Is Your Pooch Prepared for Winter?

The northeast got a surge in warmer temperatures this fall, but I’m not fooled. I know frozen puddles are just around the corner and I’m already pulling out Bitsy’s winter sweaters for our morning walks.

It made me wonder what other steps dog owners take to keep their furry friends warm throughout winter.

sherpa dog bed
Bitsy rests on her favorite sherpa dog bed.

Warm Bedding
Bitsy sleeps with me at night so she stays plenty warm, but during the day she is on the floor. I’ve tried different dog beds and she currently likes her fleece mat. Lately I’ve been looking at heated beds and stumbled across this self-heating product from The Lakeside Collection. The reviews are mostly positive and at less than $20 I will happily give it a try. I’ve seen others online that cost much more so I will test this one first.

Heated Dog House
As an indoor dog, Bitsy only scurries outside to join me. In fact she is kind of pathetic if left on the back deck alone. She peers through the door with eyes pleading for me to let her in.

I know some dogs like to hang outside for longer periods to sniff the air, listen to the sounds of the neighborhood, and protect their territory from squirrels and chipmunks. In that case, an insulated dog house may be a worthwhile investment. I cannot recommend any brand, though I think Wal-Mart has a pretty decent selection.

 

Dog Booties
I have friends who trained their dog to wear boots during winter walks. It took several sessions at home, a few minutes at a time and gradually increasing, to get him used to the feeling it created on his paws. He eventually warmed to the idea and I imagine was grateful when traversing icy sidewalks!

Bitsy’s little paws are pretty furry and we keep our walks shorter on those icy bitter days. I avoid walking her on salted driveways and sidewalks. If we come upon one, I just scoop her up and carry her to a safe spot. I found this small company called Hound & Tail that has a great entrepreneurial spirit I’ve considered buying from. However, there are plenty of companies that sell doggie boots with positive reviews.

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Bitsy poses in her new holiday sweater.

Sweaters for Warmth and They Look Good Too
My favorite way to keep Bitsy warm once winter kicks in is to put her in a sweater. She has several and is a good sport about wearing them. I think she secretly likes the positive attention everyone gives her whenever she gets dressed for a walk! Some folks say their dogs act embarrassed when wearing clothes, but it’s not like I dress her up in a tutu. And if you know anything about the spirited (and vain) Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, they love positive attention. Mine is a total camera ham.

What products do you use to keep your dog warm once temperatures plummet? Please add a comment below!

Do You Pass the Smell Test as a Dog Owner?

Do You Pass the Smell Test as a Dog Owner?

I’m a bit of an NPR addict. When not listening to WMPH 91.7 in my car I am on the app. I have a few favorite broadcasts, one of which is Terry Gross of Fresh Air. Imagine my delight last week when her guest was author Alexandra Horowitz to discuss her latest book, “Being a Dog.”

Being a Dog book cover

I have yet to read “Being a Dog,” but it is next on my list. Her interview was highly interesting and gave me a lot to think about as an indulgent dog owner myself! You can read the interview, or better yet, listen to it yourself.

The interview game me a lot to think about as a dog owner. Horowitz emphasized that dogs know their world first and foremost through smell, not sight. Since most humans are sight-dominant, we tend to force our pet dogs into a seeing world and suppress their active noses. It gave me pause. Am I guilty as charged?

Rushing Through Our Daily Walks
I think of our twice daily walks as an opportunity to get exercise and burn off energy. I had never really considered I am suppressing Bitsy’s instinct to smell every blade of grass or that I am unknowingly reprogramming her innate sense. Since my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is already so close to the ground, her desire to stop and sniff rather than walk is strong! While I let her tary here and there, I have certainly never allowed her nose to guide our walks.

Harowitz recommends taking “smell walks” to allow your dog to explore and nurture that part of her nature.

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Taking Our Sweet “Smell” Time
I tried it over the weekend and discovered how interesting our normal route became to us both. Bitsy was very happy to find I was not tugging her along every time she caught an intriguing scent. As I observed her actions, I found myself absorbed in musing why she would stop and pee on some scents, but not on others?!?! We made far less progress distance-wise, but I noticed she was just as tired when we got home as when we walk the full distance. Certainly her nose must have been exhausted from her sensory exploration.

