Thinking of getting a pet? Here’s what you need to know.

by guest blogger Jessica Brody

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Photo by Pixabay

Have you been thinking of adding a pet to your family? If you’ve never had pets or are inexperienced in pet ownership, you’ll need to do a little thinking and research first. What kind do you want? What fits your lifestyle? Where do you get it? These are all good questions to get ready.

First, consider your home and lifestyle. What kind of pet can your home handle? If you’re in an apartment or condo, you will have different needs than someone with a big house and a yard. Are you home a lot or do you travel often for work? If you’re a traveler, you’ll need a pet like a cat or rodent who is much more independent. If you’re home a lot and physically active, you might do better with a dog (though not all dogs like to run). Start by assessing your lifestyle.

If you want a dog, you’ll want to consider breeds. One of the great things about dogs is that they come in so many shapes, sizes and personalities. You are almost certainly likely to find one that fits your style. Start reading up on breeds that you like and determine if they fit your personality. Don’t trust what you see on TV. A dog that looks like a calm friend on a sitcom is actually a well-trained actor. For example, Eddie, the super-cool dog from “Frazier” is a Jack Russell Terrier, one of the most high-energy breeds.

Pay attention to grooming and medical needs, too. If you can’t stand dog hair, don’t even think about getting an Akita, Chow Chow or Husky. If you’re not into dog drool, avoid St. Bernards or bloodhounds. If you live in close quarters with your neighbors, you might want to avoid the barky breeds.

Next, consider where you’ll get your dog. Never buy a dog from a pet store or flea market. They get their dogs from puppy mills, which don’t breed with care and often keep their breeders in inhumane conditions. Seek out reputable breeders, preferably those who work or show dogs. Quality breeders are careful to breed out bad temperament and genetic diseases.

If you would like to help an animal in need, stop by your local shelter or rescue organization. There are millions of dogs in shelters that need homes, and many are purebred or close to it.

When it’s time to bring your new pal home, do a little shopping. Make sure you have all the basics that your pal needs, including a dog bed that’s the correct size for your pet, food and water bowls, leashes and even a stroller for your pet who won’t or can’t go for walks.

If you adopt a pet, especially a dog or cat, give him a chance to adjust. If he’s from a shelter, he’s likely been through a lot and can be nervous, so don’t force yourself onto him. Give him a chance to hide out at first, and just sit near him and speak to him softly. He’ll slowly come out of his shell and fall in love with you. Tell children to give him a little space, and remind them that dogs (and cats too) don’t always like being grabbed or hugged. Lay down some ground rules with your child such as leaving pets alone when they are sleeping, eating, and pottying. Of course, a life-size version of their stuffed animal is tempting, so never leave children unattended around pets, no matter how kid-friendly the pet may be.

Before long, you’ll have a great friend who is ready to spend his life hanging out with you. You can take Fido on adventures with you, or just chill on the couch and watch movies. Either way, you’ll learn each other’s quirks and have a life of laughs together. With a little planning, introducing a pet to your home can go smoothly and happily.

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It is important to control how much weight your young dog retrieves

A study by the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna showed that young hunting dogs who are trained using  the same weight as adult dogs, can cause damage to the joints and tendons, especially of the front legs.

This is because the extra weight that young dogs carry causes them to tilt forward in much the same manner that a person would who was carrying a heavy load. The researchers felt that adult dogs are suited for carrying loads but young dogs that are growing should use adjusted weight instead of the same weight as adult dogs.

They suggested that young dogs in training be checked regularly by a specialist to be sure that there is no damage to joints, tendons and muscles.

It stands to reason that if a dog associates pain with an activity, he will not enjoy the job or game and may not perform to his best ability, especially if he is being trained for competition.

Although this study was conducted primarily on hunting retrievers, many breeds of dogs enjoy the game of fetch. This means that all dog owners who play fetch with their dogs should be aware of how much weight the object is and not allow young dogs to carry heavy objects.

I personally had a Border Collie who as an adult, loved to play with a bowling ball and would successfully put his canines in the holes and pick it up and carry it for a short distance. You never know what a dog will fancy and play with!

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Studies show that the family dog is most likely to bite a child

Christine Arhant from the Institute of Animal Husbandry and Animal Protection at Vetmeduni Vienna studied bite incidents involving the family dog. What they found is quite interesting and makes a lot of sense.

Many bite incidents occurred while the parent or an adult was watching the child interact with the family dog. The researchers found that children love to pet their dogs, crawl after them and hug them. However, the dog may not want the constant attention that children give them. Dogs need quiet time away from children and often parents do not give the dog this option. Part of the problem is that adults trust the family dog and while they would not let their child interact with a strange dog, they allow them to harass the family dog to the point where the dog may not be able to take it any longer.

