the result of experiencing a negative stimulus.  For example, a dog hears a high pitched sound (negative stimuli) whenever it barks (behavior).  As a result, the barking will be weakened or eliminated.

Extinction: This occurs when a behavior is weakened or eliminated as the result of negative stimulus being discontinued or the result of not experiencing anticipated positive stimulus.  For example, when we encourage excited behavior in our dogs, the behavior is positively reinforced.  When we no longer encourage the excited behavior (not experiencing anticipated positive stimulus), the behavior will eventually become extinct! 

Aversive Conditioning: This occurs when an aversive stimulus is paired with an undesirable behavior in order to reduce or eliminate that behavior.  For example, your dog climbs over the fence to get out.  You decide to shock the dog to eliminate the behavior.  The aversive stimulus is the shock and the undesirable behavior is the fence climbing.  PLEASE DO NOT TRY THIS TYPE OF CONDITONING ON YOUR OWN.  CONSULT A PROFESSIONAL DOG TRAINER/BEHAVIORIST TO HELP YOU.   You CAN make matters worse by incorrectly applying this type of behavior modification.  

Note: There is a distinction to make between Punishment and Aversive Conditioning.  Aversive conditioning is not punishment, it is a form of learning, but punishment can be used with aversive conditioning.  Therefore, punishment can be a form or component of aversive conditioning.

Avoidance Learning: This occurs when a dog learns that a certain response will result in the termination or prevention of aversive stimuli.  For example, this occurs in humans when a person avoids a yard that contains a barking dog, especially if the person has previously been attacked by a dog.  Also, if a dog approaches a crate containing another dog and the dog inside the crate lashes out aggressively, the approaching dog will learn to avoid that particular crate.  Note: This does not always happen as both dogs may lash out with an aggressive response, thus creating an aggressive episode between the two dogs.  Then the fun begins!!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010



Choose the dog with the right personality to match your lifestyle.

Did you know that 1/3 of dogs acquired by people are voluntarily given up to shelters, euthanized, or simply abondoned. This is because people get a dog before they research the particular breed that best suits them and their family. If you have a sedentary lifestyle you are best suited for a breed that isn't active. On the other hand, if you are active don't choose a breed that is not. Makes sense doesn't it?

Check on things like the breed's energy level, exercise requirements, playfulness, friendliness toward other dogs, strangers, other pets.

What is your climate? Get a dog suited to your area. If you live in a warm climate, don't get a dog suited to a cold climate and vice versa.

What is the dog's form and function, history and upkeep? Some dogs shed more than others. If you have allergies, this may be an important consideration!

Finally, did you know that 50% of people who give their dog to a shelter go on to get another dog. Over 90% choose a different breed and over 90% seem to be successful matches.

Shelter dogs make some of the best pets so be sure to check out your local shelter(s); you may find your best friend!  Also, with a mixed breed dog, look for the dominant breed characteristic, for example, this particular dog looks more like a "Golden Retriever" or a "German Shepherd Dog", etc.  Alternatively, you can have genetic analysis conducted to determine the dominant breed(s) in your mixed breed dog.  I once worked with a client who had a genetic analysis conducted on one of  their dogs that appeared to be mainly Husky.  The analysis concluded that the dog was 50% Greyhound.  Who would have thouught!

Go to your local pet/book store and look through some dog encyclopedias. These books contain valuable information and insight into many different breeds.

And most importantly, DO YOUR RESEARCH

(Excerpts from "Why Does My Dog Act That Way" by Stanley Coren, 2006)

Friday, December 24, 2010


Is your dog susceptible to Heartworms? We live in Upstate South Carolina where mosquito population is relatively low. Our dog Sammy, however, tested positive for Heartworms at his last annual checkup. Is there cause for alarm? Yes indeed. In a worst case scenario, Heartworms can cause the untimely death of your companion and, at the least, cause him some discomfort.

Sammy is a rescued dog that followed me home one day when I was running with Lillie and Orbie, our Golden Retrievers. He was skinny as a rail, obviously missing many meals over the past several weeks or even months. I could not and would not chase him away, he was magical, our lucky charm. He seemed to pop in and out of our securely fenced yard at will, even as I patched the high areas below the fence (I thought he was crawling under). Samuel J, as he came to be called, was with us for several weeks before I discovered he was a climber, up and over the fence before you could blink your eye.

