The Bitey End of the Dog

Dr. Debbie Torraca

March 29, 2021 Michael Shikashio CDBC Season 2 Episode 4
The Bitey End of the Dog
Dr. Debbie Torraca
Show Notes Transcript

Pain in dogs. It’s a very common underlying cause for aggression.
You are not going to want to miss this episode. I have the honor of chatting with Dr. Debbie Torraca about a number of very interesting topics that should stir up some conversation in the dog training community.
We talk about the behaviors to look for when a dog is in pain; the impact of different training tools on a dog’s structure;  and what activities we might commonly see dog trainers engage in that can be detrimental to a dog’s overall health.

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Debbie Torraca:

I know it sounds funny, but I call it a poor man's gait analysis, take nail polish, and paint the top of the dog's nails and the bottom of the dog's nails and don't look at it for 24 hours, you know, let the dog do its normal activity and then pay attention to it. Do they wear down more on one foot or one toe? Did they scrape it off on the front? That's sometimes like a nice way of saying, Oh, yeah, you know, they're right back away, is untouched, you know, so they're not weight bearing as much.

Michael Shikashio:

Pain in dogs. It's a very common underlying cause for aggression. You're not going to want to miss this episode, I have the honor of chatting with Dr. Debbie taraka about a number of very interesting topics that should stir up some conversation in the dog training community. We talked about the behaviors to look for when a dog is in pain, the impact of different training tools on a dog's structure, and what activities we might commonly see dog trainers engage in, that can be detrimental to a dog's overall health. And this episode is sponsored by aggressivedog.com, where you can find a variety of educational offerings with a focus on helping dogs with aggression, including the aggression in dogs master course, the most comprehensive course available anywhere in the world on helping dogs with aggression, and the aggression in dogs conference, a unique three day live stream event happening from October 22 to 24th 2021. With 12 amazing speakers. You can find out more by going to thelooseleashacademy.com. Hey, everyone, I'm Mike Shikashio. Welcome back to the bitey end of the dog. I've got a wonderful guest this week, Dr. Debbie taraka, who's on Wizard of paws, which is right down the road for me and Debbie and I are actually right down the road from each other. And we were just joking before we started that we should have just went to each other's houses we literally live a mile away. So I'm really lucky to have her expertise right in the same area I am. So she's had Wizard of Paws for over almost 20 years and she has been all over the place. She's been featured in clean run dogs board, working dog digest dogs naturally, you might have seen her on Good Morning America, our and her ask Martha's vet with Marty Goldstein. She's been on TV shows professional and featured in professional journals and magazines. She's been speaking all over the place at our international symposium for veterinarians. She's spoken at many conferences, including the American College of Veterinary surgeons, the NABC conference, which is a very popular conference and the Atlantic coast veterinary conference. So I'm really excited to be jumping into this topic of pain and underlying issues that can create behavior problems in dogs, because obviously, that's the focus of the show, especially working towards aggression in that topic. So welcome, Debbie.

Debbie Torraca:

Thank you. Thank you, Michael, thank you so much for having me, too. This is great.

Michael Shikashio:

Yeah, this is going to be exciting. So let's jump right into the topic of aggression and behaviors. With the relation to pain, what behaviors do you typically see in your practice when a dog is in pain? And maybe not even just aggressive behaviors? What What do you think the listeners should know about with behaviors you see that come out because of pain?

Debbie Torraca:

Yeah, and I think I mean, pain is something I definitely work with with rehab. And it could run the gamut from full out aggression, to withdrawal. So owners will sometimes say their dogs don't want to spend as much time with them anymore. They may not run and greet them at the door, they don't jump on the bed, they don't jump into the car, you know, everyone with SUVs right? Now, the dog may hesitate before jumping in, they avoid slippery surfaces, sleeping a lot. Unfortunately, they can't always tell us, hey, you know, when I turn a corner, it hurts my right hip. So they'll start avoiding things. And I always encourage owners to write down once a month just what their dog is normally doing. So right now we're in the winter in New England. So things are a little bit more sedentary, but how active is your dog? Because then you can go back and look and say, Oh, he was running upstairs and now he's not, you know, that sort of stuff. And with the aggression, the aggression may be they're absolutely miserable, or an owner will describe they go to put a collar on the dog and the dog becomes aggressive. And it's not so much the collar, it's that they have to extend their neck or the collar is hurting their neck. You know, something like that. So breaking it down and trying to figure out why are they becoming snappy or, you know, that sort of stuff?

Michael Shikashio:

Yes, from my angle. I see that a lot where it's such a benign activity that the owner thinks. I was putting a collar on or picking them up to put them in the vehicle and then the dog Bite Stan. That's the rate so many frequent times I see this is when they're trying to do just in their mind normal things with their dogs when the dog is in pain. And it can really take a toll on that human animal bond as well, then the dog, it's just they're trying to do something nice in their mind for the dog. Let's go to the dog park, let me lift you up into this vehicle, and then you bite me interesting conversation that we have to have with, with clients and patients to help them understand yes aspect of it. So in, in your experience in the office, in your practice, what do you do for dogs? How do you handle the dogs that might be in pain, and you're trying to avoid the aggressive response?

