Tag Archives: Christchurch earthquake

Crate training

I like crate training, particularly because it helps ‘future proof’ your dog.

If your dog needs surgery or rest from an injury at any time, having them used to comfortably resting in a crate saves a lot of time and stress (for both dog and owner).

If you need to travel with your dog, whether for a holiday or for relocating, crate training helps you manage your dog’s comfort as well as your own (e.g. limits the risks of accidents in hotel rooms that will charge you an additional cleaning fee).

Greyhound in crate

Izzy, mostly in her crate, but enjoying a summer breeze coming from the back door. Izzy’s crate is her safe place (the way it should be)

Crate training can be particularly useful for re-homed dogs because dogs will seek out a place that is safe (den-like if you are thinking of wolves).  Giving a re-homed dog a place they can retire to – and not be bothered – is useful for getting them accustomed to life in a domestic home.  It’s also a useful boundary for children to learn.  If the dog is in its crate, then leave it alone.

Unfortunately, over the last 10 or so years, as crate training became more normalised as a concept, it also has been abused.  Owners who are not consistent with their training or not taking the time to truly get their new puppy or dog settled in their home (taking on a dog is a lifetime responsibility, but initially you have to put in the time to get your dog set up for success  for life), have begun using crates as a cage.  A place to go when the owners are out at work (all day, in most cases) or when the dog has mis-behaved and the owner has had enough.

That’s the wrong use of a crate.  There were even stories of dogs locked in their crates during the Christchurch earthquake of 2011 – the dogs were up to their necks in liquefaction by the time they were saved.  That’s not a heartening story if you ask me.  That’s a story of an irresponsible dog owner.

There are many resources to help owners learn crate training.  The Humane Society of the United States, for example, has this useful video:

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Kess’ story – Part 2

When dealing with dogs with special needs, one of the key principles is ‘management.’  Management can take a range of forms, but it always involves adapting and changing lifestyle to suit the dog.

In Kess’ case, Ian and Jan accepted that her on-lead behaviour was going to be almost impossible to eradicate.  They adapted their walking routines to suit.

Kess would have a short daytime walk in a quiet area and then a longer evening walk either in a park or very often through the central city of Christchurch. This worked well as there were plenty of people about her but very few other animals.  Ian and Jan felt that they were making some progress with the reactivity and could happily take her into quite busy areas.

Unfortunately, the Canterbury earthquakes which started in September 2010 with another large jolt in February 2011 halted that progress.  Since the earthquakes, Kess’ anxiety levels have remained at very high levels.  She has become much more anxious of strangers which has meant adapting the walking routine.   For the first 18 months, the family continued to walk through the central city at night, following the Avon River around the outside of the Red Zone cordons (for those that don’t know, the central city area was heavily damaged and evacuated).  Jan and Ian quickly learned that hi-vis wear and army cordons were a cause of stress for Kess so avoided them.  Despite these concerns, Jan and Ian found these walks peaceful and reflective.

Post-quakes, Kess’ health issues have also been more of a problem for her.  In my opinion, Kess was already a very sensitive dog and the earthquakes simply added to her load – further weakening her stressed immune system.

She contracted toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease, probably from drinking from a puddle or other contaminated water source in 2012 (cats are regular carriers of toxoplasmosis). She suffered seizures and general ill health for several months.  “We almost lost her.” Treatment was a mixture of veterinary care and natural animal health care and remedies.

Then, in 2013 when the couple were staying in temporary accommodation while their earthquake-damaged house was repaired, Kess had a major episode with pain in her spine which left her immobilised and howling in pain. An emergency trip to the vet and medication followed. In a bid to reduce the medication she had several acupuncture sessions but became resistant to this.  “She has an amazing ability to turn into a solid, resistant brick when she doesn’t want to do something,” says Jan.

This led the couple to look to yet more alternatives. This is when Jan contacted me and we entered a whole new realm of support for Kess’ health.   I used massage, manual acupressure and laser therapies with Kess and she started swimming at the Dog Swim Spa.   Kess was unable to benefit from swimming because she developed a stress reaction to the shower which was a necessity after each swim  in a chlorinated pool.  So , we agreed that swimming be dropped from Kess’ therapy.  But an osteopath was added in 2014 to help release Kess’ back tension.

Osteopathy and massage therapy work very well in conjunction with one another and so the current plan is to keep up with both.

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More recently, Ian and Jan have noticed that Kess’ anxiety levels have been on the rise and she has been out of sorts which included frequently shaking her head and looking distressed.   She also developed an aversion to the laser and its ‘beeping’ noise and so we’ve dropped that from her regime. After ruling out any ear or tooth problems a specialist vet has recommended Kess undergo an MRI examination to rule out any possible deeper issues with her brain, inner ears or throat area.