Anyway, when I finally wrangled him into an area and got a collar on him, it was off to our Vet for a checkup and shots. Sammy tested negative for Heartworms and would go for the next two years before his second Heartworm check (this is normal procedure). Because Heartworms are undetectable until they are mature (about six months), Sammy’s test may have come back negative but he was already infected, just not yet detectable. Sammy takes monthly Heartworm medication, as do all five of our dogs, and has for the past two years.

What are the chances that one infected mosquito would bite one of our dogs? Go figure!!! Now we are on the road to recovery, although I am sure Sammy has yet to figure out why he can’t run and play with the other dogs as he usually does. Several weeks from now when the Heartworms have dispersed from his system he will be the dog in our yard that gets the others going and keeps the area free from squirrels and birds!

So please ensure your best friend is protected against Heartworms (and you will be protecting other dogs also) by seeing your Vet today, having a test for the presence of Heartworms and eradicating if necessary by having the Dr. prescribe the necessary preventative medicine. It CAN happen to you! We thank you, and your dog will too!


Master Trainer, Alpha-Dog Dog Obedience & Training Consultants


Once considered a parasite of southern climates, the heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis) is now recognized as a major, global pest affecting dogs, cats, wolves, coyotes, foxes, and some other animals. From its discovery in dogs more than a century ago and the documentation in cats in the 1920s, researchers have devised diagnostic tests, preventives and treatments, but the disease has spread to all 50 states. According to the Heartworm Society, the highest infection rates occur in dogs (not maintained on heartworm preventive) within 150 miles of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and along the Mississippi River and its major tributaries. Other areas with large mosquitoe populations also have a high rate of infestation.

To jog the concern of clients, veterinary clinics may display a preserved heart infected with heartworm in a jar and hang posters about heartworm life cycles in examining rooms, but seeing is not necessarily believing; although clients can view the infested heart loaded with long, spaghetti-like worms every time they visit, many gamble that their dogs will never be bitten by an infected mosquito.

Heartworm prevention is simple. It involves a blood draw to determine whether the parasite is present and regular dosing with preventive medication. Heartworm infestation is dangerous; untreated dogs die and treated dogs go through weeks of discomfort while the worms are killed and expelled from their bodies.

The parasite

Parasites go through several life stages before emergence as adults and often need at least two hosts to complete the cycle. In heartworms, a mosquito serves as the intermediate host for the larval stage of the worm, also known as the microfilariae. The mosquito ingests the larva when it bites an infected dog and deposits its cargo in an uninfected dog when seeking another blood meal. The microfilariae burrow into the dog and undergo several changes to reach adult form, then travel to the right side of the heart through a vein and await the opportunity to reproduce. Adult heartworms can reach 12 inches in length and can remain in the dog’s heart for several years.

Dogs can have some microfilariae in their blood and worms in their lungs without manifesting the disease. Once the number of worms exceeds a certain number based on the size and activity level of the dog, however, the adult worms move to the heart and symptoms begin to occur. Very active dogs may experience symptoms with lower numbers of worms than couch-potato dogs.

The time lag between the initial infestation of microfilariae and reproduction by adult worms living in the heart is six-to-seven months in dogs.

Female heartworms bear live young – thousands of them in a day. These young – the microfilariae – circulate in the bloodstream for as long as three years, waiting to hitch a ride in a bloodsucking mosquito. They undergo changes in the mosquito that prepare them to infect a dog, and they transfer back to the original host species the next time the mosquito bites. The process of change in the mosquito takes about 10 days in warm climates, but can take six weeks in colder temperatures.

The worms grow and multiply, infesting the chambers on the right side of the heart and the arteries in the lungs. They can also lodge in the veins of the liver and the veins entering the heart. The first sign of heartworm infestation may not manifest for a year after infection, and even then the soft cough that increases with exercise may be dismissed as unimportant by the owner. But the cough worsens and the dog may actually faint from exertion; he tires easily, is weak and listless, loses weight and condition, and may cough up blood. Breathing becomes more difficult as the disease progresses. The progression is traumatic: the dog’s quality of life diminishes drastically and he can no longer retrieve a Frisbee or take a long walk in the park without respiratory distress. Congestive heart failure ensues, and the once-active, outgoing pet is in grave danger.


