Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Agility Abilities

Have you ever thought that agility training might just be your dog’s thing? How do you tell if your dog has what it takes to succeed in agility competitions? The answer probably lies in your understanding of the dog. Those who are very athletic, eager to please and who have a wonderful relationship with you are the best candidates. 
History of Agility 
Agility training began in England not long ago and was fashioned after horse show jumping. After making its UK debut at Crufts in 1978, agility became the fastest growing dog sport. Not only is it popular among caretakers, its also very popular among spectators, the action is fast and it is always entertaining whether the dog does as the handler asks or not. It's fun for everyone. 
Does My Dog Have What It Takes?
The only way to find out if your dog has got what it takes to do agility is to try it out. Find a good agility club in your area where experienced instructors can teach you what you need to know. This will help you avoid injury to your pup. You will want to learn new tricks in a controlled environment that facilitates good training practice on agility equipment that meets safety criteria.
Pursuing the Sport
Once you establish that you and your dog love the sport, it’s worth it to purchase an agility course, or join a club who has the equipment available. You can find some inexpensive equipment online at Amazon, Ebay or even Craigslist, but if you are purchasing used equipment through these sources, ensure that you use a light solution of bleach and water to thoroughly clean the equipment prior to use. 
Purchasing Agility Equipment
There are many different types of agility equipment available. If you’re just starting out in the sport, you will want to stay on the conservative side of purchases. A complete agility course can be very pricey, so wait and see if it’s something you and your dog really want to pursue. 
Once you’re convinced that this is the sport for you, go ahead and purchase the basic pieces of equipment. These include a bar jump, a tire jump and a tunnel. 
Agility can be a very entertaining sport that’s exactly what your dog needs to release excess energy. It can create a strong bond between both you and your dog, not to mention, it’s great exercise for both of you. 
Additional Resources: 

Monday, March 30, 2009

Housebreaking Your Dog

Housebreaking a dog, no matter what their age is now one of the easiest things to do these days. There are a few things you need to have, there are the housebreaking supplies of course; but you should learn to use repetition, have patience and above all you should have a sense of humor. 
When Skye came to live with me, I had to teach her that going potty in the house was not an option. You see Skye grew up in a kennel and could let herself out into her dog run to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. She didn’t have to wait for some human to get up, go downstairs and open the door for her; so in the beginning we had a few accidents. I also found out early on in Skye’s training that if I rewarded her with a “potty biscuit” after she did what she needed to do outside; she got the idea a lot faster. She never got a whole cookie and often times she would be rewarded with a piece of cereal.
When I was growing up we had dogs and there never seemed to be much trouble to housebreaking them. I do remember one incident involving my grandparents’ Boston Terrier Peggy that had to do with the Sunday paper. You see, she was paper trained and when she was young to housebreak, my grandparents put newspapers down for her to go potty on in the spot they had chosen for her in the kitchen. Then when they couldn’t get her to go outside, they tried putting newspapers on the lawn to try and convince her that grass was OK, which finally helped to train her. The incident with the paper happened one Sunday morning when my grandpa was laying down on the couch enjoying his paper. Peggy walked over to a section on the floor that Grandpa was not reading and relieved herself there.
While you can still use the old method of housebreaking with newspapers, there are now many alternatives to that old standby. You can now purchase pheromone enhanced puppy pads that have a plastic backing. These are good because they keep the urine from soaking through the pads. You can get pheromone drops to use outside in the spot you want the dog to go. You can get artificial grass systems that can be used indoors (for rainy days) or outdoors to keep those burn spots down in your lawn. 
When you are housebreaking a dog, here are a few simple tips:
  • Taking the dog out should be the first thing you do in the morning.
  • After feeding your dog, wait about 20 minutes, and then take them out. 
  • Taking the dog out should be the last thing you do at night.
  • If you want to use a treat as a positive reinforcement, feel free to do so. It will help your dog learn faster. If you don’t want to use a treat, a pat, hug or words of praise will work just as well.
Watch your dog’s body language, if they start dancing around, pacing, or sniffing for a spot; take them outside. Usually this behavior means that they have to go outside. By following these simple tips it will be no time before you can sleep late on your weekend off.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Crate Training and Its Advantages

