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Tips to Make Halloween Less Spooky for Your Dog

October 28, 2014

While ghosts and goblins may be your thing many dogs find all the ghoulish decor and costumes of Halloween a bit frightening! I can only imagine what they must be thinking… For a month of the year the whole world looks different and there are sketchy characters lurking everywhere! It’s their job to let you know when something is not right and most of them believe body parts dangling from trees firmly falls into the “wrong” category. Try these tips to help your dog cope with this spooky day.

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  • While walking your dog around the neighborhood encourage them to investigate new decor by letting them give a sniff. Treats work wonders to get them close to something they think they should  avoid!
  • After the initial exploration many dogs calm down. If you pup is still worked up spend a few minutes near the “scary” items while feeding their favorite treats to create a positive association.
  • If you dog will be exposed to people in costumes start by acclimating them to your family in theirs. Keep interactions with you in costume positive by giving treats, attention and playtime while donning your masks.
  • Refresh your dog on the leave it command (show a treat, say leave it and reward when your dog doesn’t touch the item and backs away). This will come in handy if your pup outside during trick or treating (think candy on the sidewalk).
  • For dogs who will be sporting costumes of their own acclimate them at home first. Remember to keep the experience positive with lots of treats!
  • When selecting costumes for your dog  look for those that do not cover her face or eyes. If your dog is less than thrilled about being dressed up let him go as himself this year!
  • If you dog will be greeting trick or treaters keep a baby gate across the front door to keep your dog and those at the door safe! Reward good door greeting behavior such as sitting calmly.
  • Last but not least, make sure candy is well out of reach. Chocolate and certain kinds of sweeteners are poisonous to your pooch!

Fearful Fido? Tips to Turn It Around

September 9, 2014

Our newly adopted dog, Mia, came from a home where she spent 24 hours a day outside and was not socialized. She was very fearful of new people and for the first two days in our home, refused to come out of her crate. She has come a long way in a few short months but we are still learning about her and the things that make her nervous. On our outings to the dog beach and park we noticed Mia was very scared and reactive when people approached her holding things in their hands, particularly a Chuckit used for lobbing tennis balls. It took a few times for me to figure out the correlation and to confirm I grabbed a Chuckit at home to see her reaction. Mia hit the ground, tail between her legs and rolled over to show submission. Theory confirmed.

I set out to help Mia through this by slowly creating a positive association with something that was deemed “scary” (desensitizing and counterconditioning).

First, I picked up the stick and put it on the floor. When Mia sniffed it I rewarded her with a high value treat (chicken). Then I picked it up and held it in my hand, again, she received chicken. When she was no longer bothered by me holding the Chuckit I mimed throwing a ball with it. At first she cowered but after a few repetitions she wasn’t bothered. As she relaxed I got closer to her and swung it, always followed by a treat. Within 3 short sessions (3-5 minutes each) she was sitting calmly while swung the stick looking at me with a “yeah, and?” expression on her face.

The fact that she trusts me certainly helped her along, so I expect her to still react the next time a stranger approaches holding a stick-like object. But the training will continue in those situations, a stranger walks by holding a stick, Mia gets a high value treat. In a few months I believe the only association a Chuckit will hold for Mia is chicken falling from the sky.

The next time your dog is nervous around a certain object or situation try turning that fear into a positive experience. A little patience and some high value rewards go a long way!


Buckle Up – Canine Car Safety

September 1, 2014

You may or may not have heard my lecture on always securing your dog in the car. Yes, I know your dog wants to ride shotgun but it’s not safe! No, not even around the block! I was recently in a car accident with my hounds in the car (trust me they fared better than I did) and can now back that spiel up with some personal experience.

Whether with a seat belt harness, a crate or a special barrier that keeps your dog securely in the “hatch” of your car, it is vital that you restrain your pooch when joyriding. Not only could a sudden impact launch your dog causing him injury but dogs are understandably shaken up in these circumstances and most will try to escape the car by any means possible (think an open window). Securing your dog also ensures authorities will be able to help you if you are injured; your dog may become protective of you in a scary situation.

If you and your dog are in an accident here are some helpful tips my vet shared on what to watch for:

  • Obvious signs of injury such as limping, bleeding etc
  • Excessive panting. Panting can indicate pain but is also a sign of anxiety which is a normal reaction to a stressful situation. If your dog’s panting does not subside see your vet.
  • Bruising – especially on the belly which can indicate internal bleeding
  • Temperature –  feel the ears to ensure one is not excessively hot or cold
  • Inability to focus eyes – try having your dog follow a treat to test this
  • Pupil dilation. Again, this can indicate fear as well but should subside quickly in that case. Prolonged pupil dilation calls for a vet visit immediately.

After an accident your dog may be fearful about car rides. Remedy this with short trips around the block and provide your pup with a chew or Kong to work on while you are on the road. This will help rebuild positive associations with car rides.

Safe travels to you and your dog!

Kick Fleas to the Curb – Naturally!

