Easing Noise Anxiety in Dogs

Bitsy is a fairly excitable dog, which most of the time is great because she’s always looking forward to new adventures. However, with her excitable nature also comes a bit of an anxiousness, especially when it comes to loud or strange noises. Noise anxiety is a big problem for dogs throughout the country.

According to http://www.dogtime.com, 5 to 15 million dogs are affected by noise anxiety. It is difficult to console a dog because we cannot simply explain that the noises will pass and everything will be all right. Through research and bit of my own experience, I’ve come up with ways to ease Bitsy’s anxiety and try to make her feel a bit more comfortable and relaxed.

1.) Safe, Quiet Space

If you know that there are going to be loud noises like fireworks, noise makers, or thunder you can plan ahead by offering then a safe, quiet space. When dogs feel threatened by sounds they don’t recognize or can’t place, they often retreat to small, enclosed spaces to feel safer. You can help by placing your dog’s crate in a quiet place in the house where she feels comfortable.

2.) Get Moving!

Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise because the less pent up energy your dog has, the more likely she is able to relax. A stressed dog can easily become destructive if a noise triggers their anxiety or fear.

3.) Keep Safely Inside

If a storm is brewing or if there is a fireworks show or other loud celebrations happening, it’s a good idea to keep your pup inside. Even if your dog has never tried to escape before, her fear of the noises may be strong enough for her to flee.

4.) Proper ID

Protect your dog by ensuring that your pet is wearing proper identification and that her microchip information is up to date.

5.) Occupy Their Time

A dog with a task is less likely to give in to noise anxiety because she is focused. A high-value bully stick or a Kong filled with a frozen treat may prove helpful in keeping your dog’s anxiety in check.

6.) Remove Visual Stimulation

It may help to close doors, windows, and blinds to calm your dog down and keep them from anxious behavior like searching every window for the cause of the noise. Covering your pup’s crate can also be helpful.

7.) Noise Desensitization

If the other tips don’t seem to be working or aren’t as effective as you would like them to be, noise desensitization could be a good supplement or alternative. You play sets of sounds that would normally trigger your dog but at a lower volume. Start by playing the recording at a volume level that does not trigger a fearful response. You can then begin to increase the sound slightly. When your dog is calm, feed her some of her favorite treats. You want them to associate those noises with something positive! If you continue with this process, over time anxiety should decrease.

8.) Keep Calm and Carry On

Some other viable options are calming sprays, collars, and diffusers. Adaptil collars are known to be quite effective. These products are formulated to mimic the appeasement pheromones that comfort nursing puppies. The use of the spray or diffuser can be additionally helpful in events that usually cause stress.

9.) Anxiety Wrap

The anxiety wrap is a pressure wrap available for dogs (and cats!) of all sizes.  It uses a scientifically balanced combination of acupressure and gentle, maintained pressure to help ease anxiety. It retails for $34.95 and can be purchased at www.anxietywrap.com.

10.) The Thundershirt

Very similar to the anxiety wrap, although I think it is a bit more stylish looking. (Especially if you add the custom embroidery!) It sells for $39.95 and can be purchased at www.thundershirt.com.

I hope these tips were helpful but if you have any other suggestions please comment below. I know it’s a priority for all of us to keep our pets happy and feeling secure!

 

 

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Brad Nierenberg’s Fave Photography for Dog Lovers

Before adopting Bitsy, I was never one for taking many pictures; I usually rely on my friends and family to document our special occasions. Since Bitsy came into my life I have started taking more photos and I’ve really enjoyed it! I am no means a pro but I’ve started looking for tips and inspiration online and have found several dog photographers who are taking some amazing photos! I thought I would share a few of my favorites with you so you can enjoy the fun.

1.) Benjamin Grelle aka The Frogman

This guy is hilarious. The Frogman is a Missouri-based photographer and humorist who takes dog photography to a whole new level by making pups look like they’re barreling through outer space. The dogs are photographed with their heads hanging out of car windows, their faces flapping in the breeze. Grelle then adds an out of this world space background behind each dog.

Grelle says the idea came to him one day when he noticed how dogs passing by in car windows often looked like they were traveling at unimaginable speeds. Grelle enlisted the help of his father to take the photos and then he added the outrageous space backgrounds. Grelle features a variety of types of dogs, including his own pup, an adorable Corgi named Otis.