When I was growing up we had dogs but they were never crate trained. Crates were sold back then; my folks just chose to go without one. At night the dog would spend the night behind gates in the kitchen. Of course there was one Boxer named Jayne, who didn’t realize she wasn’t supposed to jump the gate and did just about every night until they got a taller one. The family knew she could jump it if she really tried, but for some reason she stayed put.
I got my first crate when I got my first AmStaff Nimber, when he was a puppy. While you can buy a crate for the puppy’s size, the puppy will grow and you could be buying several sizes before you reach the size you need for an adult dog. I bought a crate that was 36 inches long, 24 inches wide and 30 inches high; which was the size suggested by the breeder at the time. I put a cardboard box in the back of the crate on its side, with its bottom facing the door. In this way I was able to cut down the size of the crate for the puppy. Dogs do not like to urinate or defecate where they sleep, this is their “den” and they will keep it clean; if you are housebreaking a puppy this is another plus for getting a crate. As my puppy grew, I would cut a bit of the box away, so he gained more space in the crate.
Whatever size crate you buy, it should be at least tall enough for the dog to stand up in. They don’t have to be able to hold up their head, but they do need to have enough room to walk in, turn around and lay down easily. I also suggest using something washable on the bottom for the dog to lie down on. I like to use old quilts, or go the local recycling center to look for old blankets. You can even use old cotton towels; just make sure whatever you use is machine washable because sometimes accidents happen. I have more than one blanket, so in case one needs to be washed there is a clean one ready to use. You can even put a blanket over it to darken it at night to help your dog sleep.
A puppy should never be in a crate for more than three to four hours at a time if you can help it, and six to hours is the limit I use for Skye, as an adult. I try not to leave Skye in her crate for more than about six hours at a time, though she has been crated overnight when I am home. When Skye came to live with me, she was crated when I could not watch her even though she was an adult, as she was into everything. I also started crating her overnight when she began living here because she had been a kennel dog and wasn’t housebroken yet. The crate was also helpful for feeding her in because she had to get medication in her food and I didn’t want the cats getting into it. Now that she is settled into the household routine and the cats are used to her, I don’t crate her to feed her unless I am adding something to her food that the cats might find interesting.
A crate should never be used for punishment, no matter how frustrated you may get. It can be used for a time out when you need a break. It can be used if you need to have the dog out of the way, but in a safe place temporarily; an example of this would be if you are hosting a party, or mopping the floors that the dog just ran across with their muddy paws.
If you follow these easy tips, crate training can be a rewarding experience for the whole family. It worked well for me and I know Skye is happier; now she gets to sleep at the foot of my bed.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Do Pets Dream?

You’re quietly watching a scary movie late one night. It’s not too terribly scary because you have your faithful canine companion curled up on the sofa next to you, snoring contentedly. Suddenly, at the very spot in the movie that the “evil clown” attacks, your dog twitches and then falls off the couch. Popcorn flying, you’re convinced that the clown really is in the next room, but you’re too afraid to look because your pup is growling softly at, well, nothing....

If this has ever happened to you, I’m betting you know as well as I do that dogs dream. The fact is, this is true.

Dogs experience sleep patterns that are very similar to our own. The process begins when your dog walks around in a circle three times (we’ll get to that little phenomenon later), settles into a heap of fur, curls into a ball and tucks his nose under his tail.

So far, very similar to the way that we fall asleep. Of course, we probably don’t turn around three times, or tuck our noses under tails (I hope), but the rest of it fairly close.

Like us, our dogs will enter into rapid eye movement (REM) after a few minutes. This is known as the “active stage of sleep”. His eyes will roll under his closed lids (much as our own do when we enter REM), and he may bark or whine (just as my husband does). His legs will probably jerk a little, and all in all, the brain activity that would be seen if you were to hook him up to a monitor is similar to that seen during the dreaming sleep of humans.

In humans, there are five stages of sleep. The “Dreaming” stage occurs in the fifth stage, or REM stage of sleep. This is the most active state of sleep for pets and people, where kicking and running comes into play.

So, the short answer to this question is that yes, dogs do dream.

Incidentally, dogs spend between 10% and 12% of their lives sleeping. Unless you’re one of my dogs, then you’ll spend closer to 75-80% of your life asleep. And no, I never medicate my pets! They are just really, really tired....

And in case you need further proof of the dreaming capacity of dogs, take a gander at this “sleep walking dog” video. Then be very grateful that you don’t have to worry about this with your pet. If you do live with a dog like this, you might want to rethink watching those horror movies.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Smart Games to Play with Your Smart Pets

Whether you live in the northwest and are being pelted with rain, or in the Southwest where you’re plagued with heat and allergies, or even the Northeast where there’s still snow on the ground, we all have days when it’s just not too comfortable or safe to go outside.
So how do we keep our very smart pets entertained on days when we just can’t get outside to play? Play a game! Pets need quality time with their parents as much as children do, and these games will keep the entire family entertained!
Here are some “smart games” for you and your “Smart Pets” to play.
Hide A Treat: One of our personal favorites. This game consists of you hiding a treat someplace in your home, and then asking your dog to go find it. In essence, you’re training your dog to become a “tracking dog”. Keep in mind that you’ll need to show your pet how this game works the first few times, but it won’t be long before they take the challenge on themselves!
Hide and Seek: Do I sense a hiding theme here? Anyway – this is a fun game to play when you can sneak away from your pet. It’s even better when you learn to throw your voice and appear to be coming from another room! Either way, you’ll find this game to be entertaining.
Teach a Trick: Teach your pet a new trick! Yep, even old dogs and stubborn kitties can do this. Cats are wonderfully receptive to clicker training, and you can learn more about this method by clicking here or here.
A Day of Dexterity: Remember the great times we all had growing up making a “Front room Fort”? Why not try that with your pet. Be sure the area is safe. Then take a few minutes to set up a short agility course with blankets, chairs and maybe an old box, or a 2x6 plank that they can try walking on (under constant supervision, of course).  Try it out with your pet first by having them follow you through the course, then rearrange it and try something new.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Plants for Pets To Avoid

