Tag: Sleepover Rover
We’ve previously discussed taking our dogs along to run errands, out to eat, and even to shop with us in addition to the more standard destinations like the beach and park. But there is so much more to our day and to our lifestyles! For those pet parents with human children, too, there are sports practices and sporting events, and for pet-exclusive pet parents, there are other recreational activities, such as personal sports activities and even more mundane things like getting chores done around the house and taking care of vehicle maintenance and the like. Once we take into account being able to bring our pups along for activities such as these, it seems as though the list of places our dogs CAN’T go may actually even be shorter!
ENJOYING THE SPORTS
Many of us take part in regular sports and recreation activities, whether as an individual or in a secondary role, such as accompanying a significant other or child to practice. Aside from work and school, these activities may take up a significant chunk of your free time! For the Rat City Rollergirls based in Seattle, Washington, many skaters and coaches spend at least two nights and one weekend day at their practice and competition facilities. Many of them are also pet parents and full time employees and/or students, so making sure their recreational activity of choice is dog friendly is a way for them to ensure they can get their favorite activity in as well as their quality time with their dog. The league allows dogs in all areas of their practice facility, and it’s not uncommon to see several dogs at league meetings and events. In fact, non-skating league members expect to visit with and maybe even help out with at least one pup at scrimmage night while their mom or dad is busy! Overall, the situation is a win-win – skaters are motivated to ensure their dogs are well-trained and used to being in different situations so they can bring them along, and the practice facility environment further allows dogs of the league members exposure to new people and sounds and gives them the chance to get lots of welcome attention.
AND ALL OF THE OTHER THINGS, TOO
Often the problem with fitting quality time in with our pups alongside our daily obligations comes down to simply getting too busy and forgetting that with a little adjusting, we can include them in many of our more mundane, required activities. When we need to take a child to ballet or take the car in for an oil change, it may be reflexive to assume that our dog or dogs cannot come along because of the nature of the facility. But that simply is not true! For example, if you have to head out to the local dealership and they have a no dogs lobby policy, it may be as simple as leaving your cell number with the receptionist and then you’ll be free to go for a walk or go enjoy some playtime with your pup in the nearby area. You may even be able to find a great park within walking distance! And in the case of a sports or music lesson – same idea. If you and your pup can’t stay inside, check in and go get some fresh air within the time period you’d typically just be waiting. The benefits of finding these extra pockets of time may not be limited to more exercise and interaction for you and your dog; in fact, a 2006 study indicated that dog owners are actually happier people and tend to laugh more than non-dog owners. Health and wellness are important building blocks for overall quality of life, and “frequent spontaneous laughter” sounds quite appealing in the face of all of life’s responsibilities and challenges! So perhaps you can take another look at your calendar, and find even more time to fit in the companionship and togetherness that drove you to having a dog in the first place! Get out there and explore, and most importantly have a great time together.
Images courtesy David Jaewon Oh (www.upsetspecialistphoto.com) and Astrid Suchy-Dicey
At all ages, just as in humans, the ideal for our dogs is to eat a balanced, whole foods based diet that in turn provides the nutrients needed for a healthy, active lifestyle. There are countless varieties of dog food on the market, including blends especially for different sizes and ages of breeds; in fact, there are even special varieties for dogs with food sensitivities or other unique needs (such as joint problems or grain sensitivity). Some pet parents even opt to go with an actual whole foods diet, prepping fruits, vegetables, grains, and meats for their dogs, or alternatively going with a “raw” diet – one that consists of mostly raw meats. With all of these options available, is there really a need for supplements for our pups? As a disclaimer, this is not being written by a vet, but rather by a pet parent curious about supplement options. So of course, when it comes to options specific to your dog, check with your vet first!
DO DOGS EVEN NEED SUPPLEMENTS?
The consensus seems to be that with well-made commercially prepared foods, the delicate balance of nutrients has been tested and tested again prior to mass production, so if you are feeding your dog a quality food appropriate to his age, size, and medical history, you should be okay without any supplementation. However, if you are feeding your dog a homemade diet you may want to check in with your vet and see if there are any nutrients that aren’t being included in what your dog eats on a daily basis. Additionally, regardless of whether your dog’s food is store bought or homemade, there may be negative consequences if your dog is getting too much of a vitamin or mineral as a result of additional supplementation, and some supplements designed for humans are not recommended for dogs in any quantity.
COMMON TYPES OF SUPPLEMENTS
For aging dogs or larger breeds that may have joint problems at a younger age, glucosamine-chondroitin is a commonly recommended supplement. According to WebMD, glucosamine-chondroitin has been shown to possibly help alleviate the pain and reduced mobility associated with osteoarthritis in dogs, and your vet may recommend it for your dog. Another common category of supplements recommended for dogs are fatty acids or fish oil, usually used to reduce inflammation and/or increase coat shine. Again, it is specific to each dog, and given the expensive nature of many supplements, you’ll definitely want to check with your vet and see if such supplementation is recommended for your dog. Antioxidant supplements may also be recommended for dogs to decrease inflammation, but again – follow the golden rule of pet parenting, check with your vet! You may save yourself some money avoiding unnecessary supplements, and at the more extreme end of the spectrum, you may save your dog unnecessary negative health consequences from administering supplements that she doesn’t need or that aren’t safe for her!
Images courtesy and Yesudeep Mangalapilly and Ken Lo
As it is with any unfortunate event, the news has been saturated with updates on the landslide situation in Oso, Washington. In the midst of the massive recovery efforts, silent four-legged volunteers have been steadily braving the elements and doing their part. Conditions have been cold, muddy, and generally quite difficult, but nonetheless rescue dogs have been working to help locate victims. Both in domestic natural disasters and even in international war efforts, working dogs often play vital roles in operational activities, working loyally and tirelessly next to their handlers. In fact, according to the National Association for Search and Rescue, teams including working dogs are available to all emergency and government agencies at any time, often at no cost to the requesting agency. And the scope of dogs’ contributions to society goes well beyond search and rescue; in fact, there are working dogs trained to help with a variety of medical conditions and even just to provide a welcome presence during difficult situations.