2.) Seth Casteel

Seth has a great series called Underwater Dogs that is both amusing and beautiful. Each dog is photographed underwater, some frantically seeking tennis balls, some looking coy, and others looking absolutely majestic. Seth’s book Underwater Dogs is one of the best selling photography books of all time. Seth also photographs homeless animals to help them find loving owners! Check out his work at www.sethcasteel.com.

3.) Sophie Gamand

Sophie’s photographs are really amazing to me because she manages to take such a wide range of photographs. In one series called Wet Dog she captures the dogs during one of their least favorite activities: bath time. Gamand says, “Exposing the dogs at a vulnerable moment enabled me to capture their wide range of expressions. Poignant looks, despair, anger and even judgement can be read into their eyes.”

Gamand has several interesting series featured on her website and her love and repeat for dogs is clear and infectious. One of the series of a collaboration with Free People. Free people commissioned Sophie to do a series with adoptable shelter dogs. In this photoshoot they wanted to invoke royalty so each dog was photographed in a beautiful and unique crown. Another favorite of mine is Sophie’s series called Watchdogs. We traditionally think of watchdogs as big and scary breeds. However, in this series, she photographs toy dogs. She explains, “Aren’t these dogs becoming some sort of emotional ramparts against the world? Security blankets for women who are afraid to go out into the world alone? They are like little soldiers, sidekicks, confidants, best friends. With them by the side, these women never have to feel alone and exposed anymore.” You can see Sophie’s work at http://www.sophiegamand.com.

4.) Dog Breath Photography

This photography company is run by a woman named Kaylee Greer. Kaylee’s website explains: “Her photographic style is drawn directly from the inspiration she finds inside the soul of a dog. She is fueled by the joy, whimsy, and unrelenting happiness that is so uniquely canine.” I think this sentiment captures Kaylee’s work perfectly. Her photographs and vibrant and feature a lot of bright colors so they almost have a sort of magical feeling to them. Each photograph is unique; one pup is dressed like a superhero (complete with cape and mask), another is perched on top of a car overlooking a scenic cityscape, while another is looking up at the sky during sunrise on a beautiful beach. You can take a look at her work at http://dogbreathphoto.com/. I’m thinking about getting a print or two of hers for my living room.

5.) Elke Vogelsang

I find the pictures of German-based photographer Elke Vogelsang to be really interesting. The photographer as three dogs that he really loves named Stout, Noodles, and Ioli, whom he considers them family members. He often photographs them against a black background which is a stark contrast from much of the other dog photography I have seen but it’s very effective. He really seems to capture his pups’ personalities; you can see their soulful spirits and fun nature shining through.

Even though these photographers are very different from each other in style and what they capture, I find that they have several commonalities. Each photographer has a sincere appreciation and love for dogs that shines through the work. They also have a unique and interesting take on the world; they are able to take something and make it almost magical.

Looking at their photographs reminds me to enjoy my own unique perspective and take photos that appeal to me. If Bitsy does something hilarious or weird or adorable I try and do my best to capture it, both so that I can remember the moment and I can share the fun with others.

If you have any dog photographers that you particularly like, please let me know in the comments below so that I can check them out!

 

 

How To Spot Your Dog’s Allergies

A lot of dog owners are quite surprised when a vet diagnoses their pet with allergies. Allergies are one of the most common problems in veterinary practice and a lot of dogs who suffer from them will never be cured.

There are two types of main allergies when it comes to dogs: food allergies and seasonal allergies. Food allergies pop up in dogs the same way they do in humans so be aware of new foods you may be introducing into your pet’s diet and the reactions she might have to then. They key to understanding seasonal allergies is to look for a seasonal trend from year to year and do your best to manage the onset of symptoms.

Bitsy hasn’t shown any signs of allergies yet but I am keeping my eyes open. I put together a list of signs that your dog is suffering from seasonal allergies and a few tips about what you can do to help!

Seasonal Allergies: Signs to Look For

1. Obsessive Licking
If your dog is constantly licking herself, especially her belly and paws, this could be a sign that she is bothered by something in her environment.

2. Rubbing Face on Objects
Most of the time your dog will use your carpet, pillows, couches and might even rub her face or body across an entire surface area to alleviate itchiness.

3. Irritated Skin
Like humans, dogs can break out in rashes and hives when exposed to allergens. Pay special attention to the ears, stomach, feet, in between toes, and ears.

4. Chewing at Feet
Pay close attention if your pup is chewing on her paws. There may be inflammation, redness, odor, and brown discoloration where the licking has occurred.

