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.

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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!

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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!

12 Ways You Know You Are a True Dog Lover

12 Ways You Know You Are a True Dog Lover

My dog is my family. A few of my friends would probably say I go a little overboard. But honestly, Bitsy gives me so much love in return, that a little overboard is warranted, don’t you think? There is a fine line between being a dog lover and being doggone crazy! I am positive I am the former. But which one are you?

1. You’ve provided for your dog’s lifelong care in your will.

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Actually, shame on you if you have not established plans for your pet in the event you go first. In many cases, surviving family members choose to euthanize their loved one’s dog or cat. What a horrible way to honor the memory of your dearly departed!

Seriously, ask friends or family members if they would take your pet into their home in the event of your untimely demise and then get it in writing! Create a folder with all the pertinent details about your furry friend like name of caregiver and contact info, diet, vet, shot records, license, etc. Contact your lawyer and update your Will to name the caregiver and set aside the money needed to undertake that duty. (Just make sure you include that the money is to be used for your pet and not their vacation to Hawaii.)

2. You can name every hotel chain that accepts pets.

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There are countless websites that list pet-friendly hotels. One of my very favorite ways to search for pet-friendly travel  is the TripAdvisor website. I have the app on my phone. Simply type “pet friendly” into your search and you’ll see restaurants, hotels, and attractions where my little Bitsy is welcomed at any destination. It’s a great app!

Many hotels take up to two pets. A few of the chains that are most accommodating to our four-legged companions are LaQuinta, Wyndham, and most Hilton properties (you’ll need to check each location for their policy). But there are tons more out there. A few of the pricier options where pets are really pampered include Kimpton Hotels, Loews, W Hotels Worldwide, and The Ritz-Carlton.

3. You took your dog on your honeymoon.

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Okay, this is bordering obsession! But I know there are people out there who do. If you are one of them, please post a photo! After all, while I’m not married, I know many friends who wouldn’t be happy without their furry friend in tow.

4. You refuse invitations that do not include your dog.

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I do this sometimes. If someone invites me away for a weekend, I’m either taking Bitsy or staying home. I’m at work five days a week. I’m not leaving my dog in a kennel over the weekend. Period.

5. You host a neighborhood pet party each year for your dog’s birthday.

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Bitsy and I have been to a few birthday parties so I feel qualified to offer some advice here. First, don’t have it at a dog park unless you bring enough treats for any uninvited guests that happen to be at the park that day. Really, it’s just rude!

Second, make sure those treats are actually dog-friendly. You can make your own using wholesome ingredients. (I’ll include a recipe or two of my own below.)

Third, bring extra water bowls and clean water.

Fourth, paper birthday hats are fun for your memory book, but some dogs find them humiliating. If you see a party guest’s tail go between her legs as soon as the hat is plopped on, don’t force the issue!

Fifth, know your guests. Though your dog might be on friendly terms with your neighbor’s pooch, make sure all invited canines are dog friendly with all others. There’s nothing worse than a playground bully at a dog party.

6. The only dog biscuits in your pantry are home baked.

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I like to make Bitsy her biscuits because that way I know they are not loaded with fillers, plus it is way cheaper. Her faves are the peanut butter ones, though she likes the sweet potato too. One word of caution when making your own doggy treats…keep them wholesome. Bacon is loaded with sodium, so skip it. When is brown sugar ever recommended for a doggy diet? Skip it. Actually, the ASPCA has a great list on their website of people foods you should not feed you pet. If you see something on the list, keep it out of your dog cookies!

Bitsy’s Peanut Butter Biscuits
2 cups whole wheat flour (or other if Fido has an allergy to wheat)
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
1 1/4 cups hot water
1 Tablespoon flaxseed
Mix dough. Roll out to ¼” thickness. Use cookie cutter.

(Here’s a link in case you don’t already own a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel cookie cutter.)

Lay out on cookie sheet using parchment paper. Base at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until golden around the edges. Cool completely. Store in airtight container for up to a week.

Tip:  You can turn this basic recipe into pumpkin or sweet potato treats by switching out the peanut butter, cutting back on the water to about a cup, and adding an egg. Make sure you use pure organic pumpkin or bake your own sweet potato.

7. You have more posts featuring your dog on your social media accounts than any other member of your family.

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8. Your dog is included in all your professional family portraits.

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9. Dog toys have their own line on your annual household budget.

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I can’t help myself. Every time I walk through a pet supply store like PetSmart, or even a regular store that happens to carry dog paraphernalia like Target, I pick up another toy for Bitsy to try out. I’ve ordered my share of “stuff” from Amazon too! I am eyeing this new pet camera in a ball as we speak! Please, could someone talk me out of this one! 

10. You bought a bigger bed to accommodate your dog.

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I am wondering if there is anyone out there who hasn’t done this? I finally succumbed to a king sized bed so that my tiny (but expansive while sleeping) Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has room to kick her paws while dreaming. Full disclosure: This is not Bitsy. I do NOT sleep on polka dot sheets!