August 26, 2014

Not only is flea season in full swing but the pests are getting harder to ward off as well, with fleas developing immunity to many traditional flea preventatives. Our bigger is better society has swiftly created new products that are extra strength and defend against a wider range of pests, but stronger (ie more chemicals) is not always the best choice for your dog’s health!

Traditional flea preventatives can cause a variety of side effects including vomiting, skin reaction, seizures and in extreme cases, death.

The good news is there is a better way to fend off the little buggers without putting your dog at risk.

  • Give your dog vitamin B-50 twice daily. The smell is not detectable to us but fleas and other bugs (flies, mosquitos, etc) detect and detest it! Vitamin B shots have long been a treatment for humans who always seem to attract bugs!
  • Treat your yard with beneficial nematodes. These microscopic critters are easily applied to your yard using a hose attachment and do not harm pets, soil or any beneficial bugs living in your yard, but will target fleas and destroy them by injecting toxins into them. Nematodes can be found at your local garden nursery. I apply these to my yard 1-2 times per year starting in the spring.
  • Use a natural flea control product, such as Evolv spray, to kill and prevent fleas on your dog without the nasty side effects. The spray kills fleas on contact.

Even if you aren’t ready to kick traditional flea control to the curb completely these natural alternatives can drastically reduce the number of applications you use per year, resulting in a healthier, happier pup!

The Importance of Crate Training

March 25, 2014

Crate training can be beneficial to both human and canine companion if done correctly. The crate provides your dog a safe, quiet place to retreat from stressful situations and creates a recovery zone for your pooch after medical procedures when rest is what the doctor orders.  Crates are also key in house training and eliminating destructive behavior and can be helpful during travel.

 Follow these easy steps to get your dog off on the right paw:

  • Size Matters – Make sure your pup can easily stand up, turn around and lay down in his crate. Most crates come with a divider that comes in handy for puppies during house training and allows the crate to grow with your dog
  • Start Slow – Introduce the crate to your dog by leaving the door open and tossing treats inside to encourage them to explore the crate. Once your dog is going in the crate willingly to retrieve her treats begin to close the door behind her for a few seconds before allowing her out. Gradually increase the time the door is closed until she is comfortable inside for longer periods.
  • Create Positive Associations – Help your pup learn to love his crate by feeding him his meals inside the crate. Be sure to provide toys and a chew bone or stuffed Kong to occupy him when he’s crated for extended periods
  • Put It On Cue – Ask your dog to “go to your crate” and reward with a small treat for going inside; repeat. Leave the door open between training sessions so your dog can relax inside
  •  Tough Love – Ignore problem behaviors like whining in the crate. Wait until your dog is quiet before allowing him out in order to instill calm behavior in his den
  •  Use Wisely – Never use the crate as a punishment or “time out” place for your dog. A time out spot is an effective tool for eliminating undesirable behavior but has no place sharing your dog’s safe spot
  •  Play Time – Be sure your pup has adequate exercise and time outside the crate. Using the crate excessively – think 15 hours a day – is a surefire way to create a pup who runs when it’s time to go to his crate
  • Cozy Up – Give your dog soft bedding or blankets (unless he’s the type to destroy these items) in his crate. Some dogs also prefer the crate to be covered with a blanket to create a dark den.

Give Your Dog a Bone – Top Chew Choices

March 18, 2014

All dogs young and old benefit from appropriate chew bones. Not only does chewing help with the furniture-ruining puppy teeth but bones also provide mental stimulation and help keep teeth and gums healthy. Ditch the rawhide and check out these safe and natural choices.

  • Bully sticks
  • Texas Toothpicks
  • Canine Caviar’s buffalo line including Flossies and Rib Bones
  • Trachea
  • Raw marrow bones (freeze them for longer lasting fun)
  • Antlers – long-lasting and green (antlers are collected after being naturally shed from deer)
  • Water Buffalo Horns (a great choice for dogs with allergies)
  • Be sure to look for chews that are sourced in the USA (New Zealand is another good source).

Providing appropriate chews doesn’t have to break the bank either. I recommend to my clients for great prices and a wide selection of products including odor free bully sticks and novel protein source chews for pups with allergies.

So go on, give your dog a bone!

Keep Your Dog Safe This Halloween!

October 29, 2012

Dharma the Hot Dog

Tabasco the Dinosaur

While you may look forward to the costumes and candy Halloween brings the holiday can be scary for your furry friend. Keep them safe with these tips:

  • Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with current ID tag and is microchipped.
  • If your pet isn’t as excited as you are about that pirate costume you bought him try a festive collar instead. 
  • If your dog hasn’t perfected the art of waiting at the door when you open it or gets spooked easily keep them in a room away from the door with a special chew or treat to keep them busy. This will ensure they don’t slip out in all the commotion on the hunt for some candy of their own.
  • Chocolate and sweeteners can be harmful to your pets so be sure to keep it out of reach along with candles and lit pumpkins. 
  • Take this training opportunity to socialize puppies or fearful adult dogs with the various costumes and decorations you’re bound to run in to on your evening walks. Be patient and pair the scary ghost in your neighbor’s yard with your pooch’s favorite snack. 

Trick or Treat!