5. Hot Spots
Anything that breaks or irritates the skin can cause these; they are scabs from your canine licking and scratching her skin too much. They can be caused by a variety of factors but they are painful and often contain a lot of bacteria.

Food Allergies: How to Spot Them

1. Increased Bowel Movements

Increased bowel movements does not necessarily mean your dog has a food allergy, but if you are introducing new food items into your pet’s diet it is helpful to be even more aware of her bathroom habits.
Also observe if her stool softer than normal. (Ah, the joys of being a dog parent!)

2. Ear Problems

These are often yeast related. Be aware of swelling, redness, and signs that your dog is in pain.

3. Itching

Observe if your pet is extra itchy, especially in the face, trunk, feet, limb, and anal areas.

If you suspect your dog is suffering from allergies, you should contact your veterinarian right away. However, there are at home treatments as well as preventative measures if you are unable to get to the vet immediately.

1. Electrolyte Replacing Liquids
This is great for hungover humans (believe me, I know) but also helpful if your pup has diarrhea or is vomiting. It can supply your pooch’s body with much needed fluids during her bathroom bouts.

2. Vitamin E

Thia works well for dogs with dry skin. You can give your pup a massage by applying the oil directly to the skin or having her consume a vitamin E pill. If you want your canine to have a relaxing bath you can always have her soak in a tub with vitamin E added to the water.

3. Yogurt as a Snack

The live acidophilus in plain yogurt is great for keeping the good bacteria in your dog’s
intestines in balance. If your dog is on antibiotics a little bit of yogurt will also keep yeast infections at bay.

4. Oatmeal

Finely ground oatmeal is a great remedy for irritated skin! You can use baby oatmeal cereal or grind it up yourself in a food processor. Stir the oatmeal into a warm bath and let your pup enjoy a nice relaxing bath.

5. White Vinegar

If your pooch is suffering from ear infections due to allergies, try cleaning her ears using a little bit of white vinegar.

6. Apple cider vinegar

If your dog’s skin has become so irritated that a hot spot has resulted, pour a little bit of apple cider vinegar into a clean spray bottle and directly apply to the affected areas.

Again, if you think your dog may be suffering from allergies, contact your vet right away to be on the safe side. Our pets are precious and I know we all want to make sure we take excellent care of them. Has your pet experienced allergies? What have you done? Feel free to comment below with tips and signs to look out for!

 

 

Dog Decor Ideas for the Pet-Lover’s Home

Dog Decor Ideas for the Pet-Lover’s Home

When I first adopted Bitsy, I excitedly shopped for all of her dog gear. I bought a crate, dog bed, and copious amounts of toys. After awhile though, I noticed that the dog items stuck out like a sore thumb-or paw! (A little dog humor.) I began to noodle on ideas for making these items blend a bit more seamlessly into my home. Bitsy can still have all her needs met while my home does not scream DOG. 

Dog Crate Decor

Whether your home is modern chic or has a classic style, you can find dog crates that will work with your decor. Crates usually take up a considerable amount of space and typical ones don’t usually blend with the aesthetic of most rooms. I did a bit of research and found some functional and stylish looking creates.

Check out Wayfair for crates that provide proper ventilation and comfort for your pet but also double as furniture. There are some pretty col ones on Denhaus too. But some of those are going to cost you!

And of course, if money is no object, design your own fancy dog crate at Maricela Sanchez! Okay, I adore my dog, but this may even be too indulgent for me!

Cavalier King Charles in dog bed

Dog Bed-Your Pet’s Refuge

One of Bitsy’s favorite places to hang is her bed. (That is, when she is not on mine!) There are plenty of bed options that can fit with your home decor. Be sure to make sure that the cushions are washable!

Restoration Hardware offers a fantastic upscale bed collection for our canine friends. Some of them are on sale over the holidays (hint, hint!) LL Bean also has a great collection of comfy and casual-looking dog beds.

Food Storage

Rather than just store Bitsy’s dog food and treats in regular plastic containers (which are totally functional so if you are happy with those, go for it!) I think I will invest in some cool looking containers from Harry Barker. (Barker, heh heh, get it!)

Un-leashed

When I first adopted Bitsy and was still negotiating my new schedule now that I had a pet, I would often be walking her at the last minute before I left the house. As a result I would often misplace her leash because I did not have a specific place to put it every time we returned from our walks. Once I decided to store Bitsy’s leash on a hook right beside the front door, it made my life a lot easier. It’s a simple and probably obvious solution, but I know it has saved me time and stress!