Spring is in the air and with this beautiful season follows the arrival of new flowers and plants. But beware - there are certain plants that just don’t belong in a home with pets. These are the plants that can cause everything from allergies to poisonings.
I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t matter how old or how smart your dog or cat is, they can still find a way to get themselves into trouble. If that happens to include chewing on household plants, you’ll want to ensure that you are taking the necessary precautions to help your pet avoid temptation.
You will also want to make note of a few phone numbers, or better yet –consider printing this list out and hanging it on your refrigerator. The way we react in the first few minutes can make a lifetime of difference for our pets and children.  Your first call should be to your veterinarian, so be sure to have his or her number written down in plain view. If, for some reason, you can’t reach your vet, these are some other numbers you can call.
ASPCA Poison Control Hotline
Note: There is a $60 charge for this service.
The National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPPC)
Note: If you call the 1-900 number, the charge is $20.00 for the first five minutes, then $2.95/minute thereafter. If you use the 800 number, the charge is $30.00 per case (VISA, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express only).
Whomever you call, be sure that you’re ready with the following information:
  • The species, breed, age, sex, weight and number of animals involved.
  • The animal’s symptoms.
  • Information regarding the exposure, including the agent (if known), the amount of the agent involved and the time elapsed since the time of exposure.
  • Have the product container/packaging available for reference.
If your animal is having seizures, losing consciousness, is unconscious or is having difficulty breathing, telephone ahead and bring your pet immediately to your local veterinarian or emergency veterinary clinic. If necessary, he or she may call the APCC.
Over 700 plants have been identified to be toxic to our pets. Unfortunately, some of the most toxic plants are also the more beautiful plants. So before you start adding them to your yard or home décor, take a look at this list from the Humane Society or visit the American Animal Hospital Association website.
Additional Resources: 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tags Will Help Your Pet Get Home Again

Many people don’t realize how important having an identification tag on your pet is. Having worked in pet shops, it is really brought home to you when you hear the stories that your customers tell you when they come in to purchase a tag. It may just be as simple as their dog got through a hole in the backyard fence, or someone came home and the dog shot out the door before they got it closed. 
One of the best stories I ever heard (it had a happy ending) was about one of my customers and their Viszla, Ginger. They took Ginger everywhere with them and had gone camping with her to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Mr. Jones (not their real name) took Ginger for a walk with him while Mrs. Jones stayed behind to tidy up after breakfast. Mr. Jones and Ginger took a walk on a hiking trail that wound up a rise to a peak between two valleys that they could walk along. The scenery was beautiful, until they saw a herd of deer. Ginger, true to her breed, took off after the deer and disappeared into one of the valleys below. Mr. Jones did his best to keep up and while he was in good shape, never had a chance.
Mr. Jones walked through the valley for hours and finally had to give up as it was getting late. He was devastated, he lost their best friend and she had no tags on. He hiked back to their campsite, trying to figure out the best way to tell his wife and try to figure out how to go about finding Ginger in a park that encompasses over 521,621.15 acres (as of September 23, 2000). So imagine his surprise and delight when he got back to their campsite and Ginger came running up to greet him. He was so happy he started to cry and then he had to explain to his befuddled wife why he was crying. She began laughing and explained to him that Ginger came back about two hours after they had started out. Ginger was smart enough to track her way back to her favorite people. While this story has a happy ending they don’t always. Needless to say after they got back from vacation, they came in and got her a complete set of tags.
While microchipping and tattoos are good, not all shelters have universal microchip readers. In my opinion having a tag on a dog is a good, simple and inexpensive way to get your dog home. There are different schools of thought of what kind of information to put on your dog tag. Some people don’t advocate putting your pet’s name on their tag. I personally tag all my animals with their name, my name, my address and two phone numbers. I put on my home number and a number of a family member that can be reached in case of an emergency and I am not available; as I don’t have a cell phone. I used to put a home and office number on my tags, but now I work from home, so Skye actually has the breeder’s phone number on her tag also. She has a second tag on with the medication that she needs to take and the vet’s phone number. I also like to use a tag that is made out of stainless steel, as I have had problems with tag breakage and chewing on tags that are not stainless steel. But I have a dog that is very oral and loves to chew.  
There are many options when you buy a pet tag today, some companies even have a number that can be called 24/7 and store your dog’s medical records; which can make it easier to retrieve them and get them home safely. Even something as simple as a rabies tag, can get your pet home again; I know because I traced a dog’s owner that way. Do your homework and get what works for you, because if your pet gets lost, they can’t ask a policeman to help them get home again.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Cleaning Your Dog Run