Debbie Torraca:

Sure. So I mean, we definitely, as I said, see a lot of it and try first to really have a good conversation with the owner trying to figure out what is causing this pain and picking up as you said, is such a common, many owners don't know how to properly pick up a dog, especially I'm always envisioning these dachshunds, long back dogs, they kind of scoop them up and it just looks painful. And then you've got that little dachshund mouth, the bitey end of the dog going after you. So we start by a very good history, just trying to figure out we'll start with no touching to begin with, we have a tool called a digital thermal imaging, which picks up on basically the heat, or lack of heat in the body will do this and look at the dog's entire body. Increased heat uptake usually means inflammation and pain. And this could be from an obvious reason the dog hurt its back, or a lot of times there's secondary or tertiary issues. Like for example, if the dog had knee surgery, they're compensating with their back and probably the other front leg. So they may have some pain and discomfort. So just as a start to get an objective feel for what's going on, where could there be discomfort? It's been a lot of time watching the dog, what are they avoiding? You know, so does that dog avoid walking on. what looks like a slippery surface? Do they not want to step or go down? You know, how did they do that? And then of course, you know, starting to feel, you know, where what's going on watching their movements. You know typically, with back pain, it's fairly obvious both from sight and then feel because they resist pretty quickly. We always, you know, handle very safely and are respectful. You know, the dog, in my opinion, has been trying to tell someone for a long time that they're in pain. So let's listen to them. Let's figure it out. And, you know, in my experience, for the most part, once they know, okay, this is going to be fine. They're earning our you know, we're earning their trust, and they start to feel better with with different things.

Michael Shikashio:

I remember seeing the thermal imaging you were just talking about in the in your office, and it was just, it's fascinating. It's really, great technology. But as you were showing me I'm like, this is amazing, because it's kind of your communication tool in a way to know when the dog is in pain in certain areas. And it's hard to recognize even right as animal professionals we can't see through behavior or even observation sometimes. And do recommend, like certain types of equipment or tools like there's ramps to help for instance, the dog get into the back of a vehicle. What other types of tools like that?

Debbie Torraca:

Yeah, so definitely the big thing with getting in our vehicles is more they may have a tough time getting up, but many owners think oh, it's fine for them to jump down. Jumping down is where 90% of the injuries will happen. Same thing with on a couch. You know, jumping down I use the analogy of a small dog like let's say a shitzu jumps down off a couch that would be like you and I jumping off the second floor of our house just such a long way down for them. So definitely ramps or steps. Sometimes a step is great to put in the back of an SUV and that may be a little bit easier. Some dogs have not been trained well to go up and down ramps so they get a little bit hesitant. So I prefer the steps or even a step stool to help them get in and out a little bit easier with the owner. The other thing is a large dog might help them up hardest is great with the owner has difficulty maneuvering the dog. It's a wonderful tool. It's ergonomically correct for both the owner and the dog. So that could help them get them up and down and that also works with stairs up in in the house or if there's how steps leading into the house or anything like that is great.

Michael Shikashio:

Yeah, I picked up one of those harnesses from you from my friend and he loves it. He raves yeah for his dog but I was having hind end issues having trouble kind Getting up the stairs. Yeah, that's a large dog. So if you have a yes, it can be a struggle, and he was carrying the dog literally up and down the stairs and he has back issues. It was a lifesaver for him. So thanks for hooking me up with that. Its great.

Debbie Torraca:

Oh, of Course.

Michael Shikashio:

What about dogs, I also have common cases, I would'nt say common but one of the sort of issues that people have a tough time grasping what's going on is when persons petting their dogs, the dog comes over and wants to be pet, they nudge the person's hand, they put their head in the dog's lap, they curl up next to the person, so the person starts petting them. And after about 10, 15 seconds, or maybe even less than times, the dog will behave aggressively will snap at them or bite her after this, that can be really confusing. Like, I don't get it, he wanted to be pet, why would he bite me after that? What is your thought process there?

Debbie Torraca:

So yeah, and that definitely does happen. And it is confusing. And then I hear the you know, the owner is upset, they're mad, like you said, they're trying to do something nice for the dog. So my perception is usually that the dog started to relax, and then the owner hit a certain spot that caused some discomfort, it may be like you and I and listeners get trigger points in our neck that may feel great, you start to relax, and then it's uncomfortable. And again, they can't say hey, you know, lighten up there, be careful, the dogs specially along their back. There's so many nerve endings, the muscles are so thick along there. And it may just be hitting that one point that causes some aggression. And, you know, some owners may not know, hey, you know, they looked, you know, I always watch the dog. Are they looking at me? Did I hit a spot? And were they looking because they're, you know, that's a warning like, Hey, you know, that's not the most comfortable area at all. Same thing with on their joints, their toes, and I'm sure your dog trainers hear this all the time. My dog doesn't want his nails being cut, you know, and then they come into our office and this dog has been conditioned to not have anyone touch their nails. And now we're trying to trim and trying to figure out is it because it's painful? Also, do they have arthritic joints, their toes, that sort of stuff? But yeah, typically when the dog is relaxed, and they're coming to the owner, you know, asking for a little bit of help, like, Hey, I'm not feeling that great. But it's probably hitting a certain spot or that sort of thing. And then trying to figure out where that spot is.

