Tag: Sleepover Rover
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
Last week we delved into the logistics of staying local for the holiday season, and discussed the varying requirements for hosting houseguests as well as attending shorter term celebrations such as parties and local events. Realistically, staying home and traveling are not mutually exclusive during the holiday season; perhaps you’ll stay home for Thanksgiving and then travel for the winter holiday that your household celebrates, or vice versa. Keeping that in mind, let’s talk about traveling with and without your dog.
ROAD TRIPS WITH YOUR DOG
When we think about dogs and road trips, the image that comes to mind may be of a happy pup with his head out the window and ears blowing in the breeze. Because that’s what it is like, right? Fresh air and the open road? Possibly, yes, but there are also a few details and safety concerns to keep in mind in order to prep for a successful and even fun road trip. First, a little planning ahead can go a long way toward reducing stress for the trip. Make a packing list well ahead of time and mapping out when you want to arrive and the route you’ll take can make the day of departure feel automatic rather than harried. And when packing, if it’s applicable consider things you may need to be prepared for winter driving, such as extra blankets, pet dishes, human and dog food, and water and perhaps a vehicle safety kit. Consumer Reports has a great article on roadside safety kits here: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/03/roadside-emergency-kit-what-to-carry-with-you/index.htm. Remember to add extra time to your itinerary for walking your dog and stretching your legs at rest stops or scenic highlights along the route, a little fresh air will do wonders for you and your pup!
SO YOU’VE DECIDED TO FLY
So based on distance, price, or some other combination of factors, you’ve decided to fly. Much like road tripping (okay and let’s admit it, most things in life!) a little advance planning can prove invaluable. Start coordinating with the airline as soon as you know you’ll be flying, and find out about considerations such as documentation you’ll need from your vet for your dog for the airline or your destination (health certificates, proof of vaccinations, etc.), whether your dog is a candidate for in cabin flying or must be checked as cargo, and what type of crate the airline requires. Scouring the airline’s website can start you on your fact finding mission, but calling customer service directly is a good idea in this situation to ensure you meet all requirements and have everything you need on what is the busiest travel day of the year in the United States. Also, try and book a morning flight – your flight is less likely to be delayed and thus your dog (and you!) will have less time to wait.
TRAVELING SANS ROVER
At first glance, this option may seem to be the trickiest. Traveling without him! At least when road tripping or even flying, we have our dogs with us for the journey, right? But realistically, having your pup in a safe place can be more peaceful for you and for him. Do some research in advance of your trip and find a pet host that you trust and that your dog is comfortable with, and perhaps even take a day long or overnight test run. By planning ahead and letting your pet host know about any special routines, dietary concerns, or anything else you feel is relevant, you can travel with peace of mind and your pet can have a restful, safe visit while you are traveling.
Images courtesy Marya of emdot.com and Paul Schultz
Every season brings with it unique events, celebrations, and activities for pets and their parents, and the holiday season is no exception. As the weather continues to cool our calendars continue to fill, and although not all of our engagements and travel are pet-friendly, most of them still either directly involve our dogs or have an impact on their daily life. However, with a little planning and a fair amount of flexibility, we can ensure that the holiday season is enjoyable for us and for our four-legged favorites.
STICKING TO SCHEDULES
Whether you stay home or hit the road for the holidays, one thing is certain: dogs thrive when they have structure and stability. Even if you’re going to be traveling, you can still provide that for your pup. I am almost positive (only almost, you never know!) that our lab cannot read clocks, but he knows when it is getting close to his scheduled dinner time. So much so that the recent ending of Daylight Savings Time had quite the effect on the poor guy – we had to gradually shift his dinner time over several days to bridge the gained hour. So whether we’re home or out, when our schedule as a family fluctuates we always try and keep his mealtimes and walk times around the same time on the clock. That way he stays comfortable and can feel stable even under changing circumstances. Similarly, if you usually wake up and walk your dog on a certain route in the morning, try not to let holiday stress, houseguests and/or commitments alter that. With a little planning you can still devote the same amount of time to your dog, even during the holidays. And realistically, the structure, exercise, and fresh air with our dog are good for us, too!
BEING A GOOD VISITOR
So you’ve decided not to travel this season and are staying local. Easy, right? But even if you’re staying in town the multitude of parties and engagements will still likely affect your daily routine. Although it takes a little planning, including your dog as much as possible is good for his socialization and helps him to feel included in family activities. Just try and be conscientious about how you get him involved. Check ahead of time if dogs are welcome at public events; if you’re invited to a friends’ place for dinner or a party, check in with them on whether he can come along. And if it is okay to bring him, be a good guest and a good parent: bring baggies so you can walk him, bring his bowls and a couple of toys, and keep an eye on him. And know your dog! If he doesn’t like crowds or can be a bit mischievous, set up a dog sitter in advance of longer holiday commitments. That way he can be taken care of and you can enjoy the festivities with peace of mind. And based on the photo above… maybe skip the party hat.