While Search and Rescue dogs are busily working to locate victims, therapy dogs are also often on scene providing comfort to both those impacted by the event as well as those who have volunteered, including medics, work crews, and other first responders that may be on-site. As of 2012, Therapy Dogs International had almost 25,000 registered dog/volunteer handler teams, and they list their mission statement as being “a volunteer organization dedicated to regulating, testing and registration of therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers for the purpose of visiting nursing homes, hospitals, other institutions and wherever else therapy dogs are needed”. The “wherever else” piece is a crucial element – therapy dogs provide assistance not only in extreme situations such as Ground Zero, but also in smaller scope situations such as comforting children learning to read, provide companionship in hospices and VA hospitals, and even being a welcome face for assisted living residents.
As mentioned above, working dogs can also provide a variety of medical assistance services, ranging from helping disabled persons with mobility to monitoring their human companions for Type I Diabetes-related signs of low blood sugar. Dogs' training can be extensive and tailored specifically to the medical needs of their companions, and they provide help in a way that is so flexible and yet so specific that their role in our lives is literally irreplaceable. Search and Rescue Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Assistance Dogs can all come from a variety of breeds, and they can range from purebred, registered dogs to shelter or rescue pups. The key lies in their general disposition coupled with excellent training, and the intelligent, highly aware nature of dogs makes them excellent candidates for providing a variety of services for their human companions. They work quietly and steadily in law enforcement, military operations, search and rescue efforts, hospitals, and even in private homes, all for the simple reward of a pat on the head or perhaps a treat. So the next time you hear the phrase “man’s best friend”, really take stock of what that means! We may provide care and shelter for them, but where would we be without our canine helpers and companions? They can physically sense what we cannot, they can provide a quiet audience that doesn’t judge while a young child learns to read, and they can provide comfort to us when we are in situations that just don’t make any sense otherwise.
Images courtesy Rick Wilking (Reuters) and Army Medicine
A small college in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania recently announced its decision to allow dogs on campus; more specifically, dogs can now accompany their staff-member owners just about anywhere, including to class, to private offices, and of course in the outdoor areas on campus. The decision came about when Moravian College President Bryan Grigsby adopted a Greyhound, both to serve as a new member of his family and also to serve the greater Moravian family as a school mascot. Grigsby looked into bringing his pup to work and realized that allowing his staff to do the same would possibly increase the overall well-being of his faculty members. In fact, according to John Best’s article in the Lehigh Valley Times, the Virginia Commonwealth recently found employees that bring their dogs to work are overall less stressed and more productive. And although Moravian may be progressive in its adoption of such a dog-friendly policy, it appears that the school is not alone in allowing dogs in the workplace. In fact, there may be several places that are a regular part of your daily life that are dog-friendly!
According to dogfriendly.com, several large United States employers have implemented dog-friendly policies in the workplace. Some of those include: Amazon, Clif Bar, Google, Netscape, Dell, and Microsoft. If dogs are not a common sight in your workplace, it may be worth it to simply ask your supervisor or your Human Resources department about having dogs in the workplace. Having your dog with you in the office can be minimally invasive for your co-workers as long as your pup is socialized and has had some training; additionally, you may be pleasantly surprised by how much extra love and attention your pup gets! And even beyond the immediate benefits of all-day companionship for your dog and the convenience for you, having your dog nearby will serve as a reminder to leave your desk and walk him, or at the very least enjoy some interaction, lending a little balance to your day. We all know how easy it is to get wrapped up in a project and never take breaks for fresh air and exercise!
In addition to dogs in the workplace, many retailers and restaurants have dog-friendly policies in place. The next time you run out to the home improvement store or meet a friend for coffee, it is worth considering whether you can bring your dog along! Because of health department policies, many restaurants and coffee shops will only allow dogs in outdoor spaces; however, now that spring is setting in (and also depending on your climate, this may be a year-round possibility), outdoor patios are getting more and more use. It can be as easy as a quick phone call to see if there is outdoor seating and whether your dog is welcome. Many places also have water bowls available for use, but it’s never a bad idea to bring your own and fill it up on site when your pup gets thirsty. When it comes to running errands, according to ilovedogfriendly.com, dog-friendly retailers include: Nordstrom, Bass Pro Shops, Old Navy, Barnes and Noble, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and of course Petsmart and Petco. Each location may have slightly different policies (such as the dog must be somehow contained, or specific size allowances), so again: a quick phone call can set you up for success! Leaving our dogs in the car while we run inside is never optimal, especially in warm and cold conditions, and our dogs truly just want to be with us as much as possible. With a little research and an honest assessment of where your dog is at behaviorally, you can expand his horizons and possibly bring him along so much more often, which means more time together for both of you!!
Images courtesy Marya - emdot and Lulu Hoeller
Many of us have heard the tale of one human year being equal to seven dog years when it comes to calculating our dog’s age. Some of us have even taken a moment to work out “how old” exactly our dog is. However, although the comparison of dog age to human age is not an exact science, vets suggest that a handy shortcut to figuring out your dog’s age is to equate year one with 12 years of age, year two with 24 years of age, and then add four years for every one calendar year after that. This varies widely based on individual dog’s temperament, health concerns (if any), and probably most relevant: breed. Smaller breeds typically have a longer lifespan (again – this is variable based on the individual pup). Regardless of how old our dogs are with respect to our human aging process, having an aging dog serves as a reminder that we do in fact typically outlast our canine best friends, and brings up many questions about accommodating your dog before he starts to age and making sure that he has best quality of life possible from the start.