Heartworm disease is present on every continent except Antarctica.(1) It occurs where these four factors are found:
a susceptible host population
a stable reservoir of the disease
a stable population of vector species
a climate that supports the parasite’s life cycle

Dogs are considered the definitive host (2) for the parasite; even though the disease is not transmitted directly from one dog to another, untreated dogs provide a stable reservoir for the disease. Mosquitoes of several different species are the vectors (intermediate host for the developing microfilariae). Development of the microfilariae in the mosquito requires a temperature at or above 80 degrees Fahrenheit for about two weeks. No larval development takes place in the mosquito below 57 degrees F.


Heartworms can be detected by blood test. The filtration test finds microfilariae in the blood; the occult test locates adult worms in the heart. Many veterinarians prefer to do both tests as the absence of microfilariae in the blood does not necessarily mean that there are no adult worms in the heart. Both tests are done with a single blood draw, preferably in the early spring before daily temperatures warm above 57 degrees F. Radiographs (X-rays) can also detect the presence of adult heartworms in the heart and lungs.


If a blood test or the onset of symptoms alert owner and veterinarian to the presence of this devastating parasite, treatment is possible and successful if the disease has not progressed too far. The first step is to evaluate the dog and treat any secondary problems of heart failure or liver or kidney insufficiency so that he can withstand the treatment. The next step is to kill the adult worms with an arsenic compound. Veterinarians now have access to a Immiticide(3), a new compound that has fewer side effects than the previous drug and is safer for dogs with more severe infestations.

The treatment is administered in two doses each day for two days, followed by several weeks of inactivity to give the dog’s system a chance to absorb the dead worms. Exertion can cause the dead worms to dislodge, travel to the lungs, and cause death.

At least three-to-four weeks after the administration of the drug to kill the adult worms, further treatment to kill the microfilariae is needed. The dog is dosed daily for a week, then the blood test is repeated. If microfilariae are still present, the dose can be increased. Follow-up studies should be done in a year. Surgical removal of the adult heartworms is possible and may be indicated in advanced cases with heart involvement.


Preventive doses come in oral and topical versions and are only available from a veterinarian. Diethylcarbamazine is given daily. Ivermectin (Heartguard(3), Milbmycin (Interceptor(4)) and Moxidectin (ProHeart(5)) are given monthly. Selamectin (Revolution(6)) is a new preventive applied topically. Some of these drugs also kill other parasitic worms, and Revolution also acts against fleas, ticks, and mites. Moxidectin (ProHeart® and ProHeart® 6, (5)) is a potent preventive compound available in a six month sustained release injection administered by veterinarians or a monthly oral dosage form.

Many veterinarians recommend and many owners use a year-round heartworm prevention program to guard against the occasional mosquito flying about in areas with mild winters. If Fido has already had his yearly check-up, call your veterinarian to schedule a heartworm check. If he’s due for yearly vaccination, be sure to include a heartworm check in the visit.