Michael Shikashio:

Yeah, it's again something and we're going to talk more about that and a bit about how to really dig into the diagnosis of that, to make sure we're assessing things correctly. Because think about the vicious cycle to some people they attribute to, oh my dogs being dominant, right, because you know, he doesn't want to be pet. And then the next thing you know, because it's vicious cycle, a person might be doing punishment, or something even worse than the dog is going to be in more pain. It's just, it's really tragic when you think about it. So let's shift a little bit into tools and obviously tools, training tools. And you and I had an interesting conversation before the pandemic hit, we were going to work and research into this, but different collars and harnesses had halters and what you're seeing, so we had our conversation was about head halter. So things like gentle leaders and halted. What are you seeing from your end?

Debbie Torraca:

Yes, so and I know people are gonna say, oh, but I hate head halters I just from having my own neck issues, I always look at them and say, Oh my gosh, just the positioning. To me it is such an unnatural movement, especially on to the cervical spine or the neck, has seven vertebrae just like us. But the upper area, which is I call it the headache zone, the suboccipital joint, when the head halters on and there's a pull, it causes a force on the upper neck or the upper cervical spine that's abnormal. And I often see question, do dogs get headaches, you know, certainly they can have tension in that area. And that head halter will just they'll stop doing whatever they do. And maybe for the first couple of times, it's fine, but then repetitively you're causing a lot of issues there. And the same with the TMJ area or the temporal mandibular joint their jaw, because again, it's throwing it into such an unnatural position. Then there's a bone in their neck called the hyoid, which the tongue attaches to the same thing that triangle between the upper cervical the jaw and this bone, the hyoid throws everything into whack, so to speak. So we're actually creating some more problems and I've seen people that swear by head halters and I know some of the the trainers and I can guarantee that every time their dog comes in, they're going to have some issues up there and it may start with by blinking They're stressed a little bit more and maybe attributed to Oh, they're not listening to me. So let me pull a little bit more on this head halter. And it's hard I have as you know, skulls all over my office to have all these head halters on my 14 year old daughter is very confused as to what's going on. But yeah, I just do not like them at all. And I laugh because we see so many dogs in our office and so many different harnesses. And if a dog has any neck issues or a history, I mean, definitely, we want to stay away from a head halter or any kind of collar on their neck. So, you know, if you want to have a pretty collar with their tags on, that's fine. But anytime that the dog can be potentially pulling, that's going to be bad. So we want to go to I like a back clip harness, not a front clip harness. Again, a front clip harness is just an unnatural movement, you know, so if the dog poles and we inadvertently pull back, we're causing an abnormal movement to the dog. And, you know, certainly the dog stops because it feels weird, but it's just biomechanically such a bizarre position for the dog. And that sort of stuff.

Michael Shikashio:

I'm sure many of the listeners are wondering, do you have recommended harnesses that you'd like to

Debbie Torraca:

In our clinic, we use any dog that comes in, we shout out to? put a simple comfort flex harness on them, and probably works in 90% of the dogs, we ha e to make sure that the r shoulders, their range f motion, all of that is fine f Is there a certain configuration that you prefer? So sounds like r very active dogs that are doi g a lot of walking and cro s training and hiking, actual y like sled dog harnesses. And f they're they take a little b t more time to fit the r individual lies. But thei s takes away all pressure poin s on their shoulder, the dog nee s to be trained, they're a pulli g harness, but there's no stre s on the body with any kind f abnormal stresses. And there' , they can range in price from $ 0 to $100. And there's some go d getting just fitting them a d getting them set with tha the Y shape harnesses? Yes, the Y shape, again, less stress. I know some owners don't like them, because they can give a dog the advantage of pulling. Yesterday, I was helping an older woman with a German Shepherd, try not to get the dog to pull. And you know, that was a whole behavioral thing there. But any she had been taught to use a head halter and the dog was showing signs of aggression because of neck issues. So It's a conundrum. And I want to kind of talk through that a little bit more in terms of a critical thought process, because I know some of the trainers, especially some of the more seasoned trainers that might be listening, probably wondering, Okay, great, we can do a harness. But what if you got an honor that we've got to think of the other end of the leash, right, right, own right was maybe pulled down and they were injured because their dog is so strong. And their only option at that moment is the head halter. And and so I get that question a lot, actually. And yeah, in those rare cases, you know, if I'm going to include a head halter in the process, my goal is always to wean off that head halter once the training process has taken hold. So once we've established a foundational skills and a rich history of reinforcement for walking on a loose leash, and addressing the behavior issue in the first place, especially in the aggression cases, or quote unquote, reactive dog cases, I find that I have to first help that owner feel more confident with leash ending, or else things just continue to spiral out of control, or the possible, you know, potential for worse outcomes where, you know, they might not even proceed with any kind of training and take other avenues for it so short it's a difficult conversation to have and it's tricky to navigate those waters when we're recommending tools but yeah, so I don't want the listeners to think I would necessarily throw out head halters with the bathwater, I would. I haven't used for actually quite some time, but I could still see potential for that kind of case somebody is literally definitely afraid of taking their dog out and the potential ramifications if we don't give them some leverage for the interim until until we move forward. And I do completely agree with you with that because we have to, you know, definitely look at the other end of the leash and right now dealing with ice and all of that sort of stuff and if a head halter, if that's going to be a temporary but you can train with perfect, but, you know, having the dog wear it for life and then having no hair on their nose, you know becomes an issue but, you know, definitely we have to factor in safety on both ends.