And two bonus clues I nearly forgot:

11. Your veterinarian is on your Christmas card list.
12. All the clerks at PetSmart and PetCo know you by name (first and last).

Yes, and yes. Guilty as charged!

So, are you a dog lover or dog obsessed? Maybe I am somewhere in between! What qualities would you add to my dog lover list? Leave a comment below. Pictures welcome!

Tips to Maintain Those Poochy Pearly Whites

Tips to Maintain Those Poochy Pearly Whites

Bitsy is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. If you know anything about Cavaliers, then you can deduce pretty quickly that brushing teeth in that small mouth is no easy feat!

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But I also know the importance of dental health in both people and pets. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 80 percent of dogs have at least some dental disease by age 3. Dental disease can lead to all kinds of other health problems including heart disease. No one wants that, am I right?!?

Fortunately, you have a few choices when it comes to maintaining your dog’s dental health.

Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth

Frankly, I think brushing her teeth is the best option. You can use a human toothbrush, or there are plenty of companies out there that make a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically for a dog. The trick is to start when they are puppies and get them used to it over time.

Dental Treats Help Remove Tartar

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Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/homard/2613876622/in/photostream/

If you lack the time and patience to institute a brushing regimen, there are some dental chew toys for dogs which help prevent tartar buildup and support fresher breath. I will not personally recommend any one product over another, but will highlight a few so you can see the variety of choices.

Before you buy anything, take a look at this list of approved dental chews for dogs by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. The products on this list were vetted by the council and meet their standards for recommendation. Of course, no recommendation should override what you know is best for your dog. For example, if your dog is allergic to chicken, read any list of ingredients carefully to make sure the product won’t make your pup sick. There are one or two rawhide products listed which I would never give my dog in a million years because I know rawhides have made Bitsy choke in the past. And of course, another golden rule of thumb is to always be present when your dog eats or chews on a treat or toy just in case there is a problem.

The VOHC has probably not tested every dental chew out there. My list includes a few not listed, but that got pretty good online reviews from dog owners.

Here are three you could check out:

  1. Greenies
  2. Whimzees
  3. Hills Dental Chews

On a side note, feeding your dog crunchy kibbles as opposed to a soft-textured food like canned will also help keep plaque and tartar from building up on those canine canines!

Other Dental Cleaning Products

Water additives have been around for awhile and I am still learning about them and how safe they are long term on dog internal systems. They help prevent the accumulation of bacteria in the mouth, thereby reducing plaque and keeping the mouth cleaner.

Tooth and gum wipes work much the same way as an additive by killing bacteria in the mouth which leads to plaque.

A Trip to the Vet

Your veterinarian will keep tabs on your doggie’s teeth during each annual check up and alert you to dental problems. It may be necessary to take her in for a professional teeth cleaning. You can look for signs of tooth decay or tartar build-up between visits. If you happen to notice your dog’s breath getting a lot worse, that could be a sign of tooth decay too.

Remember, you wouldn’t go days, weeks, months, or years without brushing your own teeth, so don’t neglect your dog’s dental hygiene. Feel free to leave a comment below and share what products or methods you prefer for doggie dentures!

 

Brad’s Musings for Sunday Afternoon…

I just read an article about how dogs recognize human emotions. This kind of freaks me out. I mean, I’ve always known Bitsy seems pretty intune with me, but, now there’s science telling me that she really does truly understand and recognize my facial expressions.

Here’s the article. http://www.sciencealert.com/your-dog-really-can-recognise-your-emotions-study-finds

So — this obviously begs the question, if she knows I hate giving her baths, why does she persist on rolling in the most stinky things? I found her pawing at a bush when we were on our walk only to find a sad dead bird… I did everything I could to keep down my taquitos but that makes this 2 baths in a week… I’m very much over this…

I’m on the look out for a new dog shampoo too. I usually go to Target and get what’s on sale, but recently Bitsy has looked a little too fluffy (and static-y)… Does anyone have any suggestions for her coat? I’ve noticed cavaliers who aren’t spayed aren’t as fluffy as she is, I’m wondering what I’m doing wrong.

Bradley Nierenberg’s New Years Resolutions

So, I’ve been delinquent in committing to anything for New Years until today. I was reading through my facebook feed and came across a very touching article about a woman who reads to shelter dogs.

I always think to myself, “wouldn’t it be nice to have another dog” – but then I realize that it would be a lot harder to give Bitsy the time she deserves if I have to share it. So I don’t think a new dog is in my future.

However, my new years resolution is to spend more time volunteering at animal shelters. A friend of mine in PA told me they have dog play rooms at her local shelter. I think I need to do some research to see what fits with my schedule.

I know you’re probably going to think I’m nuts, but… should I be worried about getting Bitsy sick? Like, if one of the dogs there has a cold, could I transfer it to Bitsy? I hate to sound like a germphobe… but, she’s my world… I’d hate myself for getting her sick. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

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