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The dog may snap or bite the child in an attempt to increase distance between them and the child. It is not necessarily an aggressive act but is the dog’s way of correcting the child. Unfortunately, a bite is a bite to authorities.

Parents must learn to recognize when their dog has had enough and separate the dog from the child. The dog must have a safe area where they can sleep and eat without being forced to interact with the child.

In multiple child households, each child may want to interact with the dog and each child may not spend a lot of time with the dog, but collectively it could be too much for the dog.

According to the researchers, “If the dog feels harassed by the child or restricted in its freedom, it will communicate this through body language. Clear signs include body tension, growling, frequent licking of the snout and yawning. Small children have difficulties interpreting this behaviour. Even a growling dog or one baring its teeth is often described by children as smiling.”

It would benefit the family as well as the dog if parents learned how to read canine body language. There are two presentations that are available that the family can watch to learn about canine body language. They are:

“What is My Dog Saying?” by Carol E. Byrnes, at Diamonds in the Ruff at www.diamondsintheruff.com  This is a power point presentation.  You can also get an excellent video, “The Language of Dogs” by Sara Kalnajs, at www.bluedogtraining.com

When a dog, especially a pet dog bites a child, it is often a traumatic event for the entire family. In some cases, it could mean that they will get rid of the dog which will upset the family as much or more than the bite.

This can be avoided by understanding the needs of the dog and learn to read the dog’s body language which is the only way a dog can quietly tell you what he feels.

The study showed that 50% of the parents surveyed did not supervise their child/dog interactions and allowed the child to have free access to the dog.

Young children should always be supervised while interacting with the family dog. This is the only way to teach a child how to appropriately interact with a dog. This will keep both the child and the dog safe.

Noise sensitivity could be related to pain in dogs

Perhaps this is one of the more important discoveries in recent years. Researchers found that dogs who show noise fear and/or anxiety may be suffering from pain.

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Dogs who had underlying pain showed greater aversion to areas and a stronger reaction to noise. The researchers concluded that when the dog tenses or trembles from fear, the already underlying pain is made worse by the stress and pressure on the painful muscles and/or joints.

Often when this happens the dog associates the pain with the area or circumstances that he was in when the noise and pain occurred. They found that dogs who have pain associated with noise, associated the noise with a wider range of their environment. For example, if the dog associated pain with a piece of furniture in a room they may tend to avoid the entire room. They also tended to avoid other dogs.

What is very important to be aware of is that dogs who start to show noise fear or aversion later in life are more likely to also be suffering from underlying pain.

This study gives pet owners and veterinarians another tool to use to help diagnose pain that might otherwise be difficult to detect. Therefore, if you have an older dog who suddenly starts to react to noise, it is time for an in-depth examination by your veterinarian.

Canine aggression to family members and familiar dogs

A recent study by researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital showed that there are about 12 genes associated with canine aggression toward an owner or a familiar dog. They concluded that these genetic traits are distinct from the genetic predisposition toward aggression to unfamiliar people and dogs.

It has been found that the genetics involved are common to all breeds of dogs making it easier to study.

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Photo: Babs watching over baby William

Carlos Alvarez, PhD, who is the main researcher at the Center for Molecular and Human Genetics in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, feels that the genes are consistent with the neural pathway known as the amygdala to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

Researchers feel that this genetic element is related to anxiety disorders in humans and hope that further research will show what kinds of medications will help both dogs and people.

This is an on-going research project. The fact that this type of aggression is genetically based is a good reason for people who plan to purchase a dog to investigate thoroughly the ethics of the breeder and the lines of the dog. If a person adopts a dog who shows this type of behavior they should immediately consult with a certified canine behavior consultant. You can find one at www.iaac.org. If my readers would like my brochure about how to find a good breeder and a quality dog, please emails me at sbulanda@gmail.com. There is no charge for the brochure.

Heartworms in dogs and cats

Some people feel it is safe to stop their pets (dog and cat) monthly heartworm preventative medicine in the fall and winter. This is not a good idea. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. The mosquito will bite an infected animal and ingest the heartworm microfilaria. It only takes 10-14 days for the larvae to develop. At that point if the mosquito bites an unaffected animal, it will transmit the larvae to that animal. What makes heartworm risky is that they can live in a dog for up to seven years and a cat for three.

Heartworm is a dangerous condition that can cause severe lung disease, heart failure and damage other organs in the host’s body.

heartworms Photo from Google images

At one-time heartworm was found only in the warmer states, but now it has been detected in all states. The warmer wetter environments that support mosquitoes have the most risk.