It is almost that time of year again when we all venture outside for the next several months. This weekend in Minnesota we had a thaw, and Skye and I got to go outside and play ball. There is no grass growing yet in Skye’s dog yard though there is old grass from last year, which is about a quarter of an acre. 
While we were playing ball, I got an unpleasant surprise. The snow may have begun to thaw, but the ground has not. So we have frozen ground, with a layer of ice on it in places and standing water on top of that. While Skye does not go potty all over her yard, as she picks the fence perimeter in a few spots, it was still not a very nice sight especially after racing through it while chasing her ball.
I have been picking up dog poop and putting it in a compost bin over the winter, because I can’t use our doggie septic tank. So now I have liquefying dog poop around the yard where it had frozen to the ground before I could get to it. I’m sorry but I’m only human and I refuse to go out at 1:00am in a Minnesota winter if Skye wants to go out; to pick up poop in my nightie, especially when it is 20 degree
s below zero F. There isn’t any smell to speak of yet because it is now mixed with water and draining away, but it made me wonder what the regular dog owner does. What does someone with multiple dogs do? So I thought I would share some of the tools that I use when cleaning my dog yard.
In one of my recent articles I mentioned Odormute™ and how good it is to use on skunk odor. Well that isn’t the only thing it works on. I have used it since the mid 1970’s when I first discovered it; on cat litter boxes when they need to be cleaned, on cement floors that smell musty, to clean garbage cans and in my dog’s yard as well as anywhere else I needed a good deodorizer. It is non-toxic and non-caustic and is made of natural enzymes and salts. You can make three different strengths depending on the strength of the odor you are dealing with. It will not harm plants, pets or humans, and that is why I like it so much. I mix up a bucketful and spread it
 around the dog yard to deal with the odor issue. Odormute™ is now marketed by Hueter Toledo as well as the other product Ryter made called Lim’nate™.
Lim’nate™ is a sanitary digester for using in a doggie septic tank, which you can either make yourself or buy at a pet shop. In the spring after the temperature rises above about 40 degrees F, you put water in the bottom of your doggie septic tank, add Lim’nate™ and add your dog’s poop, and put the lid back on. The Lim’nate™ does the rest, digesting the poop you put in, and there’s no smell because it is underground. Depending on the weather conditions, all you have to do is add more poop, water and Lim’nate™ from time to time. The only thing about Lim’nate™ is that the digesting enzymes don’t work under about 32 degrees F. Other than that it keeps your yard odor free, which is a plus when you are dining al fresco or having a garden party.
All dog owners know how to scoop poop and dispose of it, but with these tools on hand it can make your job easier and you and your pets can celebrate a nicer smelling summer.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Being a Responsible Pack Leader

Responsible Pet Ownership is in part the ability to be a responsible “pack leader”. Here are some very general hints on how to do this:
  1. Understand your pack: This is the most important. Learn the body language of your pets. Since they can’t really speak, it’s only through body language that we can identify the reasons behind behavior. No animal attacks without a warning sign. They always tell you when enough is enough, and each animal has their own method of communicating this.
  2. Be Fair: Treat all members of the pack fairly. If one is disciplined for stealing a treat off the counter, ensure that all are disciplined in the exact same way if or when they engage in the same act. Being predictable will help your pack trust you.
  3. Be Consistent: Animals, like people, need to understand that there are rules. They also understand that there are consequences if those rules are broken. Biting, growling, or negative behavior should never be encouraged.
  4. Be Organized: Organization is key to maintaining a healthy pack and being an effective pack leader. The less chaos, the better the performance. Stay on a schedule for feeding, walks, and playtime. Sure, go ahead and introduce your pup to new things. It’s important for their development, but do it in an organized, calm manner.
  5. Training: Much like people, certain people have certain abilities and temperaments. Pushing an animal or pet into a specific task or role can almost guarantee disaster. Find out what they like, what motivates them (a ball, a treat, affection) and use that for training. The best trainers in the world use positive reinforcement and offer animals roles doing what they are already good at and enjoy.
  6. Trust No One: Don’t turn your dog into a babysitter or guardian. Certain animals are predisposed to certain roles and not all of them fit what you may view as the “perfect pet.” They may not have the tolerance level for children and if that’s the case, don’t try to force them into the role.
A Note on Trust: Domesticated does not mean “trustworthy”. I love my pets – all of them – and I’m more guilty than most in anthropomorphizing my pets. But, there are limits. Understand that a dog’s reaction to a crying baby can easily be to pick it up by the neck just as they would a pup. Their responses are not the same as ours. Realize that changing the order in which pets are fed can result in a battle for dominance. Why? Because they see things differently than you or I.
What I’m trying to say is that years of conditioning do not make an animal trustworthy. Animals are unique, each hold different roles in a pack, and we empower them to make decisions. Be a responsible pack leader and never provide an opportunity for them to take advantage.
You’ll find that these skills also translate into being a good family member and a great member of society. Like us, most animals are prey-driven and pack-oriented. They are social creatures. Respect your pets and they will return that respect.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

