If the dog has eaten something off the ground while walking and it keeps getting worse afterward, dog owners and veterinarians immediately suspect one thing: poisoned baits! But this case is surprisingly different.
When a dog owner from Aschaffenburg takes her dog Mika for a walk in the park, she suspects nothing bad. The two take the well-known route through the park. Nothing unusual has ever happened.
“Back in the apartment, she was hardly herself,” the dog owner tells Primavera 24. She had observed Mika eating something off the floor and therefore reacted immediately.
The diagnosis is shocking
Trembling attacks, diarrhea, dehydration. In the veterinary clinic, Mika’s case puzzles the doctors. She is treated and cared for hours. The diagnosis that is finally made is shocking: It was not poisonous bait that triggered Mika’s violent reaction and almost cost her her life, but human feces – it contained traces of cocaine!
This case shows: Not only poisoned baits prepared by human hands can be dangerous for your dog. For dog owners, it is hard to imagine which substances the dog picks up from the floor when sniffing around on the usual walk. Poison bait training can help save your dog’s life in many cases – take it seriously and get started now! Dog trainer Sonja Meiburg explains how anti-poison bait training can reduce the risk of your dog eating harmful substances off the ground.
Anti-Poison Bait Training: How It Works
First, you need to make a few preparations. Test which treats or dog biscuits your dog likes best and make a top 10 list. Also, your dog should either know the clicker as a positive marker, or you condition him to a short marker word like “click,” “zack,” or something similar. You should also practice a release signal such as “Take it” with him.
Your dog, equipped with a harness and leash, is tied up or held by a second person and watches you at a distance as you arrange food that is moderately exciting for him on a plate on the floor. You have the top feed and the clicker at hand. Then approach the plate with your dog on a leash, but stay at a safe distance from it. Reward him for looking at the plate with a click or the marker word. Then show him the treat in your hand, getting him to turn away from the plate and toward you. He gets the top treat and can also eat the food on the plate after your release signal. Of course he will not always be allowed to have this food later on.
However, so that he does not get frustrated during the training and tries to secretly gobble down the treats, he is allowed to have them in the initial phase of the exercises and every now and then in between. He should learn that before he reaches the food on the ground, he turns to you and gets a great reward there. Once that’s right, vary it by always changing a factor such as the location or time of the training, the type of the two treats, with or without a plate. When you’re sure he’s turning around and not pouncing on the food on the floor, decrease the distance until you’re finally standing next to the plate. Later, you can then inconspicuously lose a treat on the walk, which you can then use to practice stopping and turning around on the way back. In high school, this also works without a leash.
Important signal during anti-poison bait training: “nothing there!”
Sit on the floor in front of your dog. One hand, filled with unattractive food, stretch out towards him on the floor. The other hand with the top treats is hidden behind your back. In this hand, you also hold the clicker between your thumb and forefinger. When the dog turns to the outstretched hand, say politely, “Nix da!”.
No matter what your dog does now, he cannot reach the food in your outstretched hand. If he pauses, click and lure him away from your other hand with the top treat hand. He gets to eat the top treat, and when he’s on the last bite, he gets clearance to eat the food in your other hand as well. In the next step, he doesn’t get the click until he turns away from the hand on the ground toward you or the top treat hand. If he does this reliably, you can also try laying the food open on the ground. But then you have to be quick and cover the food with your hand in case he tries to pounce on it. In this case, you should take a step back in your training.
If that works with the open food, then again the various factors such as location, time or treats vary. Now the food on the ground can sometimes be more interesting for the dog than the food in the hand. In this way he learns to turn away from the food when it is really good. To get the signal “Nix da!” To practice while walking, build up the exercise similar to stop-feed training. To do this, place the unattractive food on a plate and lead your dog past the harness in a straight line at a sufficient distance. The moment he sees the treat, give your “No way!” signal and your dog should then turn to face you. When he does, you click and of course he gets the jackpot, the top bait from your hand. After the release signal, he can also eat the food from the plate. You now have to train, vary and refine this for quite a while until you can dare to try the exercise without a leash. The food on the plate is initially covered in such a way that he can smell it but cannot reach it.
Ideally, by the end of the training session, you will have a dog that, at your signal, will turn away from whatever food is on the ground in front of it. But that also means: If you don’t see the bait on the ground, in the worst case the poisoned bait, in front of him in time and your “Nothing there!” If it doesn’t come, there is still a risk that it will eat off the ground. The next option is even safer.
The display behavior should be a signal that the dog already knows and that he is very happy to carry out. If he can do it in his sleep, refine the stop-feed training until the dog can stand relaxed in front of the best food about 30 centimeters away, without touching it, but looking at you. In the next step, wait with the clicker in this situation and give the indicator signal instead. Now you have to practice this well, and when you are sure that the dog has mastered it, omit the signal and wait to see whether your dog shows the alerting behavior anyway. If so, then he gets the jackpot. If not, then he probably wasn’t ready yet and you’ll have to keep working with Signal for now.
Very important: The dog is initially still leashed, so that he never has the opportunity to get to the food without permission. Your patience and perseverance will be crowned when your dog later doesn’t eat any food off the floor, no matter how tempting it may be, but draws your attention to it with its alerting behavior.
Dog eats poison bait: what to do?
If you suspect that your dog has eaten poisoned bait, then don’t waste any time and take him to the vet as soon as possible. If possible, take leftovers of the supposedly poisonous food with you. Then it can be ruled out that sharp objects such as glass splinters or nails are contained before the dog is made to vomit. And if necessary, the bait can be examined more closely in the laboratory to determine which toxic substance it is. Very important: File a report with the police! Many people keep demanding higher penalties for animal abusers. In order to enforce this, however, the cases must be registered with the authorities. And inform other dog owners by posting a warning notice at the relevant point. There are many regional groups in the social networks on the Internet that exchange views on the subject of poisoned baits. A note here also makes sense. Mobile phone apps such as “Poison Bait Radar” warn of current threats and rely on reliable information.
It is also very important to act as a precaution. This means teaching your dog not to eat off the floor. Even if this training requires a lot of patience, it pays off!