The symptoms for dogs include a mild but constant cough, a decrease in activity, fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss.

Fortunately the medications for treating heartworms have become safer. They are an arsenic-based product called Immiticide. Before treating a dog for heartworm, it is necessary to do a thorough pre-treatment program. This will include x-rays, blood work and perhaps other tests to determine how much damage has been done to the dog’s organs. This way the veterinarian will know what to expect and what to look for which will help with the post-treatment care of the dog.

The post-treatment care is critical in saving the dog’s life. Although the treatment will kill the adult heartworms, their bodies will break up and the pieces can block the pulmonary vessels and/or lodge in the lungs. This is why a dog that has been treated for heartworm must be kept quiet for months after the treatment. This is also why pre-treatment tests can be critical for the dog’s survival.

Unfortunately there is no approved treatment for treating heartworm in cats. Some veterinarians have used a drug approved for dogs on cats, but with major side effects which include sudden lung failure and death. The other risk in treating cats is that they are more likely to die from a reaction to the dead pieces of heartworm in their heart and lungs.

One of the choices is to treat the symptoms from heartworm and hope that the cat outlives the worms. Heartworms only live in a cat for two or three years.

If a cat is treated for heartworms, it will need veterinarian supervision for several months. Often, they need oxygen, cortisone and sometimes a diuretic to remove fluid from the lungs. When they are stable, cats will continue to need corticosteroids either continuously or periodically. There is always a risk of sudden death.

The good news is that in some parts of Europe and Japan, veterinarians have been surgically removing the heartworms, however, the technique has yet to be improved and approved.

In the case of both dogs and cats, prevention is the better way to go. This is easily done with monthly heartworm preventative medicine for both dogs and cats.

Because heartworms can live in a dog or a cat for years, it is imperative that the pet be tested first before giving heartworm medicine. By giving the pet a monthly preventative year-round, you are doing the best you can to avoid these deadly worms.

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

The old saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is true when dealing with separation anxiety in dogs. The best thing an owner can do is prevent it from developing.

Most cases of separation anxiety occur in dogs that have a genetic predisposition for it and is enhanced or caused by the owner. This is why two dogs can live in the same home and one will suffer from this anxiety and another will not.

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The genetic predisposition for separation anxiety is not limited to any breed, type or sex of dog. Preventing it is almost the same as the method to cure it. So we will talk about it in general.

Whether you get a puppy or adopt a dog, the procedure is the same. Although it is hard to resist a new puppy or cute older dog, the new dog should be left alone while at home. Puppies need lots of down time to rest and sleep.

A dog’s growth rate is much faster than humans and puppies need to sleep a lot. A new adopted or older dog needs time to adjust to their new home. The stress of a new home can tire them so they may need a bit more down time as well.  The best rule of thumb is to let the dog solicit interaction rather than force it on the dog. This is especially important if there are youngsters in the home.

Do not hold, carry or dote on the dog. Let the dog be a dog, no matter what size it is. A dog can become addicted to too much tactile stimulation. Like any addiction, the craving can be there but at the same time it is not a pleasant experience. This explains why a dog may solicit interaction from the owner and then bite the owner for responding. This is especially true for small dogs where the owner likes to cuddle and carry the dog around.

Do not make a fuss over the dog when you leave home or return. Dramatic arrivals and departures only arouse the dog and build stress. Simply leave and return home without saying or doing anything.

Leave soft music on when you leave home. Classical music works best or easy listening music. No other kind is good for dogs. Along with the music leave a chew toy for the dog. Only use the kind that you stuff with treats where the dog must work to get them out. Stuffed Kong toys or cube toys work very well. Never give your dog greenies, rawhide, pig ears, cow hooves or bones. They can seriously injure or kill your dog.

Make sure that your dog gets a good walk or exercise before you leave and is taken out when you return to “do his business.” If the dog has to relieve himself after you leave it will cause stress. If the dog has to have an accident while you are gone it can also cause stress, as well as if the dog has to wait to be taken out when you come home.

Feed your dog twice a day with a high quality dog food such as Wysong or Annamaet. Nothing that you buy in the super market or discount store is good for your dog. Poor quality food can contribute to stress in your dog. Some foods are loaded with sugar, dyes and roughage that can raise your dog’s stress level and act as a diuretic and laxative .

If your dog is already showing signs of separation anxiety then work with the dog over a few days when you will be home. Start by leaving the dog for a few minutes and quickly returning. You can do this every fifteen minutes to a half an hour.