Michael Shikashio:

So I have someone who as we're speaking here, I have a somewhat of a selfish question I was just thinking the setup I use sometimes, used to use, I haven't used in quite some time, but there's a clip to the head halter but also a secondary clip to the front of the harness. And the reason for that is I want to absorb some of the force that can happen when the dog hits you know, the end of the leash. I never use a long leash or anything like that. With a head halter, I don't want a dog lunging on In fact, I do a lot of short leash handling. So yeah, maximum distance of dog food lunch forward is about three feet to picture that that there's a clip to the head halter, a ring?

Debbie Torraca:

Yeah.

Michael Shikashio:

Also an additional strap that goes to the front of the harness. So if they lunge forward towards a particular stimulus, it's going to also be absorbed by some of the front of that harness. Do you see potential ramifications from your angle on that?

Debbie Torraca:

So I mean, that will definitely be better, because again, you're dispersing the pole. So that definitely better than the head halter alone. Absolutely.

Michael Shikashio:

How about another question for you? How about the dual clip harnesses? The one that clips in the front and the back? Have you seen those?

Debbie Torraca:

Yes. So again, that is also better than just the front clip, because you're dispersing some of the force and again, giving the owner a little bit more control. And I laugh, I mean, I have my one year old clumber spaniel who could pull like, the, you know, and just again, as like, we're talking about, like walking him on potential ice. So I'm like, okay, I can't go down here. So he's still like, learning the ropes literally. So, you know, I've, he has his Martin Gale harness on and then his comfort flex harness, and, you know, trying to navigate Okay, what, uh, you know, what, what are we doing here?

Michael Shikashio:

Yeah, so let's segue into another topic that these so many of these questions are coming from my wonderful students in the aggression course. So shout out to them for coming up with this awesome list. One of the questions, which is a really good one is what do you do when a client and I as trainers, we have to do this all the time, but you I'm sure also face the same issue where the client has seen their veterinarian with their dog, the general veterinarian, and they haven't necessarily diagnose the pain issues, or they suspect the client really suspect something's going on? Or maybe not, maybe the trainer suspects there's a pain issue causing the behavior problem? How do we navigate that conversation to get either the client to go back to that, and in your case, you're often talking to the vets. So what is your What is your conversation look like there?

Debbie Torraca:

Persistence. You know especially now I think all of our vets are so overworked with COVID, then, you know, they're so busy and so crazy. And I know, our office has been you know, so the same thing. so busy for so many reasons, owners are spending more time with their pets and getting to know them a little bit more, with everything going on. But I mean, definitely persistent. I try to talk with the vets and be objective about things I encourage owners to, if you watch your dog, having a painful episode, videotape it, you know, document it, I'm getting back to like keeping a monthly log of my dog was doing this, and now they're not doing this. And you're really saying look like, if anything most vets will, unless the dog has another underlying issue will be open to trying a course of anti inflammatories or pain medication. And sometimes I'll suggest that to the bat. You know, let's What if we just try this for 14 days and see if there's an improvement with the dog. And again, as long as their kidney values, everything is fine. It should be okay. Sometimes, like as you said, it's hard for the owner to understand that their dog is in pain, you know, some owners are so great and will say Oh, my dog missed a step on our four mile walk today. You know, okay, you know, then there are other owners, the dog is holding up their leg and they're saying, Oh, no, they're fine. You know, so I definitely empathize with, you know, sometimes with some of the trainers that see things because you guys are definitely on top of it, you know, dog movement, behavior, all that sort of stuff. But really, I'll have this conversation with owners because all of us have experienced pain to some point. You know, so, you know, how would you feel if you get up in the morning and you're stiff? Are you ready to just run out the door, you know, and go for a run and what if you've shoveled too much snow or rake too many leaves you and your back hurts and you're grumpy and you're trying to bring it home to them so that they understand and then usually just you alleviate some of that pain, and the dog is feeling so much better. And the owner goes wow, you know, I never knew that he was in discomfort. You know, now he's greeting me out the door. He's jumping on the couch, he's wants to play. It's getting to that point and then they're believers and it is getting to that point,

Michael Shikashio:

It's almost like we have this triad of people that need to be working as a team to help the pet, and diagnose these issues. Yeah, I wouldn't say he was diagnosed when, when we're coming from the trainer sense, we would hand it off to your veterinarian to diagnose those things. But from, from the tribe, meaning trainers, behavior, consultants, and then the veterinary staff, and then a profession, and then also you, who's kind of the ultimate specialist and figuring these things out. And from so from the trainer, consultant, we're looking at the behavior. So dog getting up more slowly, the dog hesitant to go into a sit in it. That's why it's for me, it's so so important that as trainers, we can recognize that because if we don't we might fit, we might place blame on our training protocol, we might place blame on the criteria we're setting that can be really detrimental to our overall program, because we might not be noticing the pain issue. But yeah, hasn't been seen to do certain behaviors as a significant one increased stress signals during training exercises is something I see. And again, we might attribute that to, okay, the dog is stressed about the provocative stimulus we're trying to work. But it's actually a pain issue. Or maybe it's a combination of enormous stress stacking. So, again, as trainers and consultants, that's our role. And then we can say, Well, you know, I think we should probably send this off to, you know, whichever veterinarian we're doing. So that regard. Let's talk about that first, and then we'll talk about we'll get into some of the cool stuff you do to to assess pain, but from a veterinary perspective, what are some of the most common tests, you would like to see done? That the veterinarians are gonna do that say, okay, we're gonna, we're gonna diagnose pain looking at that.

Debbie Torraca:

And it's definitely you know, you factor in, the dog is going most dogs are fairly tense going into a vet's office. So I think that's where sometimes I know, my, I have an older cocker spaniel that limps, except when he goes to the vet, you know, even I was like, struggling to just get this, like, Look, trust me, he's in pain, like, he's gets up, he's lame, that sort of stuff. So as simple walking test, and usually outside, you know, so most of the orthopedists I work with, will watch the dog walk outside, watch them get out of the car, you know, is there limping? Do they walk out of it, you know, in 30 seconds, it's just, you know, some stiffness, but then certainly palpation, you know, feeling, getting the dog to relax. If in doubt, you know, using radiographs or x rays, that sort of stuff, more equipment is coming in using like a pain monitor, where giving a little bit of pressure, like similar to people, some people are more sensitive to other to, you know, than others. So using touch and using a certain amount of pressure to determine but paying attention to the dog's behavior. Again, if some dogs will not eat if they're in pain, so again, taking a good history in looking at their range of motion, really getting in there and feeling with certain things. Then, you know, some of the, some dogs are just very stoic, you know, a lot of the police shepherds I work with are not going to show anything unless they're really hurting. And then they're gonna let you know. And then I always joke, some of the site hounds are definitely more sensitive, and a breeze can blow in and they can cry. So but you know, from the trainer, and owners like writing things down, you know, specifics, like this is what I see. And hopefully that can try to replicate that.

Michael Shikashio:

I realized just how broad of a question I should ask there because I'm going through I'm like, there's so many different veterinary setting. Now let's get into what you do some of some of the really cool things I saw, like the thermal imaging. Yeah, he also mentioned, I also saw that you have to remind me what it's called. But with the dogs pattern or their gates. Yeah. And being Yeah, pick up minutiae, that so tell me more about that. Yeah.

Debbie Torraca:

So we use a dynamic gait analysis, which is very cool. The dog walks along this large walkway that has tons of sensors in there, and it'll show us how much weight they're putting on each leg, which is great, because, you know, ideally, we want them all to be at 100%. But you could see the disruptions in their their gait pattern. It'll also look at their stride length, so how much they're reaching out, because if they're hurting or they have weakness, they're not going to reach out as much. We'll look at the comparison side to side and be able to determine a lot of different things and it's very good for an objective point of view. So it's something that we can do and I could show the owner and say look, so your dog's not putting as much weight on there. They're right back leg and they're compensating. And I could also send that to their vet and say, Look, you know, the dog is still not doing very well, I recently had a woman come in and say, Oh, my dog is doing great. I'm just gonna have you checked her out. And I'm, when I showed her the gait analysis, the poor dog was only putting something like 40% of the weight on the back leg. And, you know, so this is not good. So we have to improve this. So that's great for owners. And that's, you know, to see, and as long as the dog can walk, we could do it.

Michael Shikashio:

So that kind of thing is just so amazing to me, because it picks up such the small details, because there are some people that are very good at watching a dog walk, and pick up such minor details, just like a trainer that is able to read a dog that's about to become aggressive. Yeah, it they can start as they go along, and they start to pick up on smaller and smaller micro signals that are becoming a problem. And same thing I see people are able to pick up on just a subtle step change, or just one not being as much weight. And that's a skill on its own. You know, it's something I've been trying to learn more about over the years, but I'm nowhere near as skilled as some of the people I've met. And I'm like, wow, and then you slow it down. You watch the video, you're like, wow, yeah, amazing. Some people can pick that up.

Debbie Torraca:

Well, I'll even like something. If someone can't come into the office, I'm doing a Virtual Console. I know it sounds funny, but and call it a poor man's gait analysis, take nail polish, and paint the top of the dog's nails and the bottom of the dog's nails and don't look at it for 24 hours, you know, let the dog do its normal activity and then pay attention to it. Do they wear down more on one foot or one toe? Did they scrape it off on the front? And you know, that's sometimes like a nice way of saying, Oh, yeah, you know, they're right back leg, is untouched, you know, so they're not weight bearing as much. And that's kind of little trick like, get like bright red nail polish.