Dog Gates

I found several dog gates on www.dynamicaccents.com that are reasonably priced, functional, and blend into home decor. They have a variety of options so it’s easy to find one that fits with the feel of your home. Plus you can specify the size which is pretty cool.

Toys, Toys, and More Toys

If you’re anything like me, I spoil Bitsy a bit too much. Not only do I buy her toys, but she receives them as gifts so there is a large amount of these items in our home. The Container Store has lots of storage containers – go figure! For some pretty neat ideas, check out this Bark Post. You will like these! 

I would love to hear feedback about how you made your home more pet-friendly. Any other suggestions you can think of?

Introducing a Second Dog to Your Home

Introducing a Second Dog to Your Home

 

I’m a proud dog dad to Bitsy and lately I’ve been considering adding second pooch to our little family. Prior to adopting Bitsy I did a lot of research about training dogs and adopting rescues; making informed decisions is important to me. This decision is particularly important because it affects Bitsy as much as it affects me. I reached out to friends and read up on the subject and I thought it would be helpful if I discussed it with my readers.

Bitsy the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Is Your Pet Ready for a New Dog Friend?

In the excitement of adding to your pack, this simple question is sometimes forgotten. Some dogs just don’t socialize much with other dogs or just prefer the company of humans. If you don’t frequently take your dog to the dog park or know how your animal interacts with other dogs, it’s time to find out! Find a friend with a very dog-friendly dog and introduce your animal in a safely fenced neutral territory. If the introduction goes well, you can move on to step 2!

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Pick the Right Pooch!

If your current dog is an aggressive alpha dog, it’s best to look for an animal that will defer to the “top dog.” Conversely, if your dog is more submissive, adding a dominant dog could be an ideal choice.

Also think about other common dog traits. Do you have an older dog or one that likes to lounge around? Adopting a high-energy playful puppy could be quite annoying to your current dog. Find an animal whose temperament matches your dog’s personality better.

Does your dog prefer playing with males or females? If you know your dog has a preference, considering adopting from that gender. Oftentimes, dogs will enjoy playing with the opposite sex.

Another consideration is the size of the dogs. Even if your big dog is really friendly, she could accidentally harm a much smaller dog. It is possible to have canines of two different sizes, but it takes extra management and awareness on the owner’s part.

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Making the Introduction!

Once you’ve determined that your dog is ready for a new friend and picked an animal that seems like an ideal fit, it’s time to make the introduction! It’s best to introduce the two animals before you make a firm commitment to adopt dog two in case things don’t go exactly as planned.

Enlist the help of a friend and bring both dogs into the space on leashes. Each of you should have treats and calmly enter the space with your respective dogs. Once the dogs notice each other, calmly begin feeding them and make sure they keep the focus on you. Once they start to notice each other, start feeding them more slowly until they are focused both on you and the other animal. Watch carefully for body language. The dogs may be anxious or hesitant, playful, excited, fearful, or aggressive. If either animal gets overly worked up, such as lunging, frenzied barking, or snapping, stop the interaction immediately.

If the dogs seem relaxed and happy, drop the leashes while still at a distance and allow them to greet each other. To be safe, leave the leashes on for a few minutes in case they get aggressive and you need to pull them apart. Once it’s clear that they are getting along, call them back so you can remove the leashes and allow them to interact without getting tangled.

Once you’ve observed them playing together safely, bring them both into your home. You must carefully observe their interactions over the next 24 hours so that you can stop unwanted behavior before it escalates into fighting.

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Set Yourself Up for Success!

You have done much to prep for the arrival of this second dog in your home so you are probably breathing a sigh of relief! It’s great to celebrate the success thus far but make sure you set yourself up for success in the future. Remain vigilant throughout the entire “getting to know each other” process.

Equip your home with baby gates or find a way to separate the dogs when you’re not home to supervise. Also make sure to feed them separately so there are no territorial issues over food.

Remember that your new dog needs more attention than an established dog, but it’s also important to spend quality time with each pooch individually and together.

At this point, I am not sure whether I will be adding another dog to our pack, but after doing the research I feel confident that I will be able to handle it if I decide to get Bitsy a playmate. What do you all think? Do you have experience with multi-dog households or other suggestions on how to make it work? Please share your stories of triumph or disaster. I would love to read your comments below!

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.

dog holiday sweater
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!