All About Stacy Mantle

Contrary to popular belief, I dread writing a bio. In fact, I even enlisted the assistance of a friend to create the one you see all over the internet. But, I’m going to give this a shot in a traditional “blogging” sort of way.
Obviously, I love animals. From wanting to marry Rudolph (the reindeer, not Valentino) when I was four years old, to living with 18 cats, a turtle, 200 gallons of fish, 2 dogs and a wolf/coyote hybrid, you won’t find many photos of me without an animal. Fortunately, I have an amazing and very understanding husband (not a reindeer) who loves animals as much as I do.
My fascination with all things wild led to three possible careers: that of a veterinarian, a biologist or a writer. Since I doubt I could put a pet to sleep, and I'm terrible at math, I chose to be a writer. And so far, that has been the path of least resistance.
I am the founder of PetsWeekly, a website that features reviews of the best new pet products on the market, and just about everything you ever wanted to know about animals. I am also the author of several books, including Conquering the Food Chain: Living Amongst Animals (Without Becoming One). This book and others I’ve written are available in Barnes & Noble bookstores nationwide, or online at Amazon. My stories, articles and reviews can be found in such print publications as Pacific Yachting, Cat Fancy, The Arabian Horse Times, Jackson Parents Magazine and many others. I am active with feral cat Trap, Neuter and Release (TNR) programs nationwide, wildlife preservation and the rescue of many different animals, including wolf hybrids when they are located. I belong to a number of associations within the pet care industry, and regularly attend trade shows, activities and events.
As I’m also a strong advocate of early learning and the benefits of educating children in humane practices, my business partner and I began the company GrokQuest. We publish educational activity books for younger children. We have a number of titles within several different industries, including the pet care world. Those titles are “So, You Have A New Kitten!” and “So, You Have A New Puppy!”. 
Currently, I am staying way too busy as a fulltime freelance writer, owner of PetsWeekly, and attending school in pursuit of my MBA (only a few months left!). If any of you are active in the social networking zoo, I hope you will add me as a friend at PetsWeekly, Twitter, LinkedIn and MySpace.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Saving Money: Making Toys from Recyclables & Getting Rid of Those Pesky Plastic Bags

In this economy we could all use a little help. Last year Steve and I went to a free Internet seminar, as we were considering selling things over the Internet. We were in a group of ten people and had to do an exercise where we took a regular paper clip and came up with as many different uses for it as we could. While in the beginning it sounded silly to us, our group actually came up with over 50 different uses (yes 50) for a common paper clip. I came up with another use the other day when the zipper pull on my jeans broke. It was a great learning experience because it gave us a whole new perspective on what you can do with regular items. I took it a bit farther and started looking at the items I recycle to see if I could give them a new use too.
With prices up and wages down, the groceries and bills get paid, and the animals get fed. But frills are out of the question, at least for the moment in our house. Don’t misunderstand me; I absolutely love going shopping for my pets and can spend hours in a pet shop. I’ve put these ideas together to help make our household a little happier in these lean times and I thought I would share them with you. 
We are great recyclers, but I kept feeling that I could do something else with all the tubular medicine bottles we have around the house. I tried to get the pharmacy to refill my prescriptions using the old pill bottles, but there is a law in Minnesota that won’t let them. So I started making cat toys out of them. I wash them first, and then I put a few grains of rice in them, which makes them rattle and let the cats have them. While they don’t roll like a ball, the cats still chase them around the room and have mock battles when they capture one from another cat. I also have some tubular bottles from something else I buy and they are about 3-1/2 inches long by about 1 inch in diameter, with indented grooves about ½ inch from each end. I use a small nail and poke holes in the grooves and fill the bottle with catnip. The holes in the grooves, let the smell of the catnip out, but the bottle is strong enough that the cats can’t get through to the catnip. Sometimes I even tie a few pieces of rawhide around the neck of the bottle before putting the top back onto the bottle to give them some added distraction. You can use any white plastic bottle as long as it is small enough and you can poke holes through the plastic. If you have dogs in the house, make sure you supervise the cats playing with these bottles, in case the dog might try and take them away. You can even make catnip toys from recycled fabric from shirts and cotton jeans. The nice thing about cotton jeans; they won’t fall apart the first time your cat claws them with their back feet. If you want stuffing, use fabric from the jeans to make the toys plumper.
For Skye, I take old pairs of cotton blue jeans and take the side seams and the inseams out, so I have two pieces of fabric (the front and the back), then I tie the matching sides of the bottom of one leg together in a knot and make about three to five more knots in the legs of the jeans to make a tug. I will warn you though, I did this several years ago with another dog, and he could not or would not differentiate between his “tuggies” and the jeans on the laundry line. I also make tugs for Skye out of old towels, though I try to use towels that are 100% cotton, as their fibers are safer. But do not ever leave your dog alone with these toys; they should be supervised at all times.
I knit and I found out that you can knit with the plastic from grocery store bags. I cut off the bottom seam, and take a scissors to cut the bag horizontally, starting at about 1” from the bottom. I keep cutting around the bag and by the time I am done I have one long plastic strip. Then I get my knitting needles out and start knitting. I’ve tried knitting with about a size #8 US, but have found that a pair of size #12 US or larger actually work better because of the bulkiness of the plastic. I can knit all sorts of bags that are usable at the grocery store, or for hanging on a door hook to keep all the extra toys or pet supplies in when they are not in use. 
Some of these ideas are not unique to me; I just put them all in one place for us to share. We are all feeling the pinch these days and our animals love us no matter what we are feeling, this way we can recycle and our pets can keep putting smiles on our faces with their antics.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Camping With Your Dog