As the dog adjusts, you can leave the dog for five minutes, six minutes and work up to fifteen minutes. You may have to drive away from the house since some dogs will figure out that you are standing on the other side of the door or nearby.  If you can devote a whole weekend to this procedure you may be able to leave him for a normal work day.

Make sure that you change your routine for leaving the house. The dog will learn your routine and become anxious as soon as they see the signs that you are leaving. Dogs notice things such as when you brush your teeth, comb your hair, take a shower, pick out clothes and lastly, picking up your car keys. Examine the order you do things before you leave and change the order. This way the dog cannot determine when you are going to leave. An example would be picking up your car keys before you eat breakfast.

If your dog is destructive you may have to teach the dog to stay in a very large crate for his own protection. If this is not possible because the dog tries to get out to the point where he hurts himself it is time to call a certified canine behavior consultant. The behavior consultant will determine if the dog needs to see a veterinarian for medications and will develop a plan to work with the problem. You can find a behavior consultant at www.iaabc.org.

Last of all and equally important, if your dog does something you do not like, do not yell or punish the dog. This will only elevate his stress levels and make his separation anxiety worse. Ignore any damage the dog has done. He will not know that you are angry at what he did awhile ago but associate your anger as part of your return.

With a little understanding, work and help if necessary, you can make your dog’s life much less stressful.

Road-Tripping With Dogs: How to Keep Your Pooch Safe and Active on the Road by guest blogger Cindy Aldridge

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Your dog is always up for an adventure, whether it’s a quick walk around the block or a trip to the park. But planning a road trip with your four-legged friend requires a little extra preparation. Here’s what you need to do to keep your pup safe, happy, and active on the road.

See Your Vet

Before any trip, make sure your dog’s microchip information and ID tag are up to date. You can print a new ID tag at most pet stores, but changing microchip information  is a little more complicated. Your vet can help you retrieve microchip data so you can update your information with the manufacturer.

If you plan to board your dog at any point during your trip, he’ll need up-to-date rabies, DHPP, and Bordetella vaccinations. Check with your vet to see if your dog is due for shots and request a copy of his records.

Buy Safe Seating

It may be common to leave dogs loose in the car, but it’s far from safe. Your dog could get hurt in a crash or become a projectile that injures you and your passengers. The safest way for your dog to ride is restrained in the back seat. Put him in the front seat, and he could get hurt by airbags; place him in the cargo area, and he’ll be directly in the crumple zone.

There are two options for safe canine seating. For maximum peace of mind, choose a product certified  by the Center for Pet Safety. These options are:

A crate: A sturdy crate secured to your vehicle keeps your dog in place and protects him in an accident.

  • A harness seat belt: A harness seat belt connects to car seat belts so your dog doesn’t go flying during a crash.

Train Your Travel Companion

In addition to brushing up on basic obedience,  spend time building your dog’s car confidence before your trip. He’ll need help getting used to his new harness or crate and learning how to behave in the car.

Start by introducing the crate or harness at home, not in the car. When your dog is in the restraint, praise him and give treats to encourage a positive association. Then, start using it in the car. Go on short drives at first and gradually build up to longer trips. Make your destinations somewhere fun so he looks forward to car rides. Provide a toy to keep him happy in the back seat and use the quiet command to stop excited whining. If he’s whining out of anxiety, take your training back a step.

Exercise on the Go

Roadside rest stops aren’t enough to keep your dog happy on long trips—and even if they were, what fun is that? One of the best parts of road tripping with your dog is finding fun places to explore along the way. Here’s are a few ideas for outdoor activities  you can do on the road:

Plan a pet-friendly route. Green spaces are few and far between on major highways. Rather than trying to cover the most ground each day, plan a route that provides plenty of stopping points.

  • Go on a hike. Roadtrippers is a travel planning platform that makes it easy to find state parks and forests along your route. Carve out a couple of hours for a fun hike or trail run with your pooch.
  • Find a dog park. If your dog is a social butterfly or crazy to play fetch, check out BringFido.com to locate dog parks so you can play without risking an escape.
  • Go for a run. A morning run tires your dog out so he’s well-behaved in the car. Look for multiuse trails or high schools that open their tracks to the public outside of school hours.

Having an adventure companion is one the best parts of being dog owner. But while you may have visions of your pooch with his head out the window and wind in his fur, that’s not the safest option for you or your dog. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t find excitement on the road. Focus on safety while your car is in motion and make lots of stops for fun and bonding along the journey.

Image via Unsplash  

All dogs bite!

All dogs bite at one time or another. However, most people do not realize that there are different types of bites. Unfortunately, many dogs have lost their homes, lives or been restricted due to the misunderstanding and misinformation about dog bites.