Dog Sniffing Not Rude
Horowitz opened my eyes to another notion. My dog knows me first by smell and secondary by sight and sound. It is also how she knows the other living beings in our lives. If I discourage her from smelling my house guests or other dogs she encounters then I am stifling her ability to connect with the world around her.

From now on I will make a better attempt to forewarn visitors that my dog will be giving them a onceover. If they are not dog people and are uncomfortable around my little friend, then I will crate her. When we encounter other dogs I will no longer tug her away from butt sniffing unless I notice it makes the other dog uncomfortable. Bitsy usually just sits herself down when she no longer wants to participate in the ritual!

I look forward to reading the book to unearth any other tidbits which would improve Bitsy’s happiness. Our pets lavish such love on us, I am happy to nurture her nature!

Do you already go for smell walks? I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!

Dog Selfies – Crazy or Brilliant?

Dog Selfies – Crazy or Brilliant?

Do you avoid traveling because you hate leaving your dog? Don’t want to seem crazy to your petsitter by asking for pictures while you’re gone? Let your dog take the pictures herself with the Dog Selfie camera.

OK, let me back up a bit.

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I prefer to take Bitsy everywhere with me as you can see above at the beach. We travel together when possible, but every once in awhile I am forced to head out alone. Occasionally my dog is not invited to weddings, family reunions, or group excursions. Keep in mind, I sometimes decline invitations that exclude my canine companion because she loves an adventure as much as the next dog…but every once in awhile I hire a pet sitter.

I stumbled across this awesome video from Mashable that shows you how to set up a pet selfie contraption. While the mechanics seem pretty straight forward, training my little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to press the red button may be a bit more of a challenge.

I can totally picture crazy dog owners like myself setting something like this up in the dog pen so that Bitsy can send me an occasional selfie when I’m on the road!

This got me to thinking that maybe I should set up a webcam while I’m away too. I would get my Bitsy-fix and make certain she is doing OK — killing two birds with one stone! I will need to discuss it first with my trusty pet sitter though. I trust and respect her and would not want to give her the impression that I suspect her of neglect. Fortunately she knows that when it comes to my dog I am a bit of a nut!

So, what do you think about dog selfies or a nanny-cam for your pet? Over the top or a good idea? Leave your comments below!

Should Dogs Matter More Than People

I’m VERY frustrated by a situation happening right now in my dog-friendly neighborhood. I hope you will chime in with your thoughts.

Let me lay the back story first.

Living in a Dog-Loving Community

Just about all my neighbors have dogs. It’s a great place to be a dog owner because we all know one another by what kind of dog owns us. We walk our dogs, buy overpriced specialty food for them, and commiserate over vet bills.

But there is always a bad apple or two in any bushel.

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Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jganderson/

Multiple Dog Attacks

A few streets away, on my usual walking route with Bitsy, is a home with two aggressive boxers. Keep in mind, I have no problems with a well-mannered boxer.

At least one of the boxers has escaped its house and/or back deck to charge and attack two different dogs in our neighborhood, a Westie on one occasion and a mid-sized mix on three different instances. I do not believe either family of the attacked dogs ever reported the attacks. (Big mistake if you ask me.)

Last week both boxers escaped and attacked my elderly neighbor’s golden retriever during the gentleman’s daily walk. His retriever immediately laid down and curled up in submission. While the boxers bit the golden, two dogs from the adjacent property broke through their electric fence and piled onto the attack.

The wife who owns the boxers ran out during the attack and tugged her dogs away while the retriever’s owner hollered for help to get the other neighbor’s two dogs off of his.

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Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gpoo/

Attacked Dog Is OK, But Her Owner Is Not

The golden retriever was taken to the emergency veterinarian and found to have several puncture wounds. They placed her on antibiotics and she appears to be ok.

My friend, the golden’s elderly owner, did not fare as well. He is emotionally traumatized. His trauma was made worse when he called animal control and was told that unless he hires a lawyer and presses charges, there is nothing they can do.