If you are anything like my family and I, as soon as the weather turns nice we start planning an escape. At least once a year we escape to the north shore of Lake Superior. While I haven’t tried camping with my dog yet, this year is the year I just may. If you are like me and want to share your passion for the outside with your dog, there are a few things you need to consider before you take your dog camping.
First of all, if this is a fairly long trip you need to make sure your dog won’t get carsick. Your dog’s shot records should be up to date and you should obtain a health certificate from your vet to provide this information in case an official (park or otherwise) needs to see it. Will you be able to be with your dog and supervise them 24/7? This is important and you can get thrown out of a state or national park if you don’t follow all rules and regulations; this includes your dog too. Many parks have “quiet time” rules, after which you should not be making noise that may keep other campers awake. These rules also apply to your dog and a park will not tolerate a dog that barks all night long. While service dogs are allowed in park buildings, regular pets are not. What kind of wildlife resides in the park you want to visit? If there are bears or other large predatory animals, you want to avoid any run-ins with them. A dog bell is a good idea; this will help you hear your dog and might protect them from predators.
Check the rules and regulations of the park before you go: Is your dog allowed in the park you want to visit? Do you need to pay an extra fee for your dog? Some parks do not allow pets of any kind and you should make sure that you find out before you go, so you can avoid any disappointments or fines you may incur by bringing your dog. Check the National Park Service website. Each individual state has a governing body for their state parks, it is usually the Department of Natural Resources, in some cases it is the Department of Agriculture. A number of dog friendly state parks are listed here.
Suggested supplies you may need and should consider when camping with your dog:
  1. If your dog is on medication, enough medication to last for your trip and a few days extra.
  2. Enough of your dog’s regular food to last for the duration of your camping trip and a few days extra.
  3. Consider bottled water, some parks don’t have water available depending on the season.
  4. A collar that fits properly and has the correct identification on it.
  5. Bowls for food and water.
  6. Interactive toys for your dog. You never know you may have a Frisbee champ in the making.
  7. Health Certificate if that is required. Even if it is not, it is a good thing to take with you.
  8. A 6 foot leash for walking. (Note: A retractable lead is not allowed, 6 foot is the limit and is strictly enforced.)
  9. A dog crate if you have one, in case you are going somewhere your dog is not allowed, or need somewhere safe to confine the dog. Many parks want you to be able to contain the dog.
  10. Blankets or bed for inside the crate, if your dog needs to spend time there.
  11. Waterless shampoo for those unforeseen mud puddles.
  12. Flea and or tick spray (depending on the time of year).
  13. First aid kit for you and your dog. (Should include tweezers for picking off parasites.)
  14. Tie out cable.
  15. Tie out stake.
  16. Dog Bell.
Dog coat or sweater, possibly boots (depending on the weather where you are going).
By using your own common sense and abiding by the rules and regulations of the park you visit; camping with your dog can be an enjoyable, fun experience for you both. They get to spend some extra quality time with you, which will make that special bond you have together stronger. You can make some wonderful memories and take home some great pictures of your best four-legged friend.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fostering Animals - Jake