Dogs used their mouths the same as we use our hands. Puppies mouth everything. Human human babies will put everything in their mouths similar to puppies. The mouth is a very sensitive part of the body, perhaps the most sensitive. The mouth can taste, feel texture, heat, cold, size and shape.

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The mouth and tongue are so sensitive that the smallest bump or lump in a person’s mouth often feels like a boulder or a cracked tooth feels like a canyon. We have to assume that dogs have the same or similar capabilities. However, dogs do not have the same capability to taste as humans do. They have about 1,706 taste buds compared to a human’s 9,000. A dog’s taste buds are located at the tip of their tongue. They can taste bitter, sweet, sour and salty. Their choice of what they eat depends more on their sense of smell than taste.

Dogs use their mouths to manipulate objects, carry objects, groom themselves and/or companions, to show affection, as a means of correcting another dog, as a way to get another animal or person away from them (distance increasing), and to vocalize. One of the most affectionate things a dog may do is nibble the object of their affection. This is a very gentle nibbling using the small front teeth.

Sometimes dogs will grab a person to try and lead them somewhere, such as a door if they have to go out. This is like a person taking another person by the hand to guide them.

Bites often happen in a few seconds. It may be difficult for an untrained person to analyze a bite because you must consider the dog’s body language and the circumstances that happened just before and after the bite. Dogs also can give mixed signals. For example, a dog can act aggressively and at the same time fearfully. The dog’s life experience including training will influence what and how they bite. However, below is a general explanation of dog bites.

Dog bites follow a progression if, as a puppy, the dog has been allowed to learn how to properly act socially with other dogs. An adult dog will first give a warning look, whether it is a puppy, another animal or person. If that does not work, next are warning growls or vocalizations. (Never correct a dog for growling, you will remove an important warning, forcing the dog to go directly to a bite.) If a puppy does not heed the body language and then the vocal warning of an older dog, the dog may give the puppy an open mouth correction. This is when the older dog will “hit” the puppy with his mouth open but does not bite.

The next level is the nip. In human terms, it would be equal to a pinch. It is typically done with the little front teeth. It is a corrective measure used to stop the unwanted behavior or to communicate the message to get away or back off.

If the nip does not work the next bite will be a full mouth bite but a quick release and often not bearing down hard. This type of bite may result in a bruise or small puncture. This is also a request to back off or get away. The dog is trying to increase the distance between himself and who he bit. It is also the type of bite that a fearful dog may employ. It could be a defensive or corrective bite.

If that does no work the next bite may have increased pressure resulting in a deeper puncture or larger bruise. It is also a distance increasing bite or a fear bite.

The aggressive bite that the enraged dog or the dog who is truly aggressive will use is a bite and hold or a bite, hold and shake. These are the bites that are dangerous where the dog typically intends to hurt.

A dog that has developed strong bite inhibition, may put his mouth on a person if he is in pain. Often that is a reflex and when the dog realizes that his mouth is on a person will either stop before making contact or not put any pressure in the bite. Other times a dog who is in pain may bite. This should not be held against the dog. Also, a dog that is enraged or upset about something may do what is called redirected aggression. This also a reflex where the dog will bite whatever is near him when he cannot get to the object of his anger.

The other situation where a dog will bite because of reflex is if the dog is engaged in a fight with another animal and a person tries to grab the dog to pull him away. The dog will bite not realizing that it is not the animal he is fighting but a person. This also should not be held against the dog. In these cases of reflex biting, the humans that are working with the dog should expect it and take precautions to avoid being bitten. The only breed of dog that has been bred not to bite a human when engaged in a fight are the bully breeds, such as Pitbull Terriers.

How likely a dog will bite depends on the breed (or mix) of the dog, the lines of the breed, how well the breeder and then the owner socialized the dog and the dog’s training. Some breeds of dog are less tolerant and quicker to bite than others.

Children are often bitten in the face because they are at face level with dogs. Children of all ages should be taught how to interact with dogs and carefully monitored always. A dog that bites a child due to a reflex action is rarely forgiven even though in most cases the dog is not an aggressive dog by nature.

It would do the dogs and dog owners a great service if the dog owners studied canine body language and learned to understand their dogs. Children should be taught how to interact with dogs. Studies have shown that children can recognize when a dog is angry but not when they are fearful.

There are two excellent resources that help the dog owner learn how to read dog body language.

  1. What is My Dog Saying? By Carol A. Byrnes, diamonsintheruff.com
  2. The Language of Dogs by Sarah Kalnajs bluedogtraining.com