Tag: Sleepover Rover
The sunny, crisp days of winter present a wonderful opportunity to spend some time in the great outdoors with our dogs, but it is important that we take a few precautions both for ourselves and for our pups in order to prevent cold injuries. We can always take the easy route and opt to stay indoors, but any pet parent will tell you that they have learned the hard way at least once what an unexercised, pent up dog is like, whether they get into mischief or become just generally less agreeable!
PAWS AND LIMBS
For humans and for dogs, our extremities suffer quickly in cold weather. We lose quite a bit of heat from our heads, and the snow, ice, and deicing salt present on sidewalks and roads during the winter can be hazardous for our dogs’ legs and paws. It is important that everyone involved is properly dressed for the season, from top to bottom! For pet parents, a sturdy pair of boots, sweat wicking layers, and a warm set of hat and gloves can provide comfort on winter walks. For dogs, you may want to consider a pair of dog boots to protect his feet from hazards; if temperatures dip low enough in your region, there is also a wide selection of dog jackets and vests available to keep him warm! If you are planning on taking more than just a spin around the block, keep an eye on how much moisture he picks up – a wet dog can quickly turn into a dangerously cold dog, even if he is bundled up in a vest or sweater. And of course before you decide to take your dog for more than just a potty break, always check with your vet to make sure she’s healthy enough to sustain to the cold. You can also inquire as to how long your vet thinks she can be outside comfortably.
THE THING IS, HE HATES IT
Let’s say you’re quite excited about a day out with your pup, but he is just not feeling it. In fact, he is barely interested in even taking a potty break in the cold. Perhaps you even have to shovel a path for him in the yard to get him to use the restroom in the snow… what to do?? Fortunately, there are indoor options available for you! If you live in an apartment building, you can walk the hallways and spend time exploring lobby areas. Granted, that isn’t too exciting, so you may want to look into local doggy gyms and doggy daycares. Interior playgrounds that cater to dogs can be quite fun and a great way for your pup to burn off steam. If you opt to stay at home, the winter months can be a great time to work with your pup on training cues and learning new skills. It won’t be stimulating in the same way that a romp outdoors may be, but keeping your dog engaged and making him feel attended to can do wonders for his (and your!) cabin fever. Feel free to invite pup friends for a doggy playdate, too! Some living room tussling and snuggling may be just what the winter doggy ordered.
Images courtesy John Talbot and Benedicte Thomassen
Thanksgiving is coming up quick – next week in fact! – and so are holiday sales. With Black Friday for those that enjoy shopping in person and Cyber Week/Cyber Monday for those that prefer to shop from the comfort of their own home, the options are seemingly endless! But what to get for your canine best friend?
PLAYING IT SAFE: EDIBLE GIFTS
Let’s be practical for a minute. At the end of the day, most (if not all) dogs love to eat, and the way to a dog’s heart is via his stomach. Home baked treats and store bought dog treats all hit the spot, and with the holidays upon us there are some wonderful, creative options out there. Pet parents can do a quick search via their favorite search engine or on a more specialized site such as Pinterest to find creative, delicious, and dog-friendly recipes for their favorite pups. For the less DIY pet parent, many communities now have specialized dog bakeries. For those that do not, great news! Several dog bakeries also offer shipping right to your front door. One quick tip, though: even if Santa frequents your house, DO NOT leave those gifts under the tree! Expecting a pup not to crack open a package full of peanut butter dog cookies may simply be too much to ask, even of the best-behaved pup.
FUNCTIONAL GIFTS: KEEP ROVER WARM AND TOASTY!
Baby, it’s cold outside. And although your buddy likely has a lovely fur coat on, he is still not immune to the weather. There are a plethora of lovely dog gifts out there that will keep him snuggled up, rain, snow, or shine! For example, you can pick him up a puffy vest or a pup-specific sweater to keep him warm on long walks, and you can even consider getting him some booties to protect his paws from the elements. Delicate foot pads can be irritated by ice and de-icing chemicals alike, and although he may initially scoff at wearing anything on his feet, he’ll likely eventually adapt to his new footwear and will be happy to have healthy feet at the end of the season!
FOR THE PUP THAT LOVES TO NAP (BECAUSE THEY ALL DO!)
Odds are good that your well-loved pup already has at least one comfy dog bed around the house, but the holidays are a great time to replace any that have gotten scruffy and/or simply add another! For example, our pup prefers to have at least two in the house at all times, one upstairs and one downstairs. That way, no matter where the family is, he has a snuggly spot to curl up near the action. Your dog may also enjoy a heated blanket, just make sure to only use it on lower settings and only while you are in close proximity while he enjoys it! Holiday shopping can be somewhat overwhelming in the midst of work, social, and family obligations during the holiday season, but shopping for your pet can be fun and easy if you simply keep his short list of favorites in mind. After all, most dogs just want to be full, snuggly, and comfortable! Easy enough, right?
Images courtesy David J. LaPorte and Doug Waldron
Although statistically it doesn’t happen often, stories of air travel with pets gone wrong seem to crop up as we prepare for the holiday travel season. Whether they are horror stories of missed flight prerequisites leading to delays or an inability to travel, dogs not handling temperature/altitude changes well, or every pet parent’s worst nightmare of escaped pups during transit, air travel with our dogs may bring us as much risk as it does convenience. Thankfully, just as with most aspects of successful pet parenting, a little planning and preparation can exponentially increase our chances of seamless air travel and overall success.
PLAN, PLAN, AND PLAN!
First and foremost – plan ahead. As soon as you even start to roll the idea of air travel with your pet around in your mind, start researching. Proper planning and research will facilitate a successful journey with your pet. You may even uncover travel requirements or fees that rule out air travel completely, thus allowing you to readjust and either alter your holiday plans or set up boarding with a trusted pet host. You’ll want to check in on season-specific travel considerations, such as the temperatures of your departure city, destination, and any possible connections during the dates and times you may fly, as well as any health certificate and/or vaccination requirements for your dog on a particular airline.
SAFETY AND HEALTH
When prepping for your trip, you’ll likely need to take your dog in to the vet to obtain a health certificate stating that he or she is healthy enough to travel. Do not rush this step! Take the time to research the expected temperatures he’ll deal with, the time he’ll need to wait between meals, and even when he’ll have access to fresh water so you can have an honest conversation with your vet about any possible effects on his health and well-being.
Additionally, when it comes time to travel, work closely with the airline to understand what your dog’s travel day will look like – when will he be loaded on the plane if he is unable to travel in the cabin? When and where will you be able to pick him up? Many airlines have a system in place that involves a flight attendant bringing a pull tag from your dog’s kennel to your seat before takeoff to let you know that she has been loaded on the plane. Do not let a busy flight crew forget this step! As a pet parent, you’re not inconveniencing them, but rather you’re ensuring that they do their job and protect your dog. Just as you are a paying customer for whom they are responsible, so is your dog. This is also where having the proper kennel and supplies comes into play. If your dog can sit, stand, and turn around in his kennel and has the appropriate labels and food/water dishes, you are helping the airline take better care of her. You also should ensure the kennel and door are in good repair before flying to prevent mishaps.
Overall, flying with our dogs can be a daunting task, but by breaking the process down into the proper steps, you can protect your dog and make sure his air travel is uneventful (read: successful!). And remember – you can always find a quality home for him to stay in if air travel is not an option! Either way, enjoying the holidays, seeing faraway friends and family and/or traveling for leisure, and looking out for your pet are not mutually exclusive. You CAN do it!
Images courtesy Evan P. Cordes and Can Do Canines
As pet parents, we know with absolute certainty that we have a special bond with our dogs; they are a part of our family, we think about them when we have to go away, we factor in their schedule when we are setting plans or get that last minute email from our boss about an evening meeting. In fact, about this time last year we did a fun piece that outlined when you KNOW you’re a pet parent. Some of the highlights that you all will recognize: silence never sounds the same after welcoming a dog to your family (because silence sounds like T-R-O-U-B-L-E), it may be a battle of strategy (and will!) to secure real estate for sitting and sleeping, and perhaps most importantly you open up a place in heart for your new furry best friend that perhaps you didn’t even know was there. On that same note, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital have confirmed what we already know: that the brain of a pet parent changes in ways parallel to that of a maternal brain (sorry guys this study was done on women – we know you take your role as a pet papa seriously!).
For the study, women were shown images of their children and their dogs while their brains were being scanned by researchers, and it was shown that areas such as the amygdala, the medial orbitofrontal cortex, and the dorsal putamen were activated in a similar way when viewing both types of images. According to Science Daily, the amygdala plays a key role in the processing of emotion, the medial orbitofrontal cortex is responsible for social and emotional processes (including anxiety), and the dorsal putamen is involved in learning and reward systems. In contrast, these areas were not activated when the mothers viewed images of unfamiliar children and/or dogs. Realistically, this just proves what we all already know – there is a definite resemblance to be seen when considering the relationship we have with our offspring and our dogs. We view them as part of the family, warmly anticipate them greeting us when we get home, and experience acute grief when we lose them.
All that being said, there are differences in the nature of our interactions with our dogs and thus it makes sense that there may be differences in the areas of the brain activated by our relationships with our pets. For example, the area involved with facial recognition was activated more when moms looked at images of their dogs, perhaps because so much of our relationship with our pets is based on reading expressions rather than language like that of our children. Additionally, two areas of the brain that are heavily involved with the production of dopamine and oxytocin were activated by images of children and not by those of pets; dopamine is associated with reward and oxytocin is commonly referred to as the love hormone, so why would these be more present with regard to the parent-child relationship and not the parent-pet relationship? Virginia Hughes, a freelance journalist that writes for National Geographic and other publications, posits that perhaps these hormones aren’t as important for relationship building with our pets. Whatever the case, even if we are producing less oxytocin during our interactions, any pet parent an testify that there is such a thing as love at first sight and a continuing, resilient bond when it comes to our pups. How else would we be accepting in the face of the trouble our pups get into? And what else explains the way we melt when they give us that adorable sideways look?
Many higher end dog foods now tout their “whole food” ingredients, in part because of backlash against the subpar components that have historically been included in many popular dog food recipes. Pet parents want quality nutrition not only for themselves and their families but for their dogs as well, and companies have heeded that call by improving the ingredients in their recipes as well as offering more specific varieties, such as grain or gluten free offerings. On many dog food labels now, wet or dry, one can find meats, veggies, and grains listed, as simply as that. Rather than a list of chemicals and hard to pronounce words, pet parents can now pick up a can of dog food listing chicken, sweet potatoes, and rice as primary ingredients. But does that mean it is okay to feed our dogs “people food”? That is, if we are feeding our dogs the leftovers from our own meals, what effect will that have on their nutrition?
MAKE SURE TO MEET THEIR NEEDS
If a small business owner needs their books done, common advice is to find a subject matter expert. Hire an accountant or a bookkeeper, someone with the training and expertise to do it right the first time and ideally at a lower time investment. Similarly, when one needs to overhaul a website or tighten up marketing for their company, it is often advisable to outsource those activities to someone who does them on a regular basis. In theory, our dog’s nutrition is no different. We can do the research and feed our dogs from our own kitchens, but care must be taken to include all the elements of a balanced diet. High quality dog foods contain the right balance of fats, proteins, carbs, and other elements (vitamins, amino acids, etc.) that our dogs need, and even with careful research we may miss an important component of their diet. However, if pet parents are willing and able to dedicate the time to research and prep to feed their dogs via whole foods, it can be done! It is advisable to work with your vet and follow his or her recommendations to make sure all the important nutritional components are included. Also, keep in mind that buying, prepping, and portioning out whole meats, grains, and veggies is going to take a LOT of time!
CLARIFYING "PEOPLE FOOD"
When referring to “people food” or “table foods”, we are including whole foods. Processed foods such as pastas, crackers, and casseroles are not designed for our dogs! In fact, your dog may even be allergic to common table foods that include elements such as chocolate and raisins. Even though they may present you with the sweetest eyes ever under the dining room table, the reality is that supplementing their regular diet with leftovers and table scraps may introduce foods that are not beneficial to your dog’s health and may also up his intake beyond what it needs to be, leading to obesity and other health issues. That being said, with planning and structure you can treat your dog with what may be considered people food. For example, make sure to verify just how much of his dry food he needs, and you can offer special, high value treats as part of your training program, such as small chunks of chicken breast or slices of banana. Make sure your dog understands the difference between the “people food” you set aside for him as a reward and the food on your own plate, though, because many pet parents will tell you that once a dog learns he can beg successfully, that is a very hard habit to break! You want your dog to be healthy AND happy, and that means making sure he understands his limits and boundaries.
Images courtesy Rob and Sonny Abesamis
A recent study by the University of Lincoln in Britain indicated that the use of shock collars may not provide training benefits that outweigh the potential negatives (including more observed tension, more yawning, and less interaction with their fellow dogs). Although shock collars are rather common and their positive versus negative benefits can still be debated, there are other training options available to work with our dogs that do not necessarily involve negative consequences.
Positive reinforcement is perhaps the most common of the “positive” training methods. This involves offering a treat or praise when your dog performs the desired behavior and teaches him that he receives the desired outcome (i.e. a scratch on the ear or a favorite treat) by meeting the standards you’ve set. Positive reinforcement has been shown to increase performance in working dogs such as farm dogs and the principles of positive reinforcement also carry over well into the home for the non-working dog. For example, the most successful trainers make their expectations clear by using concise commands, make sure to reward desired behaviors immediately, and are consistent in providing rewards for said behaviors. This method can be used for working dogs such as companion animals when teaching a dog how to help his master cross the street or can even be helpful in the home setting for rewarding desired behaviors such as stay or NOT jumping on guests when they enter.
SHAPE THE ENVIRONMENT
In addition to the cue/reward/consistency formula of positive reinforcement, positive training for your dog also involves his overall quality of life. A well exercised dog that has adequate shelter and nutrition, as well as a conscientious handler that strives to be in tune with his needs and behaviors, will generally respond best to reinforcement cues. Training a working dog or a family dog involves communication, patience, and love, and the best environment for a dog working on learning new skills or eliminating undesirable behaviors is one in which he feels comfortable and safe! If you are moving toward positive training cues with your dog, try to look at the big picture – is he not responding to a cue because the cue, timing, or reward are off? Or is he struggling because he has excess energy or is distracted by something in his environment? With the right adjustments and a healthy dose of patience, you can avoid using methods based on punishment or suffering and work together with your dog to encourage the behaviors that work best for you, for him, and for your overall environment, whether that be a working environment or that of your home.
Images courtesy of Joselito Tagorao and Taro the Shiba Inu
With summer winding down, our focus has likely shifted to the new school year and the tasks of fall: prepping for fall holidays, starting to appreciate the changing seasons, and even possibly anticipating the transition into the winter holidays. However, in most regions the great outdoors are temperate and our outdoor spaces still provide opportunities for grilling, relaxing, and enjoying time with family and friends. But what if we’ve made it through the summer without optimizing our outdoor spaces, whether we have a large, fenced yard, a small, concrete patio, or anything in between? What small changes can be made to make our shared areas as dog-friendly as possible for our canine best friends?
BIG OR SMALL – FOCUS ON SAFETY
First and foremost, a common area is more enjoyable for everyone if it is safe for all users! A Great Dane from Portland, Oregon recently made headlines with his gastrointestinal exploits: he was found with 43 ½ socks in his digestive system! The poor pup was understandably experiencing distress. Other commonly ingested items include corn cobs, strings and ropes, and even coins. Review your outdoor space with a critical eye to ensure that small items, garbage, and even shoes are out of reach and safe from consumption. And if your pup tends to get into certain types of items, such as paper products or leather items, exercise extra caution to make sure they’re not in your yard or on your patio! Certain plants can also prove poisonous to our dogs, so it is also important to do a quick check and make sure your plants, both blooming and non-blooming, are dog-safe and non-toxic. Another consideration for making your yard dog-friendly is containment; is your fence dig-proof? Or are your patio railings narrow enough to keep him contained, safe and sound? You and your dog will both be able to get much more enjoyment out of your outdoor space if you’re not constantly monitoring for safety hazards!
INTRODUCING APPEALING ELEMENTS
Perhaps the simplest way to keep your dog happy in the great outdoors is to give him the creature comforts he desires most: shade, shelter, and appealing textures. Shade can be introduced via canopies or shade trees, and your dog will appreciate having safe places that are set up just for him. For example, if your backyard has a covered patio area or a large expanse of grass, you might consider building a dog house for him to enjoy. Many pups also appreciate having their own soft space to lie down and relax, such as a dog bed. Remember our dogs love to be RIGHT with us, so putting a dog bed in a covered area where there is not human companionship may go unappreciated. If you do your best to set up a spot near where the action is (or even near the nice warm firepit as the weather cools!), she will likely greatly appreciate the gesture. Overall, when we are designing comfortable outdoor spaces for our pups, remember their primary concerns are typically limited to having a great place to nap, with maybe some room to run as well. And even if you don’t have the space to provide that room to run, they really just want to be close to their family, so and try keep their nesting places near where you will be relaxing as well!
Images courtesy Bruce Fingerhood and I Am Theo
Ask any pet parent about whether their dog has personality quirks and a certain level of individuality, and you will likely receive a resounding yes. Our dogs have an entire spectrum of traits and varying dispositions, much like humans. For example, some dogs are social butterflies while others are more shy or introverted. Some dogs need activity and constant action, while others prefer a quieter, more routine daily life. Some of these traits may be based on a dog’s breed or age, but often each dog’s individual personality plays a role. For example, a Labrador may be a loyal, family-friendly dog based on his genes, but his penchant for getting excited and a little worried when things get too hectic (around our house we refer to the barking pup that results from this scenario as “Safety Dog”) may be all personality! Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at a few fun facts about dogs and their personalities that current research has uncovered.
DON’T BE JELLY, PUP!
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have shown something many pet parents are already acutely aware of: our dogs get jealous. Whether it’s a new job, a new baby, or some other shiny new thing taking our attention off of our pups, they know when they’ve lost the spotlight, even a little bit! This behavior may be even more intense when that shiny object is another dog (aka an actual, canine rival – oh no!). The study illustrated the fact that when pet parents paid attention to a stuffed dog, a jack o’lantern pail, or a book, a higher percentage of the test dogs reacted to the stuffed dogs. That is, they knew when a rival for their attention was actually a rival. Test dogs exhibited a wide range of behaviors, from sniffing the rival to actively snapping at it or positioning themselves between their owner and the interloper.
DOGS AND THEIR PET PARENTS – MORE IN COMMON THAN WE THINK?
In a study published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, researchers compared the traits of owners and dogs in five categories (also known as the “big five” in psychology): extraversion, openness, neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Because owners may be likely to project their own traits on to their pets, researchers also interviewed close family members to determine the perceived rankings of dogs and their owners in all categories. The findings? Owners and pets were typically quite similar in four out of the five categories, consistently! So although we don’t know if pet parents choose dogs that are similar to them or the dogs and owners adopt similar characteristics, it looks like you may be more like your pet than you realize!
THEY MATURE JUST LIKE US
In humans, some teens have a somewhat balanced disposition, but others are known for being a little more emotional and a little less responsible and more erratic on a regular basis. It turns out that young dogs may suffer the same fate! Researchers looked into the consistency of personality traits in dogs throughout various life stages, and found that traits such as submissiveness, fearfulness, responsiveness to training, activity, sociability, and aggressiveness were not consistent throughout dog’s lives, but rather consistency varied depending on how old a dog was when studied. That is, young dogs could have varying, inconsistent scores in various traits, while older dogs exhibited a more consistent score in the various categories. So a puppy initially perceived as aggressive may score lower in that area at another time, while an adult dog would be more likely to be consistently aggressive or non-aggressive based on his personality. The researchers posited that hormones may play a role in younger dogs’ variability…. That sounds familiar, yes? Overall, these studies are fun and interesting, but realistically are simply confirming what we as pet parents already know: our dogs truly are unique snowflakes, each and every one of them!
Images courtesy of Patch Attack and Jitze Couperus
In a previous post we talked about working dogs and the important roles they play in disaster and other emotionally charged situations, but in addition to the help working dogs provide us as search and rescue dogs, military dogs, and in their other high intensity roles, they also play an important role in improving our quality of life via our more routine, everyday activities.
For many children, reading out loud can be a frightening prospect; making mistakes in front of their peers and the adults that they either look up to or maybe don’t even know can be quite intimidating and can hinder their progress. Reading in front of an audience, young students may feel anxious or stumble on their words. One solution that has proven quite viable is for readers to read to specially trained therapy dogs. These dogs provide a quiet (and snuggly!) audience for young readers and allow them to make mistakes without feeling the same level of intimidation or judgment that they feel when reading to fellow students. There are currently dog-assisted reading programs throughout the nation, including Michigan’s Reader Dog Program that is in its eleventh year.
NAVIGATING DAILY TASKS (SOMETIMES LITERALLY!)
Service dogs can be trained to help their companions with every aspect of daily life, including getting around walking, doing grocery shopping, and even carrying out household tasks. Service dogs can take on health related tasks such as carrying oxygen or other medications for their owners, can be trained to watch for (and smell for!) signs of low blood sugar in diabetics or blood changes that happen prior to seizures in epilepsy patients, and can help hearing-disabled companions with cues such as doorbells and pedestrian traffic signals. In fact, service dogs can even be trained to help their owners listen for babies and children that need assistance!
PROVIDING EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
Therapy dogs, another type of trained working dog, provide a comforting presence for their handlers. This service goes beyond the proven emotional support that dog ownership provides (dog owners have been shown to be both happier and healthier, although the direct cause of both of those effects has not been determined, i.e. more time outside, more affection, etc.) and allows those suffering from psychiatric disabilities to experience improved daily quality of life. For example, a dog trained to assist a patient suffering from PTSD may be taught to recognize the signs of anxiety and help to intervene before the situation escalates, or a dog trained to work for a handler that requires regular medication may be trained to remind him or her to take those meds. Overall, dogs are our best friends for a reason: they are kind, pure of intention, and can be an endless source of fulfillment and joy in our lives. It seems like a fitting extension that combining their compassionate nature and their intelligence with appropriate training can lead to such positive benefits for the humans around them!
Images courtesy of Andrew Gray and S Wong
Hot temperatures have been the norm for some time now, and with summer in full swing many common pests and bugs are also in their element as far as climate goes. In addition to good nutrition, adequate shelter and exercise, and lots of love and affection, our dogs need protection from these bugs and parasites! But where to start? In this case, prevention is key; preventing issues with pests is typically much easier and less resource intensive than trying to remove a pest that’s already snuck by us as pet parents!
EXTERNAL BUGS – NO THANKS!
Bugs and critters may vary based on the region within which you live, but common external offenders include fleas and ticks. In order to effectively prevent flea and tick infestation, pet owners can opt to provide regular preventative measures, including applying a preventative such as Frontline or Advantix. These preventatives are sold in doses based on your dog’s weight and vet offices often carry them at somewhat of a discount when compared to retailers. It may also be a good idea to get them at your vet’s office because you will have the opportunity to confirm which product meets your needs based on the season, your area, and your pet’s size and individual health history. Preventing fleas from ever taking hold is SO MUCH easier than trying to get rid of an infestation after it starts, and in addition to being a nuisance to pets and their owners, fleas and ticks carry serious health concerns. They can spread a variety of diseases and if left unchecked, multiple flea bites can wreak havoc on your dog’s wellbeing and overall health. He may even be severely allergic to them! Some preventative formulas also offer protection against mosquitoes and other bugs, so you can protect against multiple offenders in one shot!
INTERNAL PESTS – DOUBLE NO THANKS!
In addition to the fleas, ticks, and other bugs that like to hitch a ride on our pups outside, there are also internal pests that can be picked up a variety of ways. For example, heart worms are common in some regions and can be deadly for our pets. There are also several varieties of worms that seek to take up residence in our dog’s intestinal tract. That being said, just as with fleas and ticks there are preventative steps we can take to prevent such issues. There are monthly heartworm preventatives available for dogs; just be sure that before starting one you have your vet test for any current heartworm infestation. A dog that already has heartworms can get much worse if she is given a heartworm preventative. For intestinal worms, simple steps to maintain sanitary conditions may be prevention enough. Clean up your yard on a regular basis, and only frequent dog parks that are well maintained. Watch your dog for signs of intestinal distress such as vomiting and diarrhea, and when you go to your well-dog checkups make sure to ask about any parasites that may be an issue based on your dog’s specific risk factors (area in which you live, places you go together, etc.). And no matter what, remember that regular check-ins with your vet, following a preventative medicine schedule if needed, and just being an aware pet parent will prevent many issues before they start! These pests may all seem quite alarming but is possible to keep your dog happy and healthy simply by providing the love, care, and awareness that he needs. And worst case, if your dog does have an issue with a pest, the sooner you catch it and work with your vet to eradicate it, the better! The two of you can indeed enjoy the warm weather and the great outdoors together.
Images courtesy Joe Futrelle and Dave See
Social media has rapidly become a mainstay of modern culture, with businesses relying more on sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to both cultivate new customers and relay information to existing fans of their brands and products. This holds true for the animal advocacy world as well; as we previously discussed, animal shelters and even dog-conscious individuals are progressively learning how to harness the power of social media to do good for our furry best friends. Who can really speculate how many lost dogs have been reunited with their owners via Facebook and Twitter posts? And some animal shelters have become quite savvy at connecting potential pet parents with dogs desperately in need of a home. In fact, some animal shelters are upping their social media game and coming up with newer, more innovative ways to use the massive reach of social media to meet the needs of the dogs for whom they advocate.
TINDER IS GOING TO THE DOGS
According to tech website Wired.com, the dating application Tinder currently has over 10 million daily users. The premise of the site is quite simple: users sign up using their Facebook account and then they simply swipe through profiles of other users and give them a “yes” or “no” based on whether they are interested in getting to know more about them. If both parties swipe to the direction for yes, they can start chatting. It’s like a game of sorts, and there is no rejection to be had. If someone swipes no, the other party never knows and simply carries on. However, things got a little more interesting for users in New York City recently when dogs started popping up on their Tinder matches! A local shelter created profiles for abandoned pups in need of rehoming and adjusted their ages so they’d show up in human users’ recommendations. Even if a Tinder user wasn’t currently in the market for a new pup, the whole premise is quite innovative. Dogs that need to be adopted first need to be noticed by potential pet parents, and what a great way to solicit that attention!
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ISSUE
Just as social media has given animal advocates and animal shelters a quick, far-reaching way to disseminate information about dogs in need of homes and other relevant information, social media has also made the distribution of personal information much more rapid. For example, a shelter in Great Britain ran into issues when the personal information of former owners listed on dog’s identification tags went viral. Photos of the shelter’s pups also occasionally included a phone number or address of the former pet parent(s), thus allowing angry animal lovers to contact the former owners and harass them about why they chose to surrender their dog. It seems that this is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to finding assistance for pups via social media, but it does illustrate that once unleashed the power of websites such as Facebook with their incredibly high daily traffic can be used for productive and non-productive activities. Once posted online, information is truly primed for public consumption, so if you do opt to use social media as an animal advocate or simply as a pet parent, be aware of ALL of the information that you may be including in your post!
Images courtesy Pink Sherbet Photography and Tony Alter
In Wisconsin last month, longtime pet parent Lois Matykowski noticed that her granddaughter’s ice cream pop had vanished. Naturally, all eyes turned to the family pup Tucker, a notorious food and snack snatcher. It turned out that Tucker had not only grabbed the ice cream, but he’d even ingested the stick! And the story gets better: when he got sick later, he also managed to cough up a wedding ring that had been missing from the family for FIVE years. Tucker’s vet thinks the stick may have loosened the ring up from wherever it was hiding. Luckily, Tucker was just fine, and other than a sad little one over an irretrievable ice cream treat, everyone else in the family came out unharmed as well. However, Tucker’s adventure highlights all too common issues that pet parents face: keeping their dogs away from choking hazards and knowing what to do in the event their dog does get into something they shouldn’t.
INDOORS AND OUT: REMOVING HAZARDS
Inside our homes, from the perspective of a mischievous dog off limits treats and treasures are quite abundant. This is where watching your dog and knowing his patterns may come in handy. For example, some dogs are quite fond of shoes, while others are more interested in anything made of leather. In contrast, some pups are quite interested in eating paper or photos. When your dog does show interest in things that aren’t his, try and track what his main targets are. You may be able to learn what you need to be extra careful about keeping out of reach. Additionally, if your dog is young or just never quite outgrows scavenging, watch out for the usual suspects: small articles of clothing, chicken bones in trash cans, and even smaller hazards like marbles and individual keys. Both outdoors and in, it is imperative that poisonous hazards are kept secure and out of reach, including pesticides, soaps, and motor vehicle fluids. Practicing good housekeeping can save you significant time, heartache, and money by keeping your pup out of things she shouldn’t be snacking on, so if in doubt, put an item up on a shelf or safely behind a cupboard door!
IF YOU GET SUSPICIOUS…
Realistically, if you come home to a spilled bottle of detergent in the laundry room you will have definite cause for concern. But what if you don’t directly witness any mischief and your pup seems off? If an item is inexplicably missing or your dog’s behavior has changed (he is sluggish, hasn’t gone to the bathroom, loses his appetite, or is having trouble keeping food down), you can take immediate steps to help him. In the case of suspected ingestion of a poisonous substance (such as rat poison or auto coolant), call poison control, an animal hotline, or your vet’s office immediately. Time is of the essence! If you suspect your dog may be experiencing blockage of some sort, call your vet! You may need to bring her in for imaging to see just what exactly she has gotten herself into. If necessary, call the after-hours care number for your vet. It is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to the health of your dog, and pups can be quite creative when they get themselves into trouble. Which also brings us to a final point on prevention: our dogs tend to get into trouble when they are bored or anxious, so keeping them happy and safe can help prevent incidents such as these. Even the most well cared for and happy dog will get into trouble at some point, but pet parents can consider crate training their dogs when they have to be out and making sure their pups are getting adequate attention, exercise, and supervision in order to keep them from eating all of the forbidden things!
Images courtesy of RPavich and Beanie1988
Nail trimming, ear cleaning, and bathing – all familiar territory for pet parents. But pampering our pets has taken a decidedly modern twist over the past few years and the gap between human pampering services and pet pampering services is slowly shrinking. Now our dogs can not only attend doggy daycare, but they can even visit dog spas and dog gyms! Every option may not be a great fit for all pet parents and all dogs, but reviewing what is out there and available is still quite fun!
DOGGY DAYCARE IS NOT JUST DAYCARE ANYMORE
Some modern doggy daycare facilities have grown to include swimming pools, spa areas and services, and even doggy masseuses. Even included outdoor play areas are not just fenced in grassy places to play, but rather may also have play structures and other activities geared specifically toward dogs. The facilities are designed to make dogs feel as comfortable as possible and to remove the sterile, somewhat isolated environment that can be an all too common characteristic of kennels. In fact, this is why many of our pet parent clients enjoy using SLEEPOVER ROVER®: they know their dog will be given the freedom to play in secure areas as well as the extra love and affection that comes from being in an in-home environment. With the unconditional love that our pups offer us, it is only natural that as pet parents we would seek to provide them with the best, most attentive care possible while we have to be away for work or travel.
TAKING PET GROOMING TO ANOTHER LEVEL
Particularly for long-haired breeds or dogs with grooming anxiety, a professional groomer can take the guesswork out of caring for our dogs’ hair and nails and streamline the process of keeping our dogs in tip-top shape. However, some groomers go beyond simply offering a bath and a nail trim and are starting to provide services such as full service pedicures (including a polish job!) and shampoos and conditioners in exotic fragrances. Additionally, pet hair (fur?) care lines now even offer dry shampoos and fur sprays to keep your pup smelling fancy. (As a sidenote, your dog may be sensitive to added fragrances, so please keep in mind this is just for fun and we’re not advocating dousing your pup in scent!)
When you think about keeping your dog fit, what comes to mind? A quick walk around the block, or perhaps on a special summer day a dip in the pool or lake for a quick swim? Particularly in urban areas, dedicated dog gyms are now popping up. These facilities offer large indoor and/or outdoor play spaces and may include a variety of dog-friendly toys and even agility structures. Options vary, but pet parents may be able to book the space for individual playtime or group time with their dog. Alternatively, dog gyms may offer a membership structure much like human fitness facilities, where pet parents pay a monthly fee and can drop-in as they’d like. All in all, for many of us our dogs are part of the family, whether or not we have human children as well. With the unmatched companionship and love that they provide, perhaps it makes sense that the options for spoiling them have expanded as much as they have? Regardless, it certainly is fun to get out there and explore the services and facilities available!
Images courtesy Hi Tricia! and Andrew Magill
Although as pet parents we realize just how well our dogs can communicate, the fact remains that they cannot speak the same way people do. A dog in a warm car can’t just politely request that a passerby let him out, and similarly a pup that shouldn’t stay outside in the sun all day can’t simply trot over to the fence and ask a neighbor for some shade. However, since we are pet parents and animal lovers, we can take the time to recognize situations that are not okay for dogs whether it is a neighbor pup or one that you see while out and about. We can collectively improve the quality of life for dogs by being aware and taking action when appropriate.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
According to the Humane Society, 49 states have included felony provisions in their animal abuse laws, which means that not only is the mistreatment of animals a serious moral crime, but in many areas the legal system also takes it seriously. In fact, the Humane Society also offers several helpful tips for spotting animal abuse, including watching for: persons that keep more pets than they can manage, animals that show an obvious lack of medical care (very thin, wounds that do not heal, and/or patches of hair loss), and inadequate shelter in hot or cold weather. Summer is in full swing and the risks to dogs left in areas without shade and especially left in closed vehicles is very real. Additionally, dogs that are left chained up for long periods of time are left in an exposed, vulnerable state, and dogs left behind to fend for themselves when their families move need to be taken in and cared for as quickly as possible. Domestic pets simply are not equipped to care for themselves; in addition to loneliness and battling the elements, they are exposed to hunger and, depending on your region, possibly predators. All of these issues are highly time sensitive, but in cases of an animal in a locked car or violence toward an animal, doing something immediately is of the essence.
WHAT TO DO
As mentioned above, dogs in direct danger as a result of extreme temperatures (whether hot or cold) and/or violent conditions need help right away. If you witness either scenario (or any scenario in which you feel a dog is in immediate danger), call the authorities right away! Call 911 in the case of a time sensitive emergency; in cases where you suspect mistreatment of a longer duration, you may want to consider calling your local animal welfare agency. Keep track of what you’ve seen and heard and make sure to let authorities know the details. Local rescues, vet offices, local law enforcement, and even the Humane Society can all also be starting points for finding the right people to help. Even in the event that you come across a lost or stray dog in your neighborhood, it’s important to do something. You may not feel safe personally approaching the animal (and that's okay!). But you can always call for help from someone that does. Protecting our dogs is a community effort; the great news is that animals rescued from bad situations can go on to thrive and live a happy, comfortable life with a family that truly cares for them. They just need a little help from us humans to get them into a safe, loving environment as soon as possible.
Images courtesy Taro the Shiba Inu and Jamie McCaffrey
It happens every year: with warmer weather, the water cooler buzz and the newsstands start to fill up with references to swimsuit season and getting fit. For most of us, our New Year’s resolutions lost steam months ago and as we start to pull out the shorts for summer we start to (hopefully!) add some more activities into our days to take advantage of the warm weather and get a little more exercise in. But what if our dogs need the movement just as much as we do? What if we’ve taken our pups with us on our journey to couch potato-dom?
ASSESSING THE SITUATION
Sometimes with our pups, weight gain can creep up and we don’t realize it until the next vet visit. Other times, perhaps we’ve noticed our best friend getting a little thicker around the middle but haven’t had the time or drive to address it. But how can we tell if our dogs need a little more exercise? According to PetMD, getting a handle on whether your pet is at a healthy weight is fairly straightforward: stand above your pet and look down. What do you see? If you see his ribs, he may be too lean. If you can’t see his ribs, place your hands around his chest and see if you can feel them. Still can’t? Your pup may be carrying a little extra. Much like in humans, excess weight can cause health issues and if left unchecked may even decrease longevity. If you are concerned about your pet’s weight and are considering adding in activity or decreasing his dietary intake, as always – check with your vet! He may be more out of shape than you realize, in which case you’ll want to slowly add in activity. Once you are ready to up his movement, keep on reading for some easy suggestions!
GETTING ROVER GOING
When it comes to getting your dog moving, perhaps the simplest way is to bring her with you! If you need to run errands, are any of your errands walkable? Or are they dog-friendly, so that at least if you have to drive you can bring her inside once you arrive? (For some more suggestions on finding ways to bring your dog along, look here and here). Additionally, the more active you are, odds are your dog will become more active as well. Take a look at your daily schedule and see where you can add in some additional movement and activity. For example, during the morning crunch are you more likely to just open the back door for your pup? What if you set your alarm just a few minutes earlier, and took your morning coffee with you in a travel mug so the two of you could do a couple of quick loops in the neighborhood before you head off to work or school? Or if you need to give a friend or family member a call to check-in, what if you brought your pup and made it a walking call? Many of us have certain things that pop up over and over again in our daily routines, and sometimes getting our pups (and ourselves!) moving may be as a simple as a few tweaks to those well-ingrained habits. As a pet parent trying to increase daily activity for our dogs, even ten more minutes of playtime together in the yard or a few more laps around the block can make a significant difference in our dog’s health and well-being over time, not to mention the intangible benefits he will enjoy as a result of getting more quality time with mom and/or dad!
Images courtesy Follow These Instructions and L Church
With the mercury rising and the long, sunny days that are at hand, it can be challenging for our furry friends to stay cool. We can keep them in the shade, limit outdoor time, and make sure they stay hydrated, but we can also whip up some tasty cooling treats for them. Every pup enjoys a good snack, and every pet parent loves to keep their furry best friend happy – cooling them down and providing them with treats, sounds like a win-win!
FROZEN SNACKS, AKA PUPSICLES
A long walk (or even a shorter one in very hot weather) can be depleting and downright exhausting for our dogs. Some dogs enjoy it if you grab them an ice cube after a warm stroll, but some dogs just aren’t that interested in that plain old ice cube… luckily there are options! You can freeze pretty much anything into a treat for your pup, and you can use a variety of shapes. For example, you can blend up water, peanut butter, chunks of bananas, and even some berries and pour that mix into a cupcake pan or the bottom of a bundt pan. Or if your dog is more motivated by meaty treats, try blending up a mix of shredded, plain chicken, plain yogurt, water and peanut butter, and freeze that. When it comes to ingredients, get creative! Think about the meats, fruits, and other ingredients that he or she enjoys and that are acceptable for consumption (for example, skip the raisins and the chocolate as those are not dog-safe ingredients) and blend it up. As mentioned, cupcake pans and bundt pans work well for making frozen treats, and you can also use mini muffin pans, ice cube trays, or even small Tupperware containers to freeze up your dog popsicles (also known as pupsicles!). One word of warning: you may want to keep an eye on where your dog is when you give him his treat! Depending on the ingredients, your pupsicles might get a little messy while getting eaten. A shady spot in the yard or keeping your dog in one area (such as the kitchen) may not be a bad idea. He might get so excited about his new snack that he wants to run off and enjoy it, and that may not end well!
NON-FROZEN SUMMER TREATS
Just as in cooler weather, we can help our dogs to stay healthy and happy by feeding them a nutritionally balanced diet, with appropriate quantities to ensure they remain a healthy weight. When temperatures rise, a dog at a healthy weight and with proper nutrition will fare better than a dog carrying excess weight or not receiving proper nutrition. But how do treats and snacks fit into that picture? When putting together homemade snacks for your dog, whether frozen, raw, or baked, pet parents can give their dogs the advantage of solid nutrition by using whole food, dog-safe ingredients and providing proper quantities. The ASPCA has a handy list of foods to avoid for your dog here: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/virtual-pet-behaviorist/dog-behavior/foods-are-hazardous-dogs. For example, making frozen treats with plain yogurt, a fruit such as bananas, and a healthy fat such as peanut butter or coconut milk and then providing that treat in reasonable quantities will help your dog cool off and also won’t undermine his overall health. Non-frozen treats are no different! You can bake healthy, wholesome treats such as Tidy Mom’s Homemade Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits (http://tidymom.net/2014/homemade-peanut-butter-dog-biscuits/) or the easy Sweet Potato Dog Treats found at Allrecipes.com (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/super-simple-sweet-potato-dog-treats/) and provide your pup with healthy fats and other important nutrients. A homemade cookie or biscuit is a great way to add extra nutrients to your pup’s diet while he’s under the stress of hot weather, and it’s also a fun way to make sure you have healthy rewards on hand after a long walk or when he’s done well with a new skill. Or let’s be honest, perhaps just because!
Images courtesy John Wright and Taro the Shiba Inu
Summer is the season for barbeques, long days, and spending time with friends and family, so it is no surprise that it is also the season for travel. According to the U.S Travel Association, only 11% of us opt to travel by plane when it comes to leisure travel; however, given the fact that Americans logged 1.6 billion person trips (a somewhat funny way of saying one person traveling either away from home with paid accommodations for at least a night or on a day or overnight trip at least 50 miles from home), 11% is still significant! Sometimes when traveling to see far flung friends and family or to hit the destination on the top of your travel list, it just makes more sense time-wise, financially, or both to fly. But what do we do when we want to bring our dogs along, too? Realistically, how can you tell whether air travel something that you and your pup can do together? What exactly is involved?
PLAN, PLAN, PLAN AHEAD!
I still remember the first time I had to plan air travel with my dog: we were moving overseas and there simply were not any other options. Although the process seemed overwhelming at first, with proper preparation it ended up being fairly straightforward and he did quite well. As long as your dog is in good health and cleared by your vet to fly, with a little prep work the rest will fall into place. You’ll want to start planning your trip preferably a couple of months out, and if you have a flat-nosed breed (such as a pug) or live in or are flying to a hotter climate, the time of day you fly is going to be highly relevant. If you know the dates of your travel well ahead of time, you may want to start calling airlines to find out exactly when your dog can fly, whether he’ll be considered an in-cabin companion or fly as cargo based on his size, and what documentation they will need from your vet. Most of this info can also be found on an airline’s website, but it cannot hurt to call and double check all information prior to planning your trip. The airline rep may point a regulation or necessary item (such as a health certificate from your vet) that you missed on the website!
WHEN YOU’RE READY TO GO
Once you’ve decided on an itinerary, booked travel for yourself and your dog, and secured a health certificate and any other required information or documentation, you still need to actually get your group checked in and off of the ground, literally! Depending on the length of your flight and the size of your dog, this may mean simply checking in and bringing her as a carry-on or it may mean bringing her to the airline’s cargo hanger (which may be offsite) and prepping her and her kennel for several hours of travel. About 48 hours prior, you may want to do a quick run through and make sure that you have everything you need for the day of; for example, a proper kennel, all of your paperwork, and a set plan for the day of. If you are traveling for a longer period, you may need to freeze water in your pet’s water bowl attachment the night before, and/or portion out food for her trip and bring it with you in a baggy when you check her in (the airline can tape it to the top of the kennel with feeding instructions). Additionally, don’t hesitate to communicate with the airline throughout the process – ask any additional questions that you have when checking her in, and make sure to let flight attendants know you are traveling with a pet in the cargo hold (if applicable) so they can let you know your dog is onboard and safe and sound prior to takeoff. Similarly, when you land make sure you know exactly where you need to be to pick her up. It may be the baggage claim or it may be somewhere else. Take comfort in the fact that you have prepared for your trip, taken the steps necessary, and that the airline staff understand that you are just a concerned parent. They are also invested in your pet’s travel going smoothly! And last but not least, remember to enjoy the vacation you and your dog take. After all, that’s why you set up the air travel in the first place, right? Happy travels!
Images courtesy Bukowsky18 and Nora Arden
Last week we talked about taking shorter trips with our dogs, such as quick day trips for hiking and even weekend trips for camping. Here at SLEEPOVER ROVER® we take pride in our ability to provide worry-free, quality dog boarding options for pet parents on the go, but the reality is sometimes you would like to take your pup with you on vacation! Keeping that in mind, let’s talk about summer trips with our best friends. With a little planning and consideration for our four-legged companions, hopping in the car for a summer adventure can be safe and enjoyable for everyone involved!
MAPPING THE JOURNEY
Whether you’ve decided on a destination for your summer road trip or your itinerary is still up in the air, factoring in your dog and his interests and needs will make the trip much more enjoyable for all of you. For example, if you’ve had your heart set on a trip to the Grand Canyon and surrounding areas, do some quick research on dog-friendly restaurants and hotels on the way, as well as off leash dog parks that you’ll be passing. Depending on how far you’re driving and whether you’ll be in larger cities, there should be several options for all of these pit stops. A pup that gets to romp around in an off leash park for a little while will be a much happier (and let’s face it, more interested in naps!) travel companion! Also, check into the policies of the highlights you’d like to hit on your journey and the hotels you’d like to stay at before setting plans or making reservations. Spending a few minutes ahead of time saves the disappointment of realizing your dog can’t come in to the parks and/or attractions that you are planning on visiting on your trip, and getting a good night’s sleep will help you feel energized and refreshed on your journey.
ONCE YOU HAVE A TIMELINE, WORK OUT THE DETAILS
If you’ve been checking in regularly with your vet on your dog’s care, this piece should be fairly straightforward. And even if not, it’s never too late to start! When planning for a road trip, first and foremost you need to make sure your pup is in good health and that you have everything you need for him. For example, if he is a mature dog and your vet has him on supplements or medications, double check that you have enough to last you for your trip and then some. You may also want to discuss activity limitations for your pet based on the climate of where you are going. Heat can have a profound and deadly effect on our dogs – a little forethought can prevent disaster! Even if he has a clean bill of health, remember to never ever leave him in the car in even just warm weather. For the journey, you can ration out and pack up his food and make sure to bring a water bowl and plenty of extra fresh water. Also, when packing the car consider his comfort; how much room will he need? Is there space for him to have his favorite blanket or dog bed for the trip? Have you grabbed a few of his favorite toys and enough doggy bags for the journey? And no matter what, remember you’re bringing him along to have fun and enjoy a vacation together. Even if unforeseen circumstances change the itinerary, the companionship is priceless. With planning, flexibility, and a focus on enjoying your time together you and your pup can hit the road and have a great time together!
Images courtesy Lulu Hoeller and Chris Miller
As the school year comes to a close and the days continue to get longer, most of us start to feel the travel itch. But what do you do if you want to stay closer to home and can only take a day or two away from work and other daily obligations? How can you sneak in some away time without taking on too much travel, and possibly still enjoy some quality time with your favorite dog? The answer can be quite simple: the great outdoors! Summer time can be the perfect time to enjoy the national and state parks that are abundant in every region, whether you are looking for a short afternoon trip or a long weekend.
GO BIG! CAMPING WITH YOUR DOG
Planning for a camping trip with your dog is very similar to planning any sort of road trip in that your primary concerns will be food, water, safety, and overall creature comfort for him. When planning for travel, it can be helpful to portion out his food into separate containers or plastic sandwich bags, that way when mealtime rolls around you don’t have to worry about measuring out food, and you also don’t have to carry extra food in a large bag. When camping, any space that can be saved is a good thing! Depending on your plans, you may want to increase her intake if she’ll be running around a lot. She needs calories to burn calories! You can choose to bring her regular food and water bowls, or you can purchase lightweight outdoor specific dog bowls such as those sold at large retailers such as Amazon or REI. You can also purchase a water bottle/bowl hybrid such as this one (http://www.amazon.com/Handi-Drink-Dog-Water-Bottle-Spill-proof/dp/B000GDXHQ0) for day hikes around the campground, as it is easier to stow in a daypack. When it comes to planning your overall trip, state and national park websites are typically very clear on whether or not dogs are welcome; if they are allowed there may be specific conditions. For example, dogs will likely need to remain on leash and/or may not be allowed in certain areas of the park or on certain trails. If your dog enjoys swimming, make sure to check ahead of time whether he will be allowed at the beach or lake that you’d like to visit. It would be a shame to camp only to find out the beaches are not dog-friendly!
OR KEEP IT SIMPLE – SNEAK AWAY FOR A QUICK HIKE
The very first consideration when planning a hike should be safety and comfort, both his, yours, and that of fellow hikers. Know your dog’s capacity for exercise as well as local rules and regulations. For example, you may want to plan an early morning excursion so that it’s cooler and he is well rested. And when searching out a trail, if a trail is dog-friendly but requires a leash, keep him on a leash! It will keep him safe, will show the respect to fellow hikers and wildlife that is expected, and will keep both you and him out of trouble! Also, keep in mind that leash rules also come with leash criteria. For example, trails may require a six foot length or less leash, and realistically extendable cable leashes are not ideal for hiking around trees and possibly other people. When it comes to safety, whether just going on a day hike or going camping, remember to bring the necessary supplies for both of you: water, flashlights, extra clothes, warm gear for sleeping if you’re in an area where it cools significantly, a first aid kit, and the other elements of the ten essentials that make sense for your trip (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Essentials). Also, even in nature do your trailmates a favor and remember the doggy waste bags. With the proper planning and supplies, you and your furry best friend can get away from it all, enjoy some fresh air, and have a fantastic time!
Images courtesy of Bugeater and Patch Attack
Dog parks are a great outlet for our pups, as they can roam freely, socialize with other dogs, and just generally have the freedom that being off leash affords. However, as the weather continues to improve, the days grow longer, and we (hopefully!) find more time to spend time with our dogs outdoors, it may be helpful to stop and reevaluate dog park etiquette. With a little planning and consideration, off leash dog parks can be a cleaner, safer, and more enjoyable place for all of us to enjoy with our dogs!
FIRST THINGS FIRST – HEALTH AND HYGIENE!
When we welcome a new puppy into our homes, one of the first things we do is start planning all of the amazing things we can do together with our new family member. Walks! Playtime in the yard! And of course, going to play at the dog park and getting to meet other per parents! However, it is imperative that your dog has had her shots prior to being exposed to other dogs and to areas where high concentrations of animals spend time. Check with your vet on when he or she believes your dog will be ready for dog parks; work together to figure out the best timeline to ensure your dog has had the shots she needs and also make sure she’s just generally ready to be around so many other dogs. You will also likely want to get her going on flea and tick preventative. And even if you take her to the dog park at an off time and it’s not too busy, remember: there are still particles in the soil as a result of dog waste. Make sure she has her shots! That also leads us to the next big hygiene consideration – when you go to the dog park, make sure you pick up any pet waste right away. There are usually bag stands, but it is always a good idea to bring extras just in case. You don’t want to have to leave the park to go find a bag, you want to be able to clean up right away!
SOCIAL CUES AND SUPERVISION
Just like people, some dogs are very social and outgoing, while others prefer to do their own thing. If your dog or another dog doesn’t engage with other dogs, as long as they are mellow and happy it isn’t anything to worry about. In contrast, if your dog is very aggressive in trying to get other dogs to play, it may be prudent to keep an eye on him and engage him in alternative activities when needed. Don’t bring treats or toys into the park as that may cause problems, but feel free to play with your dog as a distraction if he is too focused on another pup. Similarly, always be paying attention to your pup so that you can intervene if play gets too rough. Don’t talk on your phone or run to the car to grab something; always be aware of where your dog is and what is going on in the park overall. Pay attention to the health and behavior of other dogs, and feel free to leave with your dog if he isn’t enjoying the park, gets too rowdy, or the mood of the park just doesn’t feel right. Trust your instincts! The same goes for feedback from other pet parents: take it with a grain of salt. Another pet parent may have valuable feedback for you, but don’t let unsolicited advice ruin your time at the park. A visit to the dog park can be a safe, fun outing for you and your dog, and remember that if you are working with your vet and consistently working on maintaining your dog’s training and social skills, you two will be good to go. Have a great playtime!
Images courtesy Don DeBold and Natalie Maynor
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