HOSTING HOUSEGUESTS AND VISITORS
What about when you invite others over? There are two main considerations at play: taking care of your pup and taking care of your guests. Let visitors know ahead of time that you have a dog or dogs, and again, do your best to stick to a routine. Your dog will be less likely to get into trouble if she is getting her usual exercise and attention and you’ll feel more centered as well. In fact, consider an extra trip to the dog park, a quick run, or some bonus play time outside. You can burn off the pie and your dog can stretch her legs! You can even invite your guests along. Also, let guests know about things like watching the doors on entry or exit, foods your dog cannot have, or any other considerations that may feel obvious to you. Remember, you are with your dog every day; your visitors may not have any pups at all! Letting them know any important info before it comes up will free you and your visitors up for the really important stuff during the holiday season: being with loved ones and enjoying the sights, sounds, and experiences of the season.
Images courtesy Randy Duero and Woodley Wonderworks
Hopefully our tips and suggestions last week gave you some ideas when it comes to taking care of your pup’s coat, whether it is long and thick, short and spindly, or anything in between. But what else falls under the umbrella of basic dog grooming? That is, what else can you do on a daily or weekly basis to ensure the health and comfort of your dog? For new pet parents, taking on grooming can be daunting without some research and frankly a fair amount of trial and error. And even for seasoned pet parents, there is always something to be learned! For example, our lab was probably five before I realized how helpful a metal file could be in smoothing down his nails after trimming! Today let’s take a look at two other basic pieces of keeping our dogs happy and healthy: teeth and nails.
KEEPING THOSE TEETH HEALTHY
Unfortunately bad breath is just one concern when it comes to canine oral care, and by the time bad breath manifests our dogs may already have other serious dental issues. So rather than waiting until his breath gets too offensive for proper greetings, how can we proactively help keep our dog’s mouth clean and healthy? According to the ASPCA’s website, oral care is a fairly straightforward process and doesn’t differ too much from our own dental care. Your dog’s teeth should be brushed daily, with special attention to the areas of the gum that are up against his cheek where tartar can really build up. One important note though – please do not use human toothpaste for your dog! There are both brushes and toothpaste available specifically for dogs, and you can even keep it very simple and use a baking soda based paste and a clean piece of gauze wrapped around your finger for cleaning your dog’s teeth and gums. When it comes to identifying dental problems, warning signs are also similar to our own oral warning signs – excessively bad breath and/or redness and irritation of the gums may indicate problems, so please contact your vet to follow up.
The ASPCA offers a couple of other tips for integrating consistent oral care into your dog’s routine. If you have not been brushing your dog’s teeth on a regular basis, don’t let her hesitation to the process deter you. Much like many other aspects of training and socialization with our pups, small steps can ease her into the process and lead to long-term success. It may take several tries before you are actually able to accomplish any cleaning, but any time that she allows you to spend touching her teeth and gums is an investment in getting her more comfortable with the process. You can also obtain breed-appropriate chew toys both for her recreation and to encourage healthy chewing. Healthy chewing of toys or rawhides can aid in scraping canine teeth clean. And please remember – your pup is a part of the family but does not need to eat like the family! Avoid giving your dog table scraps and other human foods as these can cause additional problems such as tartar and decay.
MANI PEDI TIME!
Okay, not really, but you get the point!! Painting his toes may be a bit much, but for the sake of your dog’s comfort and paw health, keeping his nails trimmed is a must. Some dogs, whether it is a result of a bad experience or just a more cautious nature, will not be okay with you clipping their nails. If that is the case, find an experienced groomer or even check in with your veterinarian to help out with the process. You may also have a breed that has dark or black nails, in which case it can be challenging to find the “quick”, or the place on the nail where the non-sensitive and trimmable portion begins (much like our own nails, where trimming the whites is painless but the pink portion can be extremely painful and may bleed). A groomer can also help with that. Many of us have had the unfortunate experience of nicking the quick and it can be jarring for both pet and pet parent. However, barring these special circumstances, with patience and a close eye, you can trim your pup’s nails yourself. You’ll need a sturdy pair of clippers, a metal file if you’d like to smooth his nails when finished, and you may want to have styptic powder on hand just in case you catch the quick and there is bleeding. If your dog is on pavement or asphalt often, she may not have much to trim. However, if she is primarily on soft surfaces (grass, carpet), she will likely have long nails, in which case feel free to take your time and even break the process into several stages. If your dog slides on tile and makes lots of clacking noises, she probably needs a trim! But much like oral care, even a small trim of a couple of nails before she’s done with the session is progress. With patience and love, you’ll soon have her trimmed and beautiful; in that same spirit, with patience and a calm approach, you can soon be confident in your dog’s oral and nail care.
Images courtesy Aberdeen Proving Ground, Jenna Prete, and Anne Hornyak
Fall, much like spring, is a transitional season. Not too hot, (hopefully) not too cold, and an excellent time to witness Nature’s colorful shift from the greens of summer to the greys of winter. Depending on your region, it can also be a more accommodating time for outings with your pup. The hot summer sun has left us and has taken with it the risk of heat injury. It is never a good idea to leave your pet unattended in a vehicle, but at least now we can hopefully take road trips without worrying about blasting the air conditioning to keep him cool on the ride. So what are some ways that you can get out and enjoy the season as a family?
First and foremost – get out there and see the season in its full glory! The Weather Channel has an excellent fall foliage map for the continental United States at http://www.weather.com/activities/driving/fallfoliage/. Although we are getting a bit late in the season in some parts of the country, there is definitely still the opportunity to see some beautiful leaves. When planning your outing, remember that National Parks typically do not allow dogs off leash or unsupervised. So if you are simply planning an afternoon hike with your dog, you should be okay, but make sure to check the specific park policies before you go. Many areas also have local trails that are favorites of cyclists and runners and are not affiliated with a State or National Park and thus may have less restrictive policies. With a little digging, you should be able to find a nice stretch of dirt, pavement, or whatever you prefer to enjoy the season with your dog.
ENJOY FALL IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD
Schedule too packed for a mini road trip to see foliage? Or maybe your dog is not a fan of driving swooping country roads? No problem! Think local – maybe even extremely local! The air is crisp, sunburns are less likely, and summer bugs are pretty much gone. For you and your dog, this means perfect walking weather. Check out http://www.walkscore.com/ to find out what is within walking distance from your home, and if you are more remote use the website to find “walkable” neighborhoods in your surrounding area. For example, you could take your pup to a nearby neighborhood with cafes to and nice local parks with deciduous trees. Park, grab a coffee or hot cocoa, and wander around a bit to enjoy the weather, the trees, and some fresh air and quality time with your pup. Using Google maps in satellite view can also be helpful for planning because you can spot large green spaces pretty quickly.
PUMPKINS AND FESTIVALS GALORE!
It seems like once the school year starts, time just starts to fly. We’ve already passed Halloween, and next up are Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. In the fall months, there are usually also many harvest festivals and local events. Check with your chamber of commerce or do a quick Google search on your area and find some outings to enjoy with your dog! If he does well with crowds, consider visiting a cider festival or maybe going out to cheer at a local race (marathons and 5Ks pop up everywhere once the weather cools). If he is more of a small groups kind of guy, maybe just a casual stroll through the local farmer’s market will be enough for both of you. Just remember – fall may bring with it cooler temps and even rainy days, but take advantage of it and enjoy! Let your favorite pup try some fresh pumpkin, bound around in some fall leaves, or even just enjoy riding shotgun while you both appreciate the changing seasons. Whatever you choose, remember to bring your camera and try and enjoy every minute. Those beautiful leaves will be gone before we know it!
Images courtesy Noëlle Ludwig and Julie Steiner (http://www.flickr.com/photos/oakleyoriginals)
Sleepover Rover, Inc. Press Release: The company that founded the in-home dog-boarding business in 2004, just enlisted premier journalist and dog lover, Blair Tindall, to lead the company’s social media and public relations.
When Blair became a pet host for Sleepover Rover, Co-Founders, Tina Myers and Maggie Brown found that Blair’s hilarious email communications and phone calls creative, with the endearing humor not unlike George Takei, the beloved Erma Bombeck, or Bill Cosby and identified her as a huge talent that they wanted as the “voice” for Sleepover Rover.
Blair taught journalism at Stanford University, at Berkeley, and at Mills College, and her shocking expose of the music world, Mozart in the Jungle, has sold over 3 million copies. Blair was also a staff business reporter at the Examiner (Hearst) and critic-at-large for the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek. She went on to write for The New York Times, Agence France-Presse, the Los Angeles Times, Sierra, The Sydney Morning Herald, and the International Herald Tribune.
Blair spent 23 years as a professional musician with the New York Philharmonic, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. She presented a critically acclaimed solo debut at Carnegie Recital Hall. Blair has performed on many film soundtracks including Malcolm X, Crooklyn, and Twilight. She has also performed with Rolling Stones’ drummer Charlie Watts at the Blue Note Jazz Club.
Blair’s passion for music and writing is clearly rivaled by her love for dogs and the people who cherish them. Follow “Host Blair” on Sleepover Rover social channels, Twitter and Facebook.
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