Michael Shikashio:

Magic. That's such a great idea. I'm sure people listening in are also wondering what to do to avoid creating these problems in the first place. So obviously, we're gonna avoid head halters as much as possible. And I'm sure laminate flooring is on the top of your list. Yes, yes. What else in terms of general things you're seeing in the home or activities in home, but also from a training and sport perspective? What do you see if you really had a wish list of things people would avoid.

Debbie Torraca:

So one of my, probably the number one way I'm seeing dogs get hurt is ball playing. So so many owners think, Oh, you know, my dog loves this tennis ball, they just want to play fetch with me. And I think it could be a good exercise, but it just needs to be a little bit more controlled. Because this repetitive throwing a ball, yes, it tires the dog out, but it places so much stress on their body more when they stop to get the ball. So I'll see injuries, soft tissue injuries, or muscular injuries, problems with their spine. So if they are going to play ball, one, warm up the dog first. So take the dog for a five minute walk just get the blood flow going and control the ball playing. So I always say Think before you throw so tossing the ball or the Frisbee up in the air and watching the dog do flips is not good for the you know, the poor dog but if you can keep the dog in a sit or stay throw the ball out let them go and get it and have them come back you know so control it a little bit more and certainly avoid wet grass in the snow that sort of stuff. It seems almost like from so my clients that that's like the drug for the dog and for the owner, you know, I have my coffee I sit on my back deck and I just keep throwing, throwing throwing you know, in the poor dogs exhausted and like definitely that's like probably one of the number one things I see issues with the dogs don't have the strength to keep going and I constantly talk to the police force about this because with their you know, their balls, they you know, that's their, their positive reward, which is great, but I'm like okay, before you try to wear them out, let's do something else no to prevent injuries and that sort of stuff. So that's like top top of my of my list and we talk about it a lot. The other thing is like so many of these trick classes are becoming available online and you know what, I think it's great to spend time with your with your dogs and but think are some of these trick positions natural for the dog. So sit pretty is always such a controversial, you know, is it a trick and it's actually one of the more difficult things to do for a dog. It's very strenuous on their abdomen, and their spine so much has to be done like to get to a good sit pretty and I think a lot of people miss that in the, you know, in the interim. So and besides some breeds naturally will sit up and beg like that I never prescribe that as a as an exercise and try to stay away from it. But I'll ask people to look at the tricks and is that a natural movement? So would your dog do that naturally? Would they walk around on their front legs, you know, and that could be taxing and, and stuff like that.

Michael Shikashio:

Yeah, we've seen some of those videos of the dogs on their on like a just a tight rope or something. Yeah, all four paws are just bouncing in there kind of show, you know, like, Why? You know, our human egos sometimes fool.

Debbie Torraca:

Yeah, look at my dog can do. I'm like, okay, you know, it's not like a Malinois at war, like, you know, delivering something like, you know, they're very specific, like activities. You know that that could be But yeah,

Michael Shikashio:

So do you cringe when you see like those videos, of the Malinois like, running up walls that are like 25 feet high?

Debbie Torraca:

Yeah, you know. And you know, I have to say most of the time, like they're in shape, so they could handle that. I cringe when I go to like fairs, and you've got large Labradors that are like duck diving for the first time. And they're kind of like belly flopping in the water. I'm like, Oh, God, why? Not good. Not good. But,

Michael Shikashio:

yeah, so it sounds like we want to avoid playing fetch with our dogs on a laminate flooring, jumping off a tight rope with the head halter on?

Debbie Torraca:

There we go. Perfect.

Michael Shikashio:

That's the lesson for today. So what about what do you do in your setting for helping these dogs? So the dogs are coming in with pain issues are certain? And I know this is another broad question. What are some examples of some of the common things you're doing for rehab and helping dogs with pain?

Debbie Torraca:

So we always follow what's called the multimodal approach. So we want to decrease pain and inflammation. And then we can improve strength and range of motion. So we're never like, and I always tell people this, if a dog is in pain, the muscles are not going to work properly. So they're always going to be in a weakened state. So this is so important. And it's everything that we follow some of the tools that we'll use, you know, certainly massage may be one of them. And if I feel comfortable enough, we'll teach the owners how to do that. But we use a lot of laser, or photobiomodulation, which is a very strong light therapy, that is able to decrease pain and inflammation, also bring blood flow to the area. And real simply, it just works on where whatever the body needs, so it targets the brains of the cell, the mitochondria, and triggers the proper enzymes to kick in. And most of the time, we'll see pain, pain relief, sometimes within an hour, but definitely within 24 hours. And we're going to treat the primary area and any other areas that they have, if that works well at home and the owners need more at home will prescribe something called an a cc loop that is targeted pulsed electromagnetic field therapy. And sometimes if I've had this with cats that are just so painful, they'll kill and bite and take down my office staff will just send them home with an a cc loop for the owner to use which is you know, which is nice to help with the pain relief. We also do something called pulse shocked therapy pulse shockwave therapy, which is fantastic for deep pain and old arthritic pain as well as soft tissue injuries. It's kind of funny, the police shepherds getting them to like just calm down and it's amazing it almost puts them to sleep. So you can think of these high amped dogs and you know, it's a very nice treatment for them and certainly to relax and then alleviate pain. And then we'll use you know, certainly work on their range of motion but doing a lot of therapeutic exercises. We have underwater treadmills, which just the water itself is great to reduce pain as well like warm water but starting to get depending upon the height of the water we're decreasing the stress on the joints. So able to get them moving and you know kind of progressed from there. So that's always and the dogs are always tired after the water and owners are always so happy.