NUTRITION: THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF LIFE
There is not an agreed upon, single approach to canine nutrition, but it has been suggested that feeding our dogs foods specifically tailored to puppies and thus slighter lower in protein and minerals such as calcium and phosphorus may help to slow down their growth in the first two to three years, thus allowing their skeletons and organs to grow under less strain. In contrast, if a pup is overfed or fed highly protein-dense foods, they may grow faster than their physique can accommodate. This effect may be amplified if the pup is overweight in the first few years. Additionally, working with your vet to ensure your dog stays a healthy weight throughout the adolescent years and beyond can only be beneficial for your dog: excess weight translates to excess strain on bones, joints, and internal organs, just as in humans. This is particularly relevant to large and giant breeds that may be prone to hip problems.
HYGIENE AND A GOOD VET
This may be one of the more expensive facets of pet care, but it is also possibly the simplest: find a vet you trust, and work together to ensure the good health of your dog. With the internet at our fingertips, it is easier than ever to search engine away and play vet and pet parent with our pups. Realistically, keeping it simple and following a vaccination schedule, taking your dog to regular checkups, using pest preventative, and practicing good hygiene will do wonders for your dog’s quality and length of life. A good vet will help you map out all of these elements as well as help keep you on track (does anyone else feel so grateful when the reminder postcards come!?). The smaller pieces of this puzzle are important as well – keep your pet’s nails trimmed, keep her teeth cleaned, and if necessary based on her fur, keep her groomed. Not only will she be more comfortable, but she’ll also be protected from foot issues and dental problems, all of which will benefit her in the long run. Interestingly, according to Science Daily a University of Georgia study found that spayed or neutered pets may also live longer. It’s worth a discussion with your vet!
FRESH AIR AND EXERCISE
As people, we know that sometimes a simple walk around the block or even a cup of coffee taken outside in the fresh air can help us to reset and refresh our perspective on just about everything. Additionally, regular exercise has also been shown to reduce blood pressure, maintain a healthy weight, and improve overall cardiovascular health. So why wouldn’t these benefits apply to our dogs as well? According the ASPCA, exercise and play can not only provide the above physical health benefits to our dogs (except maybe skip the coffee!), but also take the place of the work that dogs are genetically predisposed to do. Our dogs are hardwired to want to play with their peers, scavenge for food, and just generally lead active, engaged lives. By taking the work out of life (feeding them twice a day, allowing them to just lounge about all day), they are not living in line with their natural tendencies and as a result may have health and behavioral problems. The solution is simple: walk your dog, and engage them in daily play. Make sure they get some fresh air and some activity appropriate to their age, breed, and individual temperament. Examples may be: playing fetch, going for a swim, or just running around together in the yard. When we take the time to plan out our dog’s nutrition, medical care, and daily activity, we can help them to lead long, happy, healthy lives. This means more time with your dog, and a happier dog at that!! Sounds like a win-win, right?
Images courtesy TijsB and Bala Sivakumar
We have mentioned travel with your dog several times, including road trips and even just motoring around town to check out local parks and coffee shops, but what about safety concerns? Is it as simple as just putting your pup in the car and going, or are there best practices? We should buckle up each and every time we get in the car, so does that same standard apply to our dogs? From just ensuring that our dog is comfortable and feels safe to actually making sure our dogs are physically safe on the road, the answer is a resounding yes!
ACQUAINTING YOUR DOG TO CAR TRAVEL
As pet parents, we are well aware that making changes takes time. When we get our puppy a new crate or even transition to a new food, we should ideally introduce change in steps to make sure she is comfortable with that change. Incremental changes reassure our pets and can take the discomfort out of said changes, and riding in the car is no exception. Rather than hopping in the car for a long drive, if possible it is a better idea to bring her along for a quick ride around the neighborhood first to help her adapt. The motion of the vehicle and being confined can be jarring, particularly for puppies and rescue dogs that may take a little longer to adapt. In practical terms, this may mean choosing an easy route close to home and allowing her to adjust. Additionally, you can time car rides to further help her feel comfortable. Avoid going for a drive just after mealtime, and if possible wait until after she’s had some fresh air and exercise. Most dogs are more relaxed and less anxious if they’ve had some exercise and attention and had a chance to take a potty break, and of course this applies to car trips, too! A restful dog is typically a more comfortable dog.
CHOOSING SAFETY OPTIONS
So let’s say you have a relaxed, comfortable dog (which is good for their peace of mind and safety as well as yours while on the road!) and now you’re ready to take to the road. What are the options? If your pup is comfortable with a kennel or crate, you can simply bring one along in the car to make sure he’s secure. Having a kennel in the back will serve as a sort of den for your dog and keep him from hopping around while you are driving. And worst case, if an accident or breakdown happens while you’re driving, he will be in a safe place and hopefully the chances of him escaping or getting hurt will be minimized. This will also establish a routine for your dog: when it’s time to hop in the car, he’ll know right where his place is in the vehicle and what to expect. Keep in mind that just as with crate training in the home, make sure to keep the crate a positive experience. Place a treat or favorite toy in the crate and reinforce that it’s not a punishment for him. Don’t force it – it may take time for him to be okay with climbing in at first. There are also dog seat belts and harnesses available at pet stores and online, and these devices can serve the same purpose: keeping your dog in one safe place, both to allow you to drive safely and to keep him safe in the event of an accident or other unforeseen circumstance. Whether a kennel or a harness is a better fit for your dog, remember: your lap is not a safe place for him, and as much as he may enjoy having his head out the window, that isn’t safe either! He may enjoy the freedom, but both of these scenarios can be highly dangerous for you and for him. And of course, please don’t leave your dog in the car in either hot or cold temperatures. She could overheat or sustain cold injuries, both of which can be tragic and are avoidable!! In fact, in many states there are now laws against both unsecured dogs and leaving dogs alone in the vehicle, so at best you’ll add fines or legal trouble to your day, even if nothing else goes wrong. With a little time and planning, car rides with your pup can be fun, safe, and a way for you both to get out and explore together!
Images courtesy Amanda Ray and Sarah Racha
I can still remember clear as day the afternoon we brought Kaiser home: we had driven from the Baltimore area out into the Pennsylvania countryside, and it was a beautiful, crystal clear day. We’d already been to the farm where Kaiser was born, so the terrain, the family, and even the home were familiar to us. Everything seemed so simple; we picked him up, finalized a few details, and within a short time we were back on the road and I had a yellow bundle of fur sleeping on my lap. As the road shot by, I started to think about getting him all set up once we were home. As he was our first puppy I had done research on training, temperament, food, you name it. And perhaps most fortunately, had already sought the advice of a local trainer on sleeping arrangements.
For a first time pet parent the puppy stage can be somewhat alarming. One knows on some level that it is going to be demanding. House breaking, setting up a new routine, and managing your pup’s angry little chewing habit while he or she is teething. It’s genuinely a matter of taking a completely unsocialized little guy and teaching him what is and what is not acceptable behavior, and that can be a daunting process. And on top of all of that, new pet parents are also likely struggling with sleep deprivation. Puppies need lots of potty breaks, even at night, and initially may have trouble adjusting to a conventional sleep schedule. But in order to maintain one’s responsibilities and just for the health of you, your family, and your new puppy, getting on a sleep schedule is highly important.
WHY A CRATE?
Of course as a pet parent we all ultimately find what works best for us and for our puppies. That being said, a crate may be a good way to get on a sleep schedule and establish a safe place in your home that is your puppy’s special space. According to the Humane Society, as natural den animals having a crate in the home can serve as a his “own personal den where he can find comfort and solitude while you know he's safe and secure—and not shredding your house while you're out running errands”. When attempting to get your puppy used to her crate, try to focus on the theme of safe and comfortable – pick out a soft, safe puppy bed made for use in a crate, or perhaps a soft blanket that can be folded and laid in the bottom. You can even consider draping a blanket or large towel over the top to make it more den-like, and tuck the crate in a corner or along a wall where it won’t be in the way and generating traffic. Your puppy will likely be more comfortable if she feels tucked out of the way and snug when she’s in her crate. If she’s hesitant to go in, remember: never force it. Hide a couple of treats inside as a special reward for when she does go in and check it out. Pick a cue and work on reinforcing that command, such as “go to your bed” or “go to your house”. Consistency is key, as your puppy will learn quickly that listening to your cue and doing the expected behavior leads to ear scratches, a cookie, or whatever reward you set for the behavior. On their website, the Humane Society lists several chronological steps for crate training your pup. Once he’s okay with going in and out, you can start to lengthen the time he spends inside, gradually working up to leaving him in it for periods during the day and eventually at night. With patience and lots of love, the end goal will benefit everyone in the home: a puppy that happily snuggles up in her crate for a good night’s sleep!!
Images courtesy John Star5115 and Moxkyr
HOW MUCH CAN YOU COMMIT?
The first step is to take honest stock of how much your household can contribute; that is, are you in a position to adopt an animal? Do you already have a dog or dogs, and if so, are they amenable to other animals? Do you have the space, resources, and time to commit to adding another member of the family? Or do you perhaps have the space but a more temporary option would be a better fit? Once you’ve taken stock of your resources and intentions, you’ll have a much better idea as to whether adoption, fostering, or perhaps even volunteering is a good fit for your current situation. And remember, volunteering makes a huge difference! Many organizations have small operating budgets and will take all of the help that they can get, whether it be admin help or walking dogs. If you are not quite ready to adopt or don’t really have the space, committing to regular volunteer commitments can make a significant difference in the lives of many dogs at once.
SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
Once you know what your intentions are, you can look into your local options and start inquiring for more info. There may be local shelters that have dogs up for adoption, or you may know exactly what breed is a good fit for you and choose to seek out a rescue organization that specializes in that breed. Either way, be patient. You may come home right away with a dog, but odds are that the process will take time. This is in the best interest of you and your adopted pup – if a group is willing to just hand you a dog, how thorough are they really being in screening you? Once you adopt your dog, you want it to be a forever situation for both of you, so taking some time to see what your household is like and the sort of environment the dog’s disposition is best suited for is a good idea for all parties involved! And even though waiting can be excruciating once you’ve made the decision and commitment to expand your family, remember you’ll have plenty of time for snuggles, play, and good times with your new pup once you welcome him or her into your household.
Images courtesy CCT Thompson and Kristine Paulus
Yes, the Super Bowl was yesterday. Yes, Denver, Seattle, New York (and probably everywhere in between!) are still consumed with football fever as the post action reviews and internet memes fill our inboxes and newsfeeds. But my fellow dog loving friends, what about the puppy bowl??
A LITTLE BIT OF BACKGROUND
Animal Planet produced its first puppy bowl as a Super Bowl alternative in 2005, making this year’s event the Tenth Annual Puppy Bowl. Aside from the puppies-on-a-field antics one would expect from such a production, the Puppy Bowl also typically includes special guests, a halftime show, and even the requisite pre-game singing of the National Anthem. In order to ensure the adorable stars (aka puppies) are safe and well taken care of, the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals both take on supporting roles monitoring the production, and a veterinarian is kept on hand just in case any of the pups get overzealous and need a quick checkup. Additionally, each puppy has its own human handler to guarantee proper supervision over the two to three days of filming needed to produce the show.
THIS YEAR’S PRODUCTION
For this year’s event, First Lady Michelle Obama made an appearance in a highlight reel of the pups’ training (held on the White House lawn of all places!), and there were also guest spots by the Muppets and representatives of New York City’s K9 Unit. This year was also unique in that the focus for the show was on canine adoptions; traditionally, all of the stars of the Puppy Bowl are shelter pups, and all are found homes by the time the show airs. This year, Animal Planet chose to highlight that element via a focus on the adoption journey of Rosie, a Chihuahua mix. Although the show is done with a lighthearted feel, the journey of shelter animals is all too real. According to the Humane Society, in 2012-2013 there were approximately 3,500 shelters in the United States, and of the between 6 and 8 million animals that entered those shelters, only 4 to 6 million were rehomed, leaving a surplus of about 2.7 million adoptable cats and dogs subject to euthanization (the Humane Society does not separate out its statistics by species, but rather combines figures for cats and dogs).
Images courtesy Mike Licht and Cindy Funk
Last week we talked about the many health benefits of being a dog parent, and we also touched on dealing with dog allergies. According to WebMD, one in five Americans have either allergy or asthma symptoms, 39% of households have a family dog, and 100% of households have detectable levels of dog or cat dander. So keeping these figures (and of course our love and attachment to our family pets) in mind, let’s talk a little more about this. Can allergies be prevented or at least reduced, and if so, how? Is there such a thing as a hypoallergenic dog breed? Do our dogs get allergies, too?!
PREVENTION AND CARE
So let’s say you are a current pet owner having trouble with allergies or asthma. Obviously, finding a new home for your dog is either your last resort, or realistically not even an option. Our dogs are a part of our family, so the ideal is to find a way to work around the problem so as to keep everyone right where they belong. There are many suggestions out there to address dog allergies, but some are more viable than others. For example, some may suggest letting your dog have as much outdoor time as possible, but is that really in the best interest of your dog? Particularly in colder weather, simply sending your dog outside all of the time may be physically uncomfortable for her and also sends the message that you do not want to spend time with her. As loving pet parents, neither of those things are what we want. It may, however, be a viable option to limit your dog’s access within the home. You can use a baby gate to secure the bedroom of the allergy sufferer, or limit your dog’s access to areas that are predominantly wood and tile rather than carpet, and thus possibly easier to clean. If you do choose to do that, make sure your dog has cozy beds and throw rugs in those areas so he does not get chilled on non-soft flooring.
EVEN OUR PUPS GET THEM
In dogs, the reactions are similar to that of humans. According to the ASPCA, allergies to environmental factors (soaps, cleaners, trees), to foods, and even to fleas may manifest as itchy eyes, swollen paws, itchy skin (identified by constant scratching), constant licking, and even gastrointestinal upset. It may take time, but if you suspect your dog is suffering from allergies, consult your vet and develop a plan to systematically eliminate environmental and/or food suspects and determine the culprit. If symptoms are manifesting as stomach problems and skin problems, you may want to start with food changes to see if you can determine what is irritating him. For example, our Lab had problems with red, itchy paws for quite some time. We initially attributed it to chemicals underfoot – carpet air fresheners used while vacuuming, fertilizer in the grass, salts spread when it was frosty. We stopped using said chemicals, bought him some little booties, and were very careful to clean his feet often and use balms when necessary. But only after a trusted vet suggested a grain allergy were we able to address the problem. He now eats grain free dog food and is doing just fine. It may take some sleuthing, but for both humans and dogs with allergies, often there are practical solutions that can improve everyone’s quality of life!
Images courtesy TwentyFour Students and Lucian Venutian
As pet parents, we know the warm feeling we get when we look at our dogs well, but what are the tangible benefits of dog ownership to our health and wellbeing? Aside from wet kisses and a wagging tail to come home to after a long day’s work, how does having our favorite dog in our life actually improve our overall quality of life?
FRESH AIR AND MOVEMENT
Even if we have a wonderful, fully fenced yard, the fact is dogs need exercise and attention. As dog owners, we are more likely to go right back out when we get home at the end of the day, whether to simply walk around the block or take our pup for more focused exercise (like a long hike or a jog). Dogs are also fully dependent on us for their overall care, so we can’t simply come home and plop on the couch; they need to eat and also generate more cleaning around the home, such as washing dishes and bedding. This benefit also extends to our children: according to a University of Victoria study, in families with dogs children are more likely to participate in mild to moderate physical activity. So not only are we getting the fresh air and time in green spaces that can help relieve stress and get us moving, but our children are also engaging in more play. However, as a pet parent the key point to remember is the more we walk our dogs, the better for both of us. So even if it’s only a ten minute cruise around the neighborhood, try to fit that time in for both of your overall wellbeing!
REDUCED ALLERGY RISKS
It seems counterintuitive, but dog ownership actually may lessen the prevalence of allergies in adults and children. Research is not conclusive at this point, but it’s been posited that having a dog in the home may actually reduce the risk of developing eczema. Additionally, even for those owners that have asthma or other allergies that may be aggravated by pet ownership, there are simple steps that can be taken so you can still enjoy sharing your home with your dog, such as vacuuming with a HEPA-filter equipped vacuum and bathing your dog on a semi-regular basis (check out our grooming series for more tips on bathing your pet!).
HELPING YOU HEAL AND HELPING WITH STRESS
It is no secret that dogs give us a unique joy, and this is a fact pet parents are particularly familiar with. However, you may not know that owning a dog may help you to heal and work through rehabilitation after an injury or illness, and that having a dog can also provide unique stress reduction that can serve as emotional support for day-to-day life. According to an NPR article on the topic, it has been shown that heart attack patients that were dog owners lived longer than those that were not, that interacting with dogs can increase oxytocin (a ‘happiness’ hormone) in humans, and even that training dogs on basic skills has helped veterans returning from war to readjust more effectively to civilian life. Rather than ask how dog ownership benefits us on a daily basis, perhaps the better question is: how doesn’t it? It seems to have a positive impact on every facet of daily life to have our canine best friends at our side!
Images courtesy Norma Nack and Army Medicine
Last week we touched on some of the safety concerns involved in weathering the dropping temperatures with your dog; since we now have a handle on how to keep her safe and healthy, why not delve in to ways to actually enjoy the season with your best friend? As long as we can keep our dogs warm and dry enough, there is no reason not to get out and enjoy the season. The holiday rush is over and we (hopefully) have a little more time on our hands for play and exploration!
START WITH THE BASICS
How much exercise does your dog need? If you have a healthy working dog (for example a Lab or Shepherd) odds are he needs a fair amount of exercise. So when planning your outdoor adventures, keep in mind that he is going to want to stretch his legs and burn off some of that energy! In contrast, if you have a breed with lower activity requirements, such as a Great Dane or an older dog of any breed, you can structure your winter activities around spending time together in a less active way, perhaps a road trip together or a simple walk around your local downtown area or a shorter jaunt around the local park.
WHERE TO GO??
Once you have an idea about how active you’d like to be, do some quick research! If you need a high energy field trip, consider going for a winter hike. Trails.com, the Nature Conservancy, and your state park system all are great resources for finding a place to get some fresh air, enjoy nature’s beauty, and spend time with your dog. You can also check out the National Park Service’s Find a Park tool at nps.gov. Be aware of how your chosen trail/region will be affected by the season, and keep that in mind when planning your trip. You don’t have to brave messy roads to find a gorgeous place to go play – often there are great options fairly close to home and safely accessible. If you want extra pet parent points, try and structure the outing’s activities based on your dog’s breed and interests. For example, get a good game of fetch going with your Border Collie, or take your Beagle out and stash some biscuits in the snow for him to track down. Our Lab loves to swim, even in the winter, and we just make sure to have lots of warm towels on hand to get him snuggled up once he’s done.
If you are looking for a mellower option, there are various websites that list ‘staycation’ options in your local area. Think like a tourist – is there a café you’ve been meaning to try, or perhaps a local garden that you’ve driven by several times? A quick check will let you know whether your destination is dog-friendly, and you can get started with sites like Walkscore.com or Yelp, both of which will probably list local destinations that you didn’t even realize were there! Bringfido.com and dogfriendly.com are also good places to start to find outings for you and your dog to enjoy together. No matter what you end up doing, remember: they have a fantastic fur coat and love to play, and it’s usually us humans that want to stay in and curl up by the fireplace. Watch for shivering or discomfort when walking, but otherwise enjoy some short excursions together! Our pups love spending time with us and getting exercise, so anything that combines those two things is a recipe for fun.
Images courtesy the author.
We don’t have snow everywhere in the nation just yet, but one thing is certain: it feels like winter! The seasons are simply a part of life, so even though it may be more appealing to cozy up under a blanket and stay inside, the reality is we have to go out in it! So why not embrace the chill, and instead of rushed, uncomfortable potty breaks take the proper precautions so we can enjoy the season?
LOOK OUT FOR THOSE FEET
As early morning walks get colder and frostier, we may simply switch to boots and not give it too much additional thought. But what about our pups’ feet? In addition to colder temperatures that lead to colder concrete and asphalt, depending on your region winter may also mean deicer (salt mixes) spread on sidewalks, frost on the grass, and even snow on all surfaces. Similar to the fertilizers that are used on lawns periodically during the year, deicer formulas contain harsh chemicals that can wreak havoc on our dog’s footpads. Even simple rock salt can do damage to our dog’s feet. And unfortunately, while professional companies often place small flags to indicate fertilized areas, deicer is spread directly on the sidewalks that we use with our dogs and it is tougher to avoid. However, we do have a couple of options to prevent chapping, chemical burns, and other winter foot injuries. The first step is to maintain good grooming practices: trim your dog’s nails regularly, and if necessary very carefully trim any excess fur that may trap frost and snow around his footpads. Additionally, there are several balms on the market that can be used as a protectant on your dog’s pads. Check with your veterinarian or a pet store that you trust to find one with ingredients that are suitable for your dog, and then coat his feet each time you go out. And although they make take some adjustment, for longer walks or if a balm is not sufficient, you may consider weatherproof dog booties. They are a simple boot and typically have a Velcro cinch around the ankle to keep them snug but not too tight.
On chilly days, think through all of your plans with the weather in mind. Going to run errands? Make sure you won’t be parked for excessive amounts of time, thus leaving your dog out in the car. The temp will drop, and she is susceptible to hypothermia just like we are. And leaving the engine running is not a better option – this may expose your dog to dangerous carbon monoxide fumes. Does he want to go play in the backyard? Of course, let him out – but keep in mind how long he is out there and bring him back to warm up if it’s been too long. He can always go back out to run around later! And for sleeping arrangements: please, please think about the temps where your dog sleeps! Wood floors, tile, and other non-carpeted areas can be very cold. If your dog doesn’t already have a bed (or beds!) in the house, consider purchasing one or more. Or set up a nice little nest for him with blankets and towels so he can stay cozy at night. And please keep in mind that your dog needs adequate shelter – according to the American Kennel Society, our dogs can be at risk for frostbite even if simply left outside to play for too long. So imagine the damage that sleeping in an unheated or damp area outside could do!! The simplest formula for winter success is to remember your pup wants (and needs!) to be warm and dry. So by all means, take her out to play, and go get wet in the snow! But get her back to warm and dry with towel drying and a dry place to snuggle as soon as possible, and you will be able to weather the winter season just fine.
Images courtesy the author.
2014 RUFF LOVE CHALLENGE
This is where your friends at Sleepover Rover come in! We are running a Ruff Love Challenge for 2014 that will last eight weeks. With one challenge per week for you as a pet parent, it will help you learn along with Team Sleepover Rover how to become a savvy, fun dog parent! We’ll send you 8 challenges - one per week - designed to take that bond you now have with your dog to a whole new level of LOVE! For more information about the challenge or to sign up, check us out on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SleepoverRover. The first challenge will begin on January 6, 2014, so sign up soon! All of the challenges will be delivered to your email inbox and will provide just the inspiration you need to make 2014 a fantastic year for you and for your dog.
Image courtesy Noël Zia Lee
So we are two days out from Christmas, and although we typically like to offer helpful blog posts for our Sleepover Rover friends, with the holiday season in full swing this week seemed like a good time to take on a lighter topic – naming our pups. Sometimes a lot goes into a name, sometimes it’s instinct, (circumstance drops a name right on our lap so to speak), or sometimes we even let the younger ones in our home name dogs that we welcome into our family. When we look at our pups, does a name really just jump out at us? Today we ask…. What’s in a name?
Rover.com has over 200,000 pet owners registered on its site, and as such has a pretty substantial data pool from which to draw. So when the site scanned its database to come up with the top 10 names for 2013, it seems that the list should offer a fairly accurate peek into the current favored dog names in the United States. Interestingly, most of the names are not ‘expected’ dog names; a few notable exceptions are Max, Bear, and Buddy. I think we have all known one of those three!! Oddly, none of the top ten baby names for 2013 are on the top ten dog names… maybe we seek out a different feeling when we name our canine friends? Another interesting fact from the survey – females make up the majority of registered dogs at 56%. The full results of the survey (including the top 100 for each gender) can be found here: http://www.rover.com/names.
THE EFFECT OF A NAME
There are countless studies on the effect of a name for people, covering everything from how a resume is received based on one’s name to how a student is treated based on his or her first (and even last) name. But what about dogs? Can a name impact how we perceive them, both in person and even sight unseen? One rescue agency in New York says yes, and founder Sara Cross began naming rescues after celebrities three years ago. In a recent New York Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/22/fashion/Shelter-Dogs-Adoption-Celebrity-Names.html), journalist Allen Salkin explored the new method as a marketing strategy for rescues. And it appears that although odd, the strategy works to change the conversation about rescue agencies – instead of the archaic stereotype that shelters are full of problem animals, people can enjoy quirky names and marketing and hopefully see that shelters are simply full of dogs that need loving homes and stability.
NAMING QUICK TIPS
So let’s say it’s your turn to name a dog. You’ve brought home a new puppy and it’s time! How do you choose? Everyone will have a different approach but there a few things to keep in mind that may ease the process. First off – choose something you really like! Just as with babies, the last thing you want to do is have to change your dog’s name. So much of dog training comes down to communication, and your dog learns to listen when you speak. Since we often cue our dogs with their name it would be terribly confusing for that cue to change. Also, on the topic of training, try not to give your dog a name that sounds like a command you’ll frequently use. For example, I recently learned that my lab hears “hey” and “stay” as the same word! He is a smart guy, but for whatever reason stays put when he hears the word “hey” spoken with emphasis. So perhaps “Neil” or “Teal” wouldn’t be a good fit if you plan to use “Heel” often. Also, keep in mind the names of your current dogs. When we adopted a dog named Caesar, we already had a Kaiser in our home. So unfortunately Caesar’s name needed to be modified. Each guy needed his own distinctive name. So now that we’ve covered what’s in a name, how do your dog’s names fit into this? Are you parent to a top ten name? Or mom or dad to a canine celebrity?
Images courtesy Matt Herzog and Jimmy Brown
CHOOSING THE RIGHT DOG
As mentioned above, adding a dog to our family (even if you are currently a household of one, you will be a family when you grow to two!) must be a carefully considered decision. There should be a process involved, including taking into consideration the space you have available and the general activity level of your home. Think about where you would walk a dog – do you have a yard? Or access to a public park or trails? And how much exercise would you realistically give a dog? Rain or shine, nature calls, and we are the ones that need to make sure our dog’s needs are met. Additionally, if you opt to get a puppy rather than a mature dog, he or she will likely need more exercise and possibly more training. Every dog is different, but often certain breeds will have common characteristics. For example, some breeds are known to be more family friendly and may do better with rambunctious small children in the home, while others may relish a quiet, slower paced home based on their breed and age. Spend some time working with a breeder, a rescue group, or a shelter to figure out the best fit for your home before you start the actual process of acquiring a dog or puppy.
First and foremost on the topic of supplies, take a hard look at your budget and your expectations for the next few years. For example, can you afford good pet food, vet visits, and incidentals for a dog? Can you afford the considerable time that acclimating a new dog to your home will take? (This applies to a dog of any age! Even a ten year old rescue has been uprooted to come to you.) If you travel for work or leisure, do you have the resources to hire a trustworthy pet host to care for your dog while you’re away? If you truly are ready, one simple way to approach setting up your home for your new pet is to walk yourself through what will be a typical day: you’ll need a bed for him to wake up on, or even perhaps a crate if you’ll use that for training, you’ll need a leash to walk him, and he’ll need a collar and ID tags. Bowls, food, some safe and breed/age appropriate toys will all be important (on the toys – check with your local pet store as toy options vary greatly based on breed, size, and age). And don’t forget training! You can opt for private training, a session at a local pet store, or possibly another resource that your breeder or shelter recommends, but do your dog and yourself a favor and sign up for some sort of training. A dog that knows what her boundaries are is a happier dog, and it will also provide the opportunity for you and your pup to get to know each other better in a safe environment. There are also many amazing dog training books available, so don’t be afraid to browse your local library or bookstore and find a good fit.
Images courtesy smlp.co.uk and Brandy Jordan
As pet parents, we all know that training, socializing, and conditioning are a two-way street; that is, we work with our pets on basic skills and teach them what is appropriate and also what to expect based on our training as well as our behavior, and similarly dogs teach us what to expect and do a little human-training themselves. For example, our lab is quite good at the walk up to mom or dad, nudge our leg, and begin to stare in a pointed manner at the nearest exit routine. We know he wants to go out, and he knows from experience that he if he tells us without barking or getting into mischief it’s likely to happen a lot quicker. And we all know what it means when our pup grabs a ball and starts wagging his tail expectantly! Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at some recent articles and books that expand on the subject of human-dog communication!
FINDING THE RIGHT VOICE
Dr. Gary Weitzman, president of the San Diego Humane Society and the author of “How to Speak Dog”, posits that dogs always have good intentions and genuinely want to do what’s asked of them, they just need to understand what it is we are asking. From his perspective, the key is in finding the right way to communicate with your pet. In an interview with Sue Manning of the Associated Press, he uses two of his own dogs as examples: one is a rescued Pit Bull and quite fearful and thus needs a gentle, steady voice, and the other is a partially deaf, more secure Boxer that requires yelling and even clapping to indicate communication. Dr. Weitzman also points out that our pets not only listen, but watch. They are quite adept at reading faces and thus our expressions will also impact how they ‘hear’ what we’re saying. Think about your dog’s personality and life experiences, is he more likely to simply not hear you without some volume or eye contact? Or does he perhaps respond very well to touch and thus would benefit from physical contact when you are communicating?
DECODING TAIL WAGS
Simply from daily exposure and trial and error, many of us have developed our own code breaking when it comes to our dog’s tails – a wag when she’s happy, between the legs when she’s scared, and so forth. The ASPCA expands on this topic considerably on their website at http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/canine-body-language. If you have not yet explored the site, is a treasure trove of information for pet parents. In the piece on our pup’s tails, the ASPCA cautions that the ‘wag’ is not the only indication of mood, but rather an indicator along with how high or low she’s holding it, how quickly she’s moving it, and what the circumstances are. So the next time your pup is not listening to a command when you’re out and about, maybe do a quick tail check. She may be anxious, feeling aggressive, or even just too happy to be focused on what you are saying, and you’ll hopefully be able to adjust your approach or even alter the environment to get your point across more effectively.
THE EYES HAVE IT
We touched on human expressions somewhat above, but what exactly is our pup looking for when he’s scanning our face? According to a study published in Current Biology, dogs are not only listening and watching for mood indicators, but also practicing a phenomenon called “gaze-following”, which entails tracking where a person looks after speaking to their dog. Gaze-following is a common practice in infants and children, and the researchers were able to conclusively show that dogs practice it as well, particularly if we cue them first with a higher pitched voice and direct communication. As pet parents we know that our pets watch what we watch and are always scanning us for cues, but the scientists’ work in documenting the behavior of dogs will hopefully continue to lead to more definitive information on the communicative link between dogs and humans. In the meantime, as pet parents we can continue our own non-scientific research by reviewing and adjusting our communication with our pups to hopefully make it as effective as possible. After all, when things go awry, there’s always the let’s-stop-and-refocus-eye-contact-and-belly-scratch!
Images courtesy the author and Alex McClung
It is officially December and time for holiday treats, so why not get your pup in on the action? Table scraps and baked goods are typically no-nos for your canine best friend, but there are many simple and dog-friendly recipes out there to show your dog (or the pups of friends and family) some extra love this season. The first thing to keep in mind is watching out for ingredients that can be harmful to dogs; this includes raisins, grapes, chocolate, and for some dogs, gluten-containing grains such as wheat and barley. If your dog is routinely fed a food that includes these grains without any adverse effects, then you should be in the clear. But if you opt for a grain free dog food for his daily meals, then it would be wise to choose grain-free treat recipes as well.
Rachel Ray is well known for her recipes and kitchen tips, and she is also the purveyor of a line of dog food and treats. But what about her website’s trove of dog-targeted recipes? One pup owner decided to make and review several of her recipes under the pen name of Oscar (Oscar is his dog). He takes a look at recipes such as the Power Pooch Smoothie and Sweet Pooch Pancakes. Interestingly, when author Seamus McKiernan ran the recipes past his trusted vet Dr. Bradley T. Emott of New York City, the concoctions were given the greenlight. However, his vet did caution that “dogs have sensitive GI systems. If you’re going to feed them human food, try to avoid anything rich or too fatty, oily, or spicy” (the full writeup can be found here: http://firstwefeast.com/eat/rachael-ray-dog-recipes-reviewed-by-an-actual-dog/).
Rather than taking on an entire entrée as a treat for your pup, perhaps a quick and more mild cookie recipe will do? Whole Foods Market offers a very straightforward banana peanut butter
Images courtesy MattJP and Jespahjoy
With after Thanksgiving sales just around the corner, many of us are finalizing our plan of attack to get holiday shopping done. We are sorting through our friends, family members, acquaintances, and colleagues to determine who would be interested in what and perhaps what our overall budget is. Sometimes when that list gets too long, it’s helpful to step back and consider why we are giving gifts and what we are celebrating. No matter which winter holiday one celebrates, at the core are kindness, family, and being together with the people and pets for which you care. So with that in mind, how can we show the dogs in our lives what they mean to us this holiday season?
Ask yourself one simple question – what makes my dog feel comfortable? Is it a new bed? Feeling fresh after a bath? (Okay, that one may be rare.) A cozy sweater or pup jacket to wear on walks? Or maybe a set of dog shoes to wear as the sidewalks get chillier to protect a more sensitive dog’s footpads. If an item that makes your dog feel cozy and loved is waiting under the tree on Christmas morning, he may not understand the specifics of the holiday but he’ll certainly feel the love. For our lab, replacing one of his many beds means satisfaction for weeks… he can’t tell us in words but his relaxation is quite evident.
Maybe your dog is the dog that has it all, or you’d prefer not to purchase a lot of consumer goods this holiday. So, aside from gratuitous love and ear scratching, how can you show your dog that you’re thinking of her? Set aside a block of time to take her on one of her favorite adventures. Maybe the dog park down the street, or a romp in the woods. Or if your dog likes to swim, a quick dip in a local lake or at the beach. As long as you have warm towels ready when she’s done, the cooling temps shouldn’t be a problem. If you have relatives in town, get them involved! Take your dog on a trail that’s not too busy and let your child, niece, or grandkids help hold the leash and walk your pup. Or maybe have a quick family meeting and choose your destination together. Your dog will feel special and your family members will, too. Double win!
THE OLD STANDBY…
…snacks! You can always count on your dog to appreciate a treat. And as long as you keep in mind what foods are good for him and keep it as an actual treat, not a holiday weekend full of extra snacks, your dog will be happy and healthy. You can pick up a Kong or other stuffable toy and set your dog up with peanut butter or other dog treats inside the Kong that he has to work on to retrieve. Or perhaps a rawhide or other bone that will take him a lot of gnawing to break down. Again, keep in mind what is healthy for our pups and what isn’t. We tend to have a lot of treats around the house this time of year, but table scraps will likely just land your dog with a stomachache or worse, not what anyone wants! Whatever your decide to pick out for your pup, one gift idea is absolutely no fail – an abundance of love, kind words, attention, and good solid belly scratches. Can’t go wrong!!
Images courtesy Marc Lewis and Julian Fong
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