Because Kess has been anxious, Jan has also been anxious about their daytime walks.  We discussed cutting back on walks in favor of playing in the family’s yard.  And what we talked about was the fact that Kess was never truly ‘free’ because her anxiety condition prevented Jan and Ian from taking her to a dog park or similar off-leash area.  We needed to re-group about Kess’ mental health.

Luckily, the owner at Top Notch Kennels agreed to allow Kess a weekly visit to their large exercise yard.  At last, Kess is able to blow off some steam and be a ‘real’ dog.  At first tentative and keeping close to Jan, within a few visits Kess found her feet and is now running free without harness or lead. Her smile says it all. Jan has noticed an improvement in her personality. “This has been fantastic for Kess – what a joy to see her joy at being free to just be herself and she still runs in mad, crazy circles but so far no more forward-rolls. I do though have to keep an eye on the sheep over the back hedge – I’m not convinced she couldn’t jump the fence with enough speed on!”

Kess looking free and regal, clearly enjoying her off-lead time

Kess looking free and regal, clearly enjoying her off-lead time

Ian and Jan love Kess and are devoted to her, acknowledging that she has been hard work and a significant investment of their time.

“Although our experiences with Kess have been very challenging on many levels she has also taught us many things and caused us to go places and experience things we most definitely would not have without her. We have discovered interesting places and explored corners of the city we had never known. The most special times were our walks through the dark and silent city following the February 2011 quake. We would never have had that unique experience without our very special girl.”

“Most of the time, 99 per cent, she is the most obedient, quiet and well behaved dog we have ever shared our home with. She is just as happy to spend the whole day snoozing on her couch in the sun as she is excited to be going out somewhere in the car. She is very smart, loves to play find and seek with her toys and has a very effective way of communicating to us just what she needs. Someone commented recently that we should have had her put to sleep as there are plenty of ‘good’ dogs out there who need homes but in our opinion every dog deserves a chance to live a good, happy life. When we see love and trust returned in her eyes it makes everything worth it.”

I think what Kess’ story proves is that ‘difficult’ dogs can still be loveable pets (one trainer suggested she be euthanized when their attempts at training Kess ‘by the book’ failed).  These dogs just need more time and effort invested in them; we need more people willing to stick with the tough times – a loving companion and lifelong relationship awaits.

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A sleepy Kess after a recent massage session

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

USAR dogs and the Christchurch earthquake

The dogs of Urban Search and Rescue played a special part in the initial emergency response after Christchurch’s 6.3 magnitude earthquake on 22 February 2011.  Here is the special edition of Pawprint, the newsletter of the NZ USAR Search Dog Association.  This newsletter provides the best detail yet of how the earthquake event unfolded and the role of the dog teams in searching for survivors.

Pawprint special earthquake edition

Learn more about the NZ USAR Search Dog Association on their website.

I’m pleased to say that Canine Catering Ltd was one of the many small businesses and individuals which donated funds to the USAR Search Dog Association as part of the SBS Marathon.

Please join me in again thanking the hard work of the NZ USAR search dog teams and particularly to Cairo who is  special massage customer (funded by his handler, Janelle).

Doggy quote of the month for March

“One reason a dog can be such a comfort when you’re feeling blue is that he doesn’t try to find out why.” – Unknown

Particularly appropriate for all of us in Christchurch as we work to recover from last week’s earthquake.  Keep your pets close and stay safe.

The importance of microchipping

I’m here in Christchurch, New Zealand after our major earthquake on Tuesday (22nd February 2011).   On Tuesday afternoon, a neighbour found a dog in his yard with no collar or tags.  We took him in, because our house is secure and our fences are still in place.

He was a lovely boy and because I didn’t know his name, I called him Shake.  He slept in our bed on Tuesday evening to ride out the aftershocks and a little Rescue Remedy helped.   He was glued to my side all day Wednesday.

On Thursday I was able to get him to a local vet to have his microchip scanned.  A few more calls and I made contact with his grateful family who came to pick him up within the hour.  As it turns out, his name was Trick and he had a bath on Monday evening.  His family didn’t have time to replace his collar.  Otherwise, he would have been tagged with clear ID.

Trick relaxing in our lounge

Microchipping is now mandatory in New Zealand but if you are in a place where it is voluntary – please have it done.  You never know the circumstances that would see your dog lost and you needing to find one another again.

Best wishes to all and thanks for your kind words.  We are without basic services like sewerage but are coping with power and some limited water supply.

Trick temporarily took over Daisy’s bed

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand