When a dog owner from Aschaffenburg goes for a walk with her dog Mika in the park, she suspects no harm. The two take the well-known route through the park. Nothing conspicuous has ever happened before.
“Back in the apartment she was hardly herself”, the dog owner tells Primavera 24. She had watched Mika eat something off the floor and therefore reacted immediately.
The diagnosis is shocking
Tremors, diarrhea, fluid loss. At the veterinary clinic, Mika’s case puzzles the doctors. She is treated and cared for for hours. The diagnosis that is finally made is shocking: It was not poison baits that triggered Mika’s violent reaction and almost cost her life, but human feces – it contained traces of cocaine!
This case shows that poison baits that are not only prepared by human hands can be dangerous for your dog. For dog owners, it is hard to imagine what substances the dog takes up from the ground when sniffing around on the usual walker tour. Poison bait training can help save your dog’s life in many cases – take it seriously and get started right away! Dog trainer Sonja Meiburg explains how you can reduce the risk of your dog eating harmful things from the ground with anti-poison bait training.
First of all, you need to make a few preparations. Test which treats or dog biscuits your dog likes best and make a top 10 list. In addition, your dog should either know the clicker as a positive marker or you should condition it to a short marker word such as “click”, “zack” or the like. You should also train a release signal such as “take it” with him.
Your dog, equipped with a harness and leash, will be tied up or held by a second person and will watch you as you serve a moderately exciting food on a plate on the floor from a distance. The top lining and the clicker are within easy reach. Then walk towards the plate with your dog on leash, but stand at a safe distance in front of it. You reward his look at the plate with a click or the marker word. Then show him the treat in your hand and get him to turn away from the plate and towards you. He gets the top treat and after your release signal is allowed to eat the food on the plate. Of course, he will not always be allowed to receive this food later.
But so that he does not get frustrated during the training and tries to secretly swallow the treats, he is allowed to have them in the initial phase of the exercises and every now and then in between. You want him to learn that before he reaches the food on the floor, he’ll turn to you and get a great reward there. When that fits, vary by always changing a factor such as time or place of training, type of treats, with or without a plate. When you are sure he will turn around and not pounce on the food on the bottom, reduce the distance until you are finally standing next to the plate. Later on you can inconspicuously lose a treat while walking, which you can then practice stopping and turning around on the way back. In high school it works without a leash.
Sit on the floor in front of your dog. Hold one hand, filled with unattractive food, closed 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 “Nope!” In a friendly manner.
No matter what your dog is doing now, he cannot get to the food in your outstretched hand. If he pauses briefly, click and lure him away from the other hand with the top treat hand. He is allowed to eat the top treat, and when he is on the last bite, he is given permission to eat the food in your other hand as well. In the next step, he only gets the click when he turns away from the hand on the floor to you or the top treat hand. If he does that reliably, you can also try laying the food open on the floor. But then you have to be quick and cover the food with your hand in case he wants to pounce on it. In this case, you should take another step back with your training.
If that works with the open food, then again the various factors such as place, time or treats vary. Now the food on the ground can be more interesting for the dog than the food in hand. In this way he learns to turn away from the food when it is really good. To get the signal “Nothing there!” To practice walking, you build up the exercise similar to the feed-stop training. To do this, place the less attractive food on a plate and lead your dog in a straight line by the harness, leaving a sufficient distance. The moment he perceives the treat, give your “Nothing there!” Signal and your dog should then turn around to face you. If he does, you click and of course he’ll get the jackpot, the top fodder out of 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 trust yourself to try the exercise off the leash. The food on the plate is initially covered so that he can smell it but cannot reach it.
At the end of the training, you ideally have a dog who, on your signal, turns away from anything edible on the ground in front of him. But that also means: If you do not see the food on the ground, in the worst case the poison bait, in front of him and your “Nothing there!” does not come, there is still a risk that it will eat off the ground. The next variant 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 food stop 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 you wait in this situation with the clicker and give the display signal instead. You must now practice this well, and when you are sure that the dog has mastered it, leave the signal off and wait to see whether your dog shows the display behavior anyway. If so, then he gets the jackpot. If not, then it has probably not been ready and you will have to continue working with Signal first.
Very important: the dog is initially still on a leash, 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 does not eat food from the floor, no matter how seductive it may be, but instead draws your attention to it with his display behavior.
If you suspect that your dog has eaten poison bait, then do not waste any time, but rather take him to the vet as quickly as possible. If possible, take leftovers of the supposedly poisonous feed 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 what toxic substance it is. Very important: file a report with the police! Many people repeatedly demand higher penalties for animal cruelers. In order to enforce this, however, the cases must be registered with the authorities. And inform other dog owners by posting a warning label at the relevant point. In the social networks on the Internet there are many regional groups that exchange ideas on the subject of poison bait. A note also makes sense here. 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!
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