Michael Shikashio:

So sounds like a great activity for especially dogs, and I get a question a lot is what do I do with my dog who's just had an operation or procedure? Yeah, we've got to limit their range move but we've got to increase there's enrichment right, we've got to make sure exactly means it sounds like that's a great way to satisfy that without causing injury but actually you're helping the dog in that process. What about general treadmills? Your thoughts on just just treadmills in general?

Debbie Torraca:

Yeah. So as long as I think the best exercise I was tell people go out and walk your dog But getting back to some people are not able to do that or, you know, either physically or just with their own schedule. So I think dog treadmills are great, even a human treadmill if the belt is long enough. So when a dog kicks out in their stride, their stride length may be four feet, it may be eight feet, we want to make sure the belt is long enough. Usually the canine treadmills have a belt of about eight to nine feet, which works fine, except for Irish Wolfhounds, they don't fit on there. But at home, if you have a border collie, most likely they'll do well on a human treadmill, again, as long as the belt is long enough. And I always tell owners if your dog is used to a 20 minute walk outside, only walk them 10 minutes on the land treadmill to start because there's no sniffing there's no stopping. It's pretty consistent. And also listen for nail scrapes. So you know a couple times is fine. But if I'm starting to hear more than three or four nail scrapes, the dog is getting tired. And I always like I saw a video the other day that like I joke, like I should have a blog, like why Debbie drinks. Because they just left the person with the dog on the treadmill. And they were doing something else. They were showering. I'm like, oh god, no, no, no.

Michael Shikashio:

Yeah, dont do that at home. You know, as you're talking about treadmills was thinking about dogs that maybe live in an environment where they're always on leash. So they never had the opportunity to really run or exercise at their pace at their stride. Do you see issues crop up with that? So if say, like, somebody lives in an apartment in a city, and they're always out on leash, or the dogs always in the small apartment, so they're never really out running? Quote, unquote, stretching their legs? Yeah. Maybe it's somebody that walks very slowly. Yeah, you see issues, their muscle weight, muscle wastage, that kind of stuff?

Debbie Torraca:

Yeah, a little bit, definitely, what I see is, it's been happening a lot lately, the dogs do get free and they run and run and run and, you know, tear their power pads off or something like that. And but yeah, definitely just not having that endurance, not able to stretch their legs, that sort of stuff weakening in different, you know, facets, so they just don't have that full stride length, because they never have the opportunity to do it. Because, you know, they're confined or don't have that ability. But

Michael Shikashio:

I just want to jump back also a little bit on the topic of activities and toys, because I know somebody's thinking, what about tug? See issues?

Debbie Torraca:

So tug and what I always like to see with tug, and it can be a great exercise to strengthen. I mean, certainly making sure the dog doesn't have any neck issues. But this is something that you can pay attention to like put on that list of your month, if your dog does like to play tug, and all of a sudden, they're not wanting to tug, or they're dropping the tug. I teach this a lot to the police force, it could be anything from a dental issue to a cervical issue or mentioned the jaw, I like to keep the tug low. So either at their eye level, or if you have a tough time holding the tug, stand on the tug, and have them pull up. So this way their neck is in a flexed position, we want to avoid like, again, like the videos where you see people like dangling their dog by the tug. So that's a tremendous amount of force on their neck and their jaw. So we want to either keep it neutral eye level or lower. And but that's, you know, great to increase the strength in the, you know, their rear and their abdominals and that sort of stuff. And you can challenge it more by putting them on an unstable surface and doing a little bit more enrichment, you know, so they're tugging and balancing at the same time.

Michael Shikashio:

Do you think certain breeds are more equipped to handle the type of any sort of quote unquote, inappropriate tug activities?

Debbie Torraca:

I think yeah, definitely. I mean, you see a lot of like, the bully breeds and, you know, they're just more muscular to begin with, you know, that they want to they have that ability to handle it. And again, their jaws just so much stronger than, let's say a dachshund.

Michael Shikashio:

Yeah. Because we it's like this culture when you get around a certain breed that people will replicate what they're seeing and so just think about just how much that can be detrimental sometimes. Social media, YouTube and Tiktok and Instagram.

Debbie Torraca:

Oh, God. Yeah.

Michael Shikashio:

The big culprits, but they also spread great information to with all the training.

Debbie Torraca:

It's very true.