As I mentioned yesterday, my husband and I fostered two pups a few months ago. They were only about 3 days old when we got them, so it meant a lot of feeding (every two hours), a lot of cleaning (they grow up fast and learn to chew everything), and a lot of training (because you have to teach them how to live in a pack).
While it was a lot of work, I wouldn’t change a thing and I’ll do it again in a second. I christened the pups, Jake and Jasper, and I only named them after they were 6-weeks old. Why? Because I was not completely confident in my ability to successfully raise an animal (it’s been awhile) and both pups had a lot of problems. 
First off, their mom had stopped caring for them.  Someone had dropped the mom and her litter off at the rabies/animal control facility’s door only a few hours after they were born. Momma didn’t stand much of a chance. When we saw her, she had already given up on life and her stress and depression had cost three of the pups in this litter their lives. Not from abuse, mind you – simply from neglect. So when we picked Jake and Jasper, they were only 3 days old, had already lost 3 siblings and were hungry, dirty and hypothermic. Luckily, all three problems were remedied immediately and you can read about our saga.
I want to talk about what happened after their successful recovery. 
Jasper, as I mentioned before, is now living in a beautiful home with a very loving family. Jake, has not yet been that fortunate. 
Jake, the Chow / Shar Pei mix, still resides at the rescue, but it’s not a hard life. He’s living with lots of friends on a large ranch in cool weather and is given a great deal of attention as he waits for his forever home.   Although he has yet to find a home, I know that he will soon. He’s too great of a dog not to be adopted by a loving family. 
Jake had a lot of things to overcome in his first few weeks of life, including pneumonia and entropy.  The important thing is that he overcame them. He’s a beautiful dog and if you’re looking for a puppy with lots of love to give, Jake may just be the one for you.
I hope you’ll visit Circle L Ranch at PetFinders and see for yourself. He’s a calm pup with lots of patience; he’s built like a linebacker, is smart as a whip, and loves kids and other animals. He won’t even shed much! What else could you ask for in a dog? 
And if you’re not ready for a new addition to a family, why not try fostering? It’s a short-term fix for the puppy withdrawal we all go through and you get the satisfaction of saving a life.  
Besides, they need you... 
Find an adoptable pet in your area at petfinder.com!

Stacy Mantle

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fostering Animals - Jasper

There’s something to be said for fostering pets....
Let me share my own foster experience with you – and bear in mind – I’m the most neurotic, over-protective animal person in the world. Seriously. If you knew me, you would understand that I’m not exaggerating here. I also “keep” everything – from worn out shoes to stray kittens. 
So I really believed that fostering was not for me. I thought that I would have problems giving up two beautiful puppies that I bottle-fed every two hours for 3 weeks and later potty-trained and taught tricks too. 
Turns out, I was wrong. 
Oh – I’m not saying it wasn’t difficult, because it was. But, I was working with a strong, reputable rescue that I trusted and I knew that it would be unfair to keep the pups when I already had three large dogs (and 18 cats) of my own. So when I was ready, I released them for adoption. 
I just got an email from the adoptive parents of Jasper and I couldn’t be more proud. His new family has glowing recommendations about him, he’s got his own toys, his own bed, his own bowls and even his own cat! (Okay, maybe not his own cat, but the cat is still a playmate.)
He’s become a traveler. He’s been to the Grand Canyon, North Carolina (cross country trip, even) and has seen the snow. These are all things that I never would have been able to give him because let’s face it, loading three hundred-plus pounds of dog in your car and controlling them while you’re driving is not for the feint of heart. 
And that is Jasper’s story. Am I happy that I rescued the little guy? You bet. Was it worth the time and energy I put in to save a “mutt”? Just ask his new owners. I think they will agree that he’s one of the best things that’s happened to them… 
Fostering is not easy, but boy – when it works out like this has, it’s sure worth it… 
I want to encourage our readers to foster a puppy or kitten (or an adult dog or cat who has fallen on hard times) today.  Yes, I know you get attached. Yes, I know it’s hard to let them go. But trust me, when you hear about the outcomes that go along with fostering, it’s well worth the effort.  Tomorrow we’ll talk about Jake who had a very different outcome but is just as great of a story!
Contact your local animal control or rescue association and find out how you can help an animal.
Find an adoptable pet in your area at petfinder.com!