The boxers that have attacked at least three different dogs in our neighborhood are still living in the home. I now carry a baseball bat when I walk Bitsy to ensure she is safe.

Should The Family Keep Their Aggressive Dogs?

No one adores their dog more than I do, but I am perplexed as to why these neighbors have not re-homed their dogs. What if my elderly neighbor had suffered a heart attack that day? What if a small child is bitten while walking a dog? How can anyone put fondness of their pets over the welfare of neighbors? It boggles my mind.

What do you think? Should that family take their boxers to a no-kill shelter? I find it impossible to believe the boxers will never again escape to injure, or even kill, another dog.

DIY Dog Treats

DIY Dog Treats

You all know how much I love home baked dog treats for Bitsy. Not only are they healthier because you can control every ingredient, but I feel like Bitsy likes them more because they are made with love. I’v shared my own recipe before, but here are a few more of my favorites:

Homemade Frosty Paws
Healthy Flaky Carrot Biscuits
Chicken and Rice Treats
Soft and Chewy PB Bones
Salmon and Sweet Potato Squares

The chicken and salmon varieties are for special occasions only in our house. I don’t want Bitsy to get too spoiled! I do make the other ones quite often so we always have a supply. Making dog treats is a regular occurrence in my house. Bitsy loves when I bake, she can’t stay out of the kitchen. I’m sure your dog will love it too. Enjoy!

You’re Never Too Old to Love a Dog

You’re Never Too Old to Love a Dog

I live in a big neighborhood and like so many other people who live in the suburbs, I know neighbors by their dogs. Lately, I’d noticed the absence of an older retired Army veteran and his Lhasa Apso while out walking Bitsy.  I would always see them a couple of streets over.

At first I assumed it was the heat since this summer has been a scorcher. Then I thought perhaps the gentleman was on vacation. But when I saw him last weekend he was walking a different dog, a little mixed fluffy breed, and I asked him about his Lhasa. I was sorry to hear the little dog had passed away earlier in the summer. What surprised me was his response when I asked about his new dog.

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Photo Credit

Charlie is the fluffy little new dog. The gentleman does not know Charlie’s breed or age. He was paired with the little guy by an organization that matches senior rescue dogs with senior people.

After the loss of his previous dog my neighbor had started to sink into depression. He lives alone and his social life pivots around walking his dog. I’ve seen him at all times of morning, afternoon, and evening. He can usually be spotted on the side of the road, dog in toe, talking with one neighbor or another…anyone who has the time to chat!

After the loss of his Lhasa, another neighbor recommended the gentleman adopt a senior dog. Older shelter dogs are not as easy to place as puppies. But for an older adult, a calm, trained dog is the perfect companion.

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Photo Credit

I’ve passed Charlie and his new owner 20 times since last weekend. Most of the time Bitsy and I keep walking. We’re out to get our exercise. But Charlie is out with his Army Vet to meet and greet, providing companionship and a reason to get out of the house to someone who thrives on the socialization.

buggy-dogs

Photo Credit

It makes me smile every time Bitsy and I pass them. I am adding a few links to organizations which pair senior dogs with seniors. I hope you’ll share the story with your elders. Who knows, maybe one of these organizations can provide a happy ending to someone else’s story!

Senior Dogs 4 Seniors
Paws Seniors for Seniors
Senior Pets for Senior People
The Senior Dogs Project
The Sanctuary for Senior Dogs
The Pets for the Elderly Foundation
Pets for Seniors

If you know of other similar organizations and would like them added, please leave a comment below!

Note: None of these images are of my neighbor or Charlie. I want to respect their privacy.

Can Social Media Help Save More Dogs?

Can Social Media Help Save More Dogs?

I happened across an older blog post recently that sparked some controversy over how people should or should not use Facebook for pet rescue. Heather, of Dog Hair & Bourbon, shared some very valid points in her article, The Love/Hate Relationship of Social Media and Rescue.  The article was picked up on Petful and garnered an equal response of opposing views arguing for and against the points Heather made.