  • Heartworms are a parasitic worm (about the diameter of thin spaghetti) that normally live free floating in the right ventricle of the heart and nearby blood vessels.
  • The parasites are transmitted from one individual to another by mosquitoes.
  • Heartworm is diagnosed with blood tests, and/or X-rays, along with other tests.
  • Heartworms are not detectable with the commonly used antigen blood test until they are sexually mature (about 6 months after entering the patient). Female worms must be present for accurate test results.
  • Heartworm has been diagnosed in all 50 states and also worldwide. In most areas of the country Heartworm is an important pet health care issue.
  • In most areas of the USA, veterinarians recommend Heartworm prevention for dogs. Preventative measures in cats is also becoming more common as veterinarians continue to learn more about the parasite in cats and become skilled at recognizing the disease in cats. Previously it was thought that felines were not at a significant risk of getting Heartworm and that preventative was not needed. We are learning this is not necessarily true. The need for pre-exposure preventative medication in cats depends on the incidence of Heartworm in your area. Your local veterinarian is your best source of information.
  • Dogs should be tested FIRST… before starting heartworm preventatives unless they are less than 7 months old.
  • Dog’s over 7 months of age that are started on preventative without first testing for Heartworm are at an increased risk of developing severe reactions.
  • Puppies should be started on Heartworm preventative by 8 weeks of age (depending on the product being used) and then blood tested at 7 months of age.
  • Dogs should be tested on a regular basis, yearly if any doses of preventative have been missed and once every 2-3 years even if no doses were missed and preventative is given year around.
  • In the cat, the presence of Heartworm is difficult to detect with a blood test alone. Preventative medication is often started without testing unless signs of a Heartworm infection are noticed.
  • In cats, one worm can cause sudden death or sudden (acute) respiratory signs that are indistinguishable from asthma without a medical work up.
  • Any area where dogs can get Heartworm, cats can get them as well. The current rate of diagnosis ranges from 5 to 20% that of dogs in the same area.
  • The rate of cat Heartworm diagnosis varies by geographic area. As veterinarians continue to improve diagnostic techniques in cats, it is suspected there will be less variation from the canine incidence rate in the same area (5-20%). Until the last few years, it was thought that feline Heartworm disease was so rare that prevention was not needed in cats.
  • This view is changing as we learn that many cat Heartworm infections are overlooked since feline Heartworm disease does not commonly present with the same symptoms as dogs and the signs and symptoms look and act like other cat diseases.
  • The detection of adult Heartworms in cats can be difficult and tests are not 100% reliable.
A Dog’s Prayer
 Treat me kindly, my beloved Leader, for no heart in the world is
more grateful than the loving heart of me.

Do not break my spirit with a stick, for though I should lick your
hand between blows, your patience and understanding will
more quickly teach the things you would have me know.

Speak to me often, for your voice is the world’s sweetest music,
as you must know by the fierce wagging of my tail when
your footsteps fall on my ear.

Please take me inside when it is cold and wet, for I am a
domesticated animal, no longer use to bitter elements.
And I ask no greater glory than the privilege
of sitting at your feet beside the hearth.

Keep my pan filled with fresh water, for I cannot tell you
when I suffer thirst.

Feed me clean food, that I may stay well, to romp and
play and do your bidding, to walk by your side and
stand ready, willing and able to protect you with
my life, should your life be in danger.

And Leader, when I am very old, if the Great Master sees fit to
deprive me of my health and sight, do not turn me away from you,
rather, see that my trusting life is taken gently,
and I shall leave you knowing that with
the last breath I drew, my fate was always
safest in your hands.
Author Unknown

Tapeworms in Dogs

Tapeworms In Dogs

What are tapeworms?

The most common tapeworm of dogs (and cats) is called Dipylidium caninum. This parasite attaches to the small intestinal wall by hook-like mouthparts. Adult tapeworms may reach 8 inches (20 cm) in length. The adult worm is actually made up of many small segments about 1/8 inch (3 mm) long. As the tail end of the worm matures, the terminal segments break off and pass into the stool. Occasionally, the mobile segments can be seen crawling near the anus or on the surface of a fresh bowel movement. These segments look like grains of rice and contain tapeworm eggs; the eggs are released into the environment when the segment dries. The dried segments are small (about 1/16", or 2 mm), hard and golden in color. These dried segments can sometimes be seen stuck to the hair around the dog's anus. A less commonly found tapeworm, called Echinococcus, also occurs in dogs.

How did my dog get tapeworms?

In order for a dog to become infected with the common tapeworm, Dipylidium, the dog must swallow a flea that contains tapeworm eggs. This process begins when tapeworm eggs are swallowed by flea larvae (an immature stage of the flea). Contact between flea larvae and tapeworm eggs is thought to occur most frequently in contaminated bedding or carpet.
Next, the dog chews or licks its skin as a flea bites; the flea is then swallowed. As the flea is digested within the dog's intestine, the tapeworm hatches and anchors itself to the intestinal lining.

