Nutrition plays a pivotal role in not only skin and coat health but it also influences the health of all the body systems in your dog. Cellular heath, tissues, organs, immunity, digestion and even behaviour - as a result of pain or general unhealthiness - can be affected if the body isn't functioning optimally.
Collagen is the building block of the skeletal system that's critical to it's integrity over a lifetime. It's the main structural protein found in skin and connective tissues that builds the framework for bone mass and strength, as well as cartilage, muscles, joints, connective tissues and blood vessels.
In fact, of the total protein in a dog's body, 30% is collagen. But as dogs age, their capacity to produce collagen comes to a halt which makes them more susceptible to injuries, pain, poor skin and coat health. Because collagen forms the rods that give structure and strength to every bone in your dog's body, this diminished collagen production can become even more problematic in cases of arthritis, bone loss, hip dysplasia and joint diseases like intervertebral disk disease and degenerative joint disease. It also determines the strength and elasticity of their hair, nails and teeth and is the primary building material of the very delicate tissues that support eye heath.
It is a natural process of aging that causes depletion of healthy collagen but that doesn't have to mean that production can't be stimulated again. There are supplements that can replace lost collagen and help to stimulate the connective tissues, enhance bone strength and vitality, rejuvenate overall health and improve quality of life. Studies have shown that the earlier you add a collagen supplement to your dog's diet, the more likely you will be able to prevent future bone, joint, skin and coat problems
Here are 6 reasons Collagen should be added to your dog's diet:
1. Injury Prevention & Joint Stabilization
The integrity of the joints depends on the presence of collagen because collagen makes up 70-90% of muscles, tendons and ligaments. As connective tissues loosen and bones become more brittle in aging dogs, they become more susceptible to injuries such as patellar subluxations, torn ligaments and hip or elbow dysplasia. Supplementing your dog's diet with a collagen product will improve joint lubrication, flexibility and strength, preventing these injuries.
2. Reduced Inflammation
Just like humans, inflammation affects dogs' health in many ways and chronic inflammation has been linked to the development of conditions in dogs such as allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, type II diabetes, pancreatitis, liver disease and inflammatory bowel disease.
Collagen contains several anti-inflammatory nutrients, such as Glycine, Proline and Arginine which can provide the nutrition required to prevent the development of inflammatory illnesses and diseases. Chronic inflammation is difficult to detect because it often has no early warning signs. This is why adding anti-inflammatory supplementation to your dog's diet is beneficial and necessary for disease prevention, overall health and wellbeing.
3. Maintains a Healthy Shiny Coat, Moisturized Skin and Strong Nails
Appearance may not be a concern for your dog, but collagen is important when it comes to the skin, coat and nails of your dog. It's not all about pouty lips, long lashes or getting rid of crow's feet, 70% of the protein in your dog's skin is collagen. It's responsible for maintaining a healthy, moisturized dermis as well as helps to replace dead skin cells; promoting a soft, shiny coat; and strong, powerful nails that do not split or crumble as they grow.
4. Improves Age-Related Joint Pain
As your dog ages, they stop producing collagen in their body and become depleted of this necessary structural protein. Age-related joint and soft tissue pain is something that most dogs will experience to some extent as they enter into their senior years and some even earlier.
The loss of collagen in the joints that occurs during the natural aging process plays a major role in arthritis, degenerative disc disease and tendonitis, which are three of the most common causes of pain in senior dogs. When they lose collagen, their tendons and ligaments start moving with less ease which leads to stiffness, swollen joints and more joint problems.
Collagen is a gel-like, smooth structure that covers and holds the bones together and allows movement without, or with reduced pain. Think of collagen as a lubricator for your joints like greasing a creaky door hinge, the lubrication helps the joints move more easily, reduces the pain associated with aging and even reduces the risk of deterioration of the joints.
5. Aids in Digestion
Collagen breaks down proteins to aid in digestion. And it soothes and heals the protective mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract by forming connecting tissues and infusing the whole digestive systems with healing amino acids. This is crucial for your dog's overall health and wellness because it will provide a healthy environment for beneficial bacteria to grow, which is the best natural defence against illness and disease.
Collagen contains Glycine, an amino acid that has been shown to have soothing properties to help promote an overall healthier, less agitated digestive system in your dog.
6. Boosts Immune System & Faster Wound Healing
Close to 80% of immune system cells are found in the gut, therefore an improvement in gut health results in a healthier immune system. Collagen supplementation may help prevent the inflammatory responses triggered by leaky gut syndrome and Proline, an amino acid found in collagen has been shown to boost the immune systems and promote faster wound healing.
What is Clicker Training?
As positive reinforcement systems for training dogs become more and more popular, many families are coming to clicker trainers to learn more about this approach.
Clicker Training is an approach to teaching dogs what we WANT them to do, rather than focusing on what we DON’T want them to do. Based on the science of behaviorism, clicker training requires the pairing of a marker tool (the clicker) with food to establish a conditioned reinforcer and then the sound of the “click” is used to indicate the moment the dog does something the trainer would like them to do again.
When the mechanical skills of the Clicker Trainer are mastered, they are able to give very precise information to the animal and because they are gaining access to reinforcement with each click, the dog enjoys the process as well.
But How Do I Use a Clicker With my Deaf Dog?
Establishing a conditioned reinforcer through the use of a marker tool is a really great place to start your training. Even though your deaf dog can’t hear, they can see and feel touch, so you have many other options to use as a marker.
My first choice is always a key ring LED flashlight. They are light and compact, can be attached to a wrist coil just like a regular clicker and they give a nice, bright flash that your deaf dog can see. Please do not point a laser pointer in your dog’s eyes, ever as this can be very dangerous. I found a key ring LED flashlight at my dollar store for literally $1…considering the cost of clickers, I may switch to a silent marker myself (lol).
The flash is easily perceived by the dog from a number of different angles, which makes it an ideal marker tool, especially when you begin to shape more complex behaviors.
To “charge up” the flash, you follow the same protocol you would for a regular clicker. Here are the steps:
Other Types of Marker Tools
You could also use a hand signal, such as a “thumbs up,” as a click. A signal like this would allow you to mark your dog’s behavior from a distance, during the daylight when the flash is a bit harder to see.
If you were working at a distance outdoors, you could also use a higher-powered flashlight, or a strobe light like the one that photographers use. This is one way how bird trainers mark the behavior of their animals while they are in flight.
You could also use a particular touch, such as a quick tap on the cheek. This can be aversive for some dogs, so make sure that it is a gentle touch and always paired with something amazing. To click from a distance, perhaps to release from a down-stay, you would return to your dog to give them their “tap” and then return to your position to continue on with the next behavior cue.
At the sound of a human voice, dogs with normal hearing automatically look up and usually find this type of action very rewarding with human interaction and attention. Deaf dogs don’t have the same experience, and really may never look up at you on their own.
I love the “It’s Your Choice” program, however, it may be a lengthy process to wait for your deaf dog to offer you attention and considering this, prompting your deaf dog for attention, at least in the beginning, will most likely be necessary.
This process of prompting must be discontinued as soon as the dog is offering lots of attention and gets the connection that paying attention to you pays handsomely!
Without attention and connection, whether your dog is deaf or hearing, you really can’t achieve much in communication with them. Life with a deaf dog may seem like it will come with a boat load of unique challenges, but through reinforcement-based training systems we can teach them the same way we would any dog, they are just going to have many different signals to use as a cue for, “hey you, look at me, I have something to tell you.”
Some attention cues that can be used are a rump tap, gentle collar pressure, a waved hand, flickering lights in a room, flickering the porch light, waving a hand or even a stomp on the floor! You can be creative, just make them distinct, easy to understand and simple for you to remember.
Here are some great games to play to get attention. Remember to keep your training sessions short and fun! No longer than 3-5 minutes at a time and only a few sessions a day.
Game #1 – Yoyo Game
How does the process of clicker training work?
Now that you’ve got your deaf dog’s attention, you’ve charged up your flash and understand a bit about how to teach behaviors using it, you can start to teach other behaviors such as come, sit, down and walk on the leash.
Use the procedure below to capture or shape new behaviors:
If you choose to use a vibrating collar for your deaf dog, there are a few of things to consider.
I have spent the past 15+ years learning the science of how all things learn and mastering my art as an animal trainer, behaviour consultant and transformative coach. With my specialty in canine reactivity, fear, aggression and canine communication, I have many insights to share into understanding, preventing, predicting and changing canine behaviour.