Stacy Mantle

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fostering Animals 101

Let’s face it. The economy has wrought devastation and destruction on many, and pets are often the causalities of economic war. Many people don’t think of animals the same way that we do, and pets are often discarded, abandoned or turned in to rescues. Occasionally, it’s just necessary for the safety and health of the animal. 
And this is where we must, as a society, do our part in the world. Fostering is one way that we can save a life. 
In November, my husband and I fostered two puppies who were only three days old. We plan to do a lot more fostering as this was so enjoyable. So, for the next few days, we’re going to regale you with tales of how to foster, what our experience was, and how it all turned out. 
The Down and Dirty
The first thing about puppies is that they sleep, eat and poop. In that order. In fact, that’s all they do. They are like human infants, but their eyes and ears are sealed. At the age of 5 days, they operate solely on touch and smell.
These two are each eating about 0.50 - 1 oz of Esbilac fluid every 2 hrs or so. This works well for me, because it’s hard to get me away from the computer that often. If I hear a puppy crying, it forces me to get up and attend to them. Good for me, good for the pups. As they mature, we recommend a well-balanced diet of CANIDAE food – you won’t need to switch them out later in life and it’s a very high-quality food. 
Tricks We’ve Learned
Don’t spend money on the bottles you get at pet stores, as they are largely inefficient. We are using a Playtex Ventaire, which is perfect for the pups. The bottle vents excess air itself, is curved and has a larger nipple for easy puppy suckling. (Wow… Never thought I would be talking about nursing anything… I’m just VERY happy that it deals with puppies and not humans. :)
Heat is very important to these little ones. Right now, we have them in an enclosed room with no drafts, away from the other pack members (despite our pack’s affinity for new arrivals, we opted for isolation for safety reasons). We use an electric blanket on low placed on the floor, the small crate they are kept in are kept on that, and if they still get chilly, we add a magnetic heat pack under the box towels they sleep on. This way, they can decide where they want to be. They can crawl pretty well....
The “Messy” Side
Since they can’t even defecate on this on their own, we have to use a warm, wet cotton ball of paper towel to “copy” the mother’s licking/cleaning response. This is the bad part of the event. Puppy poop is sort of disgusting… I would get into other poops, but you know… Do it twice, before and after feeding, in order to cover your bases.
Although these guys are too little to play, we learned a lesson from the numerous squeaky toys that we bring in for our other pets. They’ve learned that if it squeaks, it’s a toy. Not a great lesson for your pets if you’re trying to foster… We’re working on establishing the difference between live pups and chew toys with Cheiss right now.
Please consider taking in some fosters of your own. Tomorrow we’ll discuss some of the success stories of foster!
Find an adoptable pet in your area at petfinder.com!

Stacy Mantle

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How to Clip Your Cat’s Toenails

Did you know you can trim your cat’s toenails yourself? It is really very simple and it doesn’t take much time or effort once you get the hang of it. Not only that, you can save any fees the vet would charge you for this service if you had to have them do it.
There are several types of nail clippers and I have pictured my favorites below. There is one like a garden pruner, which is suitable for both dogs and cats. While I do have one, I tend to use it only on Skye, as it can be cumbersome to hold when you have a wiggling kitten to deal with. The second one is a scissor type with a rounded spot for the nail to fit into. This is usually the one I use on the cats, as I find it the easiest to use because you can just lay the tip of the toenail into the groove in the scissor. The third one is also a pruner type, but has a stop, that can be set behind where you are cutting. This is nice, because in theory you can’t cut off too much toenail and are less apt to cut into the quick of the nail and make it bleed. The last kind of clipper is a guillotine type (not pictured) and you squeeze it to make the blade cut just like a guillotine. The issue I personally have with these is that it is a lot easier to split the nail and if you have a cat that doesn’t like getting their nails clipped it is harder to use when they are wiggling and not sitting still.

The first thing you want to do is assemble your tools. Have a towel to wrap the cat in if they tend to be nervous. Get your clipper and make sure it has a sharp blade in it. You should also have something on hand to stop the bleeding, either a styptic powder or pencil in case you cut too close to the quick. I prefer the powder myself, and put it in a little bowl, so as not to contaminate the rest of the container. Last, but not least; have a favorite treat ready for after the clipping is done (I use a small piece of cheese). This gives the cat something to look forward to, and makes them less likely to balk the next time you want to clip their nails.
I start clipping toenails when my cats are kittens and after a few times they get pretty used to having it done. I try to do it in the evening, as if they have been active during the day, now they are ready to go to sleep and are usually more relaxed. I sit them in my lap, or hold them on my lap with their back against my stomach. If you have a kitten that you think may struggle, you can also wrap them in a towel, and take out one paw at a time to make clipping easier.
I hold the clipper in my right hand and squeeze the kitten’s foot just in front of the pad with my left hand. Pressing here on their foot makes their toenails extend out past their toes and makes the nails easier to cut. Most cats have four toes on their front feet and a dewclaw, which is their equivalent to our thumb. Their back feet usually have four toes, without a dew claw. Then I hook their nail in the groove of the nail scissors and clip. If you don’t have a lot of money to spend or just want to try clipping your cat’s nails yourself, to see if you want to do this at home; an inexpensive way is to take your toenail clipper (if you don’t mind sharing) and use that to snip off the sharp ends of the toenails. I’ve use this method too, and it also works well.
If your cat’s nails are white, pay close attention to where the nail turns pink. This is called the quick and is