A dog becomes infected with Echinococcus when it eats a small mammal, usually a rodent, that contains the worm. Foxes and coyotes (and the wild rodents upon which they prey) are important in the life cycle of this parasite. Dogs and cats may also become infected if they eat rodents carrying the parasite.

What kind of problems do tapeworms cause for the dog?

Tapeworms are not highly pathogenic (harmful) to your dog. They may cause debilitation and weight loss when they occur in large numbers. Sometimes, the dog will scoot or drag its anus across the ground or carpet because the segments are irritating to the skin in this area. The adult worm is generally not seen, but the white segments which break away from the tapeworm and pass outside the body rarely fail to get an owner's attention! Occasionally, a tapeworm will release its attachment in the intestines and move into the stomach. This irritates the stomach, causing the dog to vomit the worm. When this happens, a worm several inches in length will be seen.

How is tapeworm infection diagnosed?

An infection with Dipylidium is usually diagnosed when the white, mobile segments are seen crawling on your dog or in the stool. Tapeworms are not usually detected by the routine fecal examination performed by the veterinarian. Because of this, veterinarians depend on the owner to notify them of possible tapeworm infection in the dog. Echinococcus infections are harder to diagnose than the tapeworm caused by fleas because the segments are small and not readily seen.

How are the tapeworms treated?

Treatment is simple and, fortunately, very effective. A drug which kills tapeworms is given, either orally or by injection. It causes the tapeworm to dissolve within the intestines. Since the worm is usually digested before it passes, it is not visible in your dog's stool. These drugs should not cause vomiting, diarrhea, or any other adverse side-effects. Control of fleas is very important in the management and prevention of tapeworm infection. Flea control involves treatment of your dog, the indoor environment and the outdoor environment where the dog resides. If the dog lives in a flea-infested environment, reinfection with tapeworms may occur in as little as two weeks. Because the medication which treats tapeworm infection is so effective, return of the tapeworms is almost always due to reinfection from the environment.

How do I tell tapeworms from pinworms?

Tapeworms and pinworms look very similar. However, contrary to popular belief, pinworms do not infect dogs or cats. Any worm segments seen associated with dogs are due to tapeworms. Children who get pinworms do not get them from dogs or cats.

Are feline tapeworms infectious to people?

Yes, although infection is not common or likely. A flea must be ingested for humans to become infected with the most common tapeworm of dogs. Most reported cases have involved children. The most effective way to prevent human infection is through aggressive, thorough flea control. The risk for infection with this tapeworm in humans is quite small but does exist.
Echinococcus tapeworms are of more concern. These tapeworms cause very serious disease when humans become infected. Hunters and trappers in the north central United States and south central Canada may be at risk for infection by this worm if strict hygiene is not observed. Rodent control and good hygiene are important in preventing the spread of this disease to humans. As with the more common tapeworm, infection with Echinococcus is infrequent but possible.

What can be done to control tapeworm infection in dogs and to prevent human infection?

Effective flea control is important.

Prompt deworming should be given when parasites are detected; periodic deworming may be appropriate for pets at high risk for reinfection.

All pet feces should be disposed of promptly, especially in yards, playgrounds, and public parks.

Strict hygiene is important, especially for children. Do not allow children to play in potentially contaminated environments.

Tapeworms are easily eradicated by oral medication available from your local veterinarian. Expect to pay between $20.00 and $40.00 for a one time dosage.

Dogs & Color Vision

Do dogs only see in black and white or can they see in color? Actually, dogs can see in color, but not the rich, vibrant color spectrum that humans see. Dogs have approximately 20% Cones (color receptors) lining the retina of their eye whereas humans have 100% (contained in the fovea). Cones work best in mid to high levels of light and have the ability to detect color.

Studies also indicate that dogs have two types of cones whereas humans have three. Each type of cone is sensitive to a different wavelength of light. Only having two types of cones in their eyes means that the dog is not maximally sensitive to all the wavelengths of light, thus all colors are not detected. Dogs are red-green color blind! Consequently, the dog's world consists of yellows, blues, and grays.

The dogs eye is lined primarily with Rods (black and white receptors), adapted to work best in low light and are used to detect motion; This is why your dog can see things in the night that you and I would not be able to detect.