Michael Shikashio:

So if you had a wish list now, going back to what just in general. So we talked about what you'd like trainers to do, but for just the general pet owning public, and if you wanted to put yourself out of business, what would that look like, if you could have a wish list all the dogs in the world get this type of these, these kinds of activities, this kind of care, this kind of thought process into the physical, their physical being? Yeah, so

Debbie Torraca:

it's good. And I, my philosophy is always like, let's stack the cards in the favor of helping the dog, you know, so that's always something we want to do, probably top on the list is keep the dog at a good weight. So that is so so important. Just an overweight dog could be very painful, just because they are fat, you know, and it's stress on the joints and how it would be like,

Michael Shikashio:

How do you navigate that conversation? Real quick, how do you talk to a client without saying, you know, your dog is fat.

Debbie Torraca:

Yes. It's always I had a fat dog come in yesterday that had already lost 15 pounds. And I was like, oh, okay, well, we've got like another 40 to go. It's a tough, you know, certainly we don't want to aggravate the client, or upset them or anything like that. But I will word it kindly initially, like, you know, look, your dog is going to be so much more comfortable even taking one pound off. And I'll usually have them look at the dog and say, Look, this is we're supposed to feel ribs and show them how to feel ribs. And I find that most owners are aware that the dog is heavy, they have no plan, though. So they will, they'll go they'll talk to the vet, the vet prescribes, you know, food. And, you know, there's still the issue is more like the snacking, and, you know, all of that sort of stuff. So it is a tough conversation. I'm on the clients constantly. So the dogs are weighed all of the time. And I'm a huge believer in celebrating the small victories, like, Hey, you know, fluffy lost a pound, like, this is awesome, you know, positive positive praise, and, you know, you're doing a great job. And, but it's not, I mean, I've had owners definitely tell me to go to, you know, where, because they don't want to hear it, you know, their dog is perfect. And, you know, I definitely, you know, the pandemic world, everyone's like gaining some weight here. And it is a tough topic. And it's definitely going from objective, they're going to just live longer if they're at a less weight, you know, simple.

Michael Shikashio:

So we don't want overweight dogs, what'ssomething else on your wish list?

Debbie Torraca:

So I would say just engaging in some physical activity. Now I hear every excuse, I can't walk my dog, I can't do this. And all I say is like 10 minutes twice a day, then some time, if you can't walk your dog, how but teaching them to back up, you know, how about having them sit to stand to trying to just make it fit into their everyday activities, to get some enrichment, they're both for the dog and for the owner, that is important. The other thing is paying attention to their dog. So really get to know like, we all pet our dogs we all sit with them, but actually get to feel, you know, different areas. So what's normal for your dog? And going back to that one month check list, you know, just does everything feel normal? Are you able to touch their toes, you know, some owners are better with doing range of motion and, and looking at all of that. But paying attention to all of all of that, those would probably be my top three things of keeping the dog healthy. And you know, dogs aren't like I said there are going to get hurt, they're going to get injured. And the quicker we could treat it, the better quicker it's going to go you know, so.

Michael Shikashio:

That's really great, great advice. Do you have any favorite resources for trainers or pet owners to kind of learn more about the things we were just talking about? And just how to recognize movements and pain issues? Theres honestly not a lot out there. You did a webinar for me which is great, but honestly, there's there's not a whole ton of information. So what are your favorite resources for that?

Debbie Torraca:

So, you know, really, and as you said, there's not working on you know, some more out there to just get to know like, the dog's gait like looking at simple video in your dog what's normal, you don't have to be an expert, you know, in gait at all, but there's a video look different than before. You're getting to know a little bit of the dog anatomy and it doesn't have to be you know, anything like I recommend get a coloring anatomy coloring book for the dog, you know, color and just get to know like the body a little bit and then feel it and see what's going on. You know, certainly their veterinarian textbooks on recognizing pain that are pretty involved. But usually, there's also some great resources online, you know, just looking how do I know my dog is in pain because I usually do you find that owners, you know, had no clothes? Why their dog was sleeping so much or anything like that?

Michael Shikashio:

Yeah, yeah. So where can people find more about you? You've got wizard paws which is high high, I send people there all the time. But I concur that, I highly recommend world class facility like, literally world class. So tell us more where people can find your site and other things you're working.

Debbie Torraca:

Yeah, so you could go to wizardofpaws.net they can always reach me there. We're putting up something been doing more and more virtual appointments now with the pandemic, but also just people all over the world. So always glad to consult with both trainers for veterinary professionals and owners to do that. But that's a great way to reach out to me and is working on different blogs and stuff like that. So all that information. Is there we're on Facebook, Instagram also.

Michael Shikashio:

Is it all Wizard of Paws on all Social Medias?

Debbie Torraca:

Yeah.

Michael Shikashio:

Awesome, awesome. All right, Debbie, thank you so much for coming on. So much great information there. I'm sure the listeners are going to be very happy about this one. Awesome. Thank you. Thanks for joining me for the bitey end of the dog. If you liked the show, please feel free to subscribe, share and give a rating and hop on over to aggressivedog.com, or the looseleashacademy.com for more information about webinars, courses and conferences, all dedicated to helping dogs with aggression issues. And don't forget the aggression in dogs conference will be happening from October 22 to 24th. With 12 amazing speakers all streaming from a television studio in Chicago. It's going to be a truly unique event in 2021.