Will Anyone Act on Your Social Plea?

The comments made me remember a really interesting interview I heard a couple years ago on NPR with social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam on supporting a cause. Research by psychologist Paul Slovic of the University of Oregon showed that people reduce giving when they feel like their contribution would not make any difference in the long run. According to the research, you are more likely to help one starving child rather than contribute toward feeding a much larger population.

Understanding how the brain responds to giving, pet rescuers can use social media to paint a picture that illustrates their cause, but doing it one dog or cat at a time. Those same rescue organizations can harness social media best practices to help boost their visibility, but in a way that supports their end goal and does not dilute efforts.

Craft Social Messages that Prompt Action

Individual stories about each foster pet could include suggestions on how the general social population can help. For example, “Fido is a 5 year old lab/chihuahua mix who is in Omaha. We cannot afford to transport Fido, but if you have connections in Omaha, please share this post.” Fido is heartworm positive, but will live a long, healthy life with heartworm treatment. The treatment cost is only $xx. If you cannot adopt Fido, please pay for his treatment. Email …”

Social media is a powerful tool, but you need to tailor it to meet your goals. That said, if you are using social media as a rescue organization, make sure you establish your goals, define your target audiences, and create your social plan accordingly. And remember, research shows we humans are more likely to contribute if we think it will make an actual difference, so don’t overwhelm us with huge statistics or seemingly unsolvable problems.

10 Vital Things to Check Before You Back Out of the Driveway with Your Dog

If you’re a new dog owner, you may not be sure what the protocol is for riding in the car with your pet. Things have changed since you were a kid and it was normal for people to throw Fido in the back seat or even ride with your beloved pooch on your lap. Take a look at this simple checklist to minimize risk for your dog and maximize comfort, too!

Image Credit: FreeImages.com/Danijel Juricev

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  1. Buy and use a good, safety-rated harness. The Center for Pet Safety tested several harnesses and the Sleepypod Clickit Sport was approved with very high ratings, so I would start there. I’ve included the repot so you can check it out.
  2. Make sure your dog is wearing a collar with identification tags. If for some crazy reason your dog breaks away from you during a rest stop, tags will be vital. This brings me to number three, which should actually be number 1 for new pet owners…
  3. Microchip your pet, dog or cat, and register the microchip with a reputable monitoring company. There are many. Pet*ID and PetLink are just two. That way if your dog runs off and someone finds him/her, then they can contact the company and it will reconnect you with your missing pet.
  4. Bring water and a dish or dispenser. Car rides, especially in summer, dehydrate people and pets. Take breaks during long car trips and make sure Fido drinks plenty of water.
  5. Keep a leash in the car. One time I forgot Bitsy’s leash since she usually hops right into the car from the garage. I ended up having to carry her around rather than walk her until I could get back home for the leash. I was grateful she was a lap dog. Had she been a medium or large dog it would have meant either buying a new leash on the road or heading back home.
  6. Close the car windows or put riding goggles on your dog. If you prefer to drive with windows rolled down or you own a convertible, it is important to protect your pet’s eyes from flying dust and debris.
  7. Carry some extra food and snacks. This is a no-brainer for long trips, but what happens if you are out running errands or on a short excursion and your car breaks down? Snacks and food will prove an invaluable supply to help keep your pet happy while waiting for a tow truck.
  8. First aid kit for dogs. Again, you never know, so be prepared! This website Pet Education provides an extensive list. While I personally do not travel with all the items they include, I agree you will want to keep a few of these items in the car in the event of an emergency.
  9. Grab a few chew toys or favorite items. I do not recommend giving anything to your pet that could potentially pose a choking hazard or a distraction for the driver, but it never hurts to have a few tricks up your sleeve to keep your pet happy once you are at your new destination. That means if you do decide to give her something to gnaw on during the road trip it had better not squeak. And, if it falls to the floor, you had better be prepared to make a few stops to retrieve it or deal with the whining or yipping!
  10. Music. I love to sing with and to Bitsy when we are on the road. She seems to enjoy it so I always grab a few CDs to play. I had a friend whose dog would howl whenever it heard the friend sing opera. It was pretty funny. My dog can’t sing, but I wish she could!

Boost Your Health and Happiness – Adopt a Dog

Overcrowded animal shelters kill about 1.2 million dogs a year in the U.S. That’s roughly 60 percent of all dogs that enter a shelter. Why?

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Don’t even get me started. Just read the news any day of the week and you will see why. Humans are irresponsible to say the least. If we as a species practiced the same unconditional love as dogs do, the news would be filled with happy stories.

You can read more sickening statistics about unwanted dogs and cats on the ASPCA website. I just wanted to get your attention with a doozy opener.

There are millions of unwanted dogs across the nation representing every breed, age, size, health, and temperament. If you already own a dog, you already know the benefits of dog ownership. If you are holding back, let me share with you a few compelling reasons to find yourself a dog today!

Dog Ownership Improves Physical and Mental Health

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I am not a doctor or scientist. But there are plenty of smart people out there who have been studying the relationship between dog ownership and its health benefits.

Did you know:

  • Babies who grow up with dogs are less likely to develop allergies.
  • Dogs help people meet other people more easily. They help you socialize. They can even improve your chances of getting a date!
  • Dog owners tend to exercise more often and more rigorously than non dog owners.
  • Dogs provide companionship for the elderly and give them a reason to stay active.
  • The calm and steady presence of a dog can help reduce stress.
  • Dogs are good for the heart. In fact, the National Institute of health funded a study that looked at 421 adults who’d suffered heart attacks. One year later, they discovered dog owners were more likely to still be alive than the non dog owners, regardless of the severity of the heart attack. You can read more about the study here.

Find Your Perfect Dog

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The right dog for me may not be the right dog for you. I chose Bitsy because the personality and traits of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was a great match for my lifestyle. Every family has its own set of circumstances. There was a time when adopting a shelter dog was like shooting dice – you had no idea what you were getting. But so many shelters in the U.S. today take the time to really evaluate each dog, that you can find exactly what you are looking for. Even better, most no-kill shelters use a network of foster families to help these unwanted dogs adjust to family life before they go to a forever home. And unlike buying a pet from a breeder, you can adopt a dog on a trial basis to make sure it is the right fit.

There are a number of online resources for finding a shelter dog. I’ve listed three of the main ones. List your location and preferences, then patiently wait for your ideal dog to show up in search! Or you can attend a local pet adoption event and see adoptable dogs in person.

https://www.petfinder.com/
http://www.adoptapet.com/
http://bestfriends.org/

If you want to support a local no kill shelter in your area, you can find it here. http://www.nokillnetwork.org/

Still not sure you are ready to commit to a dog? You can always apply to be a foster family. This provides temporary homes to unwanted dogs and gives you a taste of ownership.

Please leave a comment below if you have a heart-warming dog adoption story to share. Make sure you include a photo of your new best pal!

Five Tactics to Teach Your Dog Manners

As a slightly obsessed dog lover, I want everyone else to at least like my dog. That’s why I spent so much time training Bitsy to behave like a proper lady. Jumping up on guests, stealing shoes, barking excessively, and begging at the table are pet peeves I cannot tolerate in someone else’s dog. I would certainly not tolerate that behavior in my own sweet Cavalier.

Don’t get me wrong. Raising a well-behaved canine is no easy feat. But if you don’t have the time and patience for proper training, perhaps a dog is not the best pet choice. Maybe you should consider a hermit crab instead.

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Tactic 1: Find what motivates your pooch.

For many dogs, food is the most effective motivator. Luckily for me, Bitsy falls into this category. Treats should be small and healthy. Examples of good training foods include raw vegetables, bits of home baked biscuits, or dry food kibbles. Ice cubes can also be a no calorie special treat!

There are many reputable websites that include more comprehensive lists of foods you should not feed your dog, but here are a few to avoid:

  • Grapes
  • Avocado
  • Chocolate
  • Dairy products
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Raw meat
  • Raw eggs
  • Onions, Garlic
  • Mushrooms
  • Caffeine
  • Fat trimmings
  • Chicken bones

Praise is an excellent motivator, both verbal and physical. A calm, positive word of encouragement or a scratch behind the ears can get some dogs to do anything you ask! You can also reinforce good behavior by using a much-loved toy or activity. If your pup goes crazy over a favorite ball, kong, or ride in the car, use those things as training tools.

Tactic 2: Nip jumping in the bud.

It doesn’t matter whether Fido weighs 5 pounds or 85 pounds. When a dog jumps up on you, it scratches your legs, covers you in dog hair, frightens, and annoys even the most reasonable people. I’ve seen many tactics to combat this unpleasant behavior. I would start with these simple tips first.

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Train your dog from the very beginning to sit and stay when someone enters your home. Use the motivator that works for your dog. Start with short periods of time and increase that span in increments.

If your dog already acquired the “jump on visitors” trait, ask people who enter your home to fold their arms and turn their backs on your dog. When the dog finally figures out that jumping up will not elicit any affection, he will usually give up. When your dog returns all feet to the floor, try getting him to sit and stay. Once accomplished, hand over a treat or praise.

If the folded arms system does not take hold over time, you can try lightly stepping on the dogs back feet while his front paws are resting on the human legs (or chest). This will immediately prompt your dog to return to his own four paws. In time, he will associate jumping up with the discomfort of his back paws and cease the bad behavior.

If this last straw tactic fails, then contact a dog trainer.

I want to add here that I am not a professional dog trainer. I love dogs and have taken the time to train my own. Dog training takes time, patience, practice, and a calm spirit. Don’t expect miracles overnight. And never lose your cool.

Tactic 3: Stealing the Three S’s – Shoes, Slippers, Socks

Have you ever wondered why some dogs take your house guest’s shoe the moment they leave it at your front door? Or why she runs through the house with your bedroom slipper hanging from her mouth? Does your pooch confiscate more single socks than your dryer?

Could it be she gets your attention every time she takes something you’ve forbidden? In my opinion, dogs just want to love and be loved. If you make a big deal out of chasing her down when she steals something, it becomes a game and a source of attention. Use treats to reward her for not taking shoes, slippers, or socks when you put them within easy reach to tempt her. You should also ensure your dog has her own toys for entertainment.

Confession: Bitsy loves it when she finds one of my dirty socks. She does not chew it, but relishes in running away when I see it dangling from her mouth. Funny, but she never takes the clean ones!

If your dog is taking your shoes and chewing them, that is a more serious behavior issue than poor manners. I recommend reading Cesar Millan’s website for shoe chewing and other problematic behaviors.

Tactic 4: Halt Excessive Barking

It is difficult to speak with a house guest or talk to your neighbor through the back fence when your dog is overtaking the conversation with loud, obnoxious barking.

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As with jumping up or stealing slippers, never reward your dog with attention for unacceptable behavior. Remain calm and ignore an overly excited dog. Affection and attention should only be paid to an equally calm dog. This is much more difficult to achieve if you’ve rescued a dog that already developed the barking habit. Don’t get frustrated. Remember what I wrote at the end of Tactic 2!

I am not a fan of those barking collars. I’m not passing judgement on anyone who successfully uses them to train their dog. It’s just not my personal preference.

Tactic 5: Do Not Teach Begging!

Here is where I am going to pass judgement. If your dog begs at the table, you are one hundred percent to blame. It is an owner-created bad habit. (On my soapbox now.) If you only feed your dog dog food and healthy snacks as training aids, your dog will not beg for people food from the table. I’m not sure how I could explain that more simply or explicitly! This is a hard habit to break, so don’t go down that road in the first place. If you inherited a dog that begs at the table, then work with her to overcome the habit by ignoring it and not feeding her from the table.

Dogs are much easier to train than children, or so I’m told! Be patient. It takes time to break bad habits. Be positive. Your dog only wants to make you happy. Most importantly, start your dog out with firm boundaries and good manners from the start. That way, your family, friends, and guests will love your prized pet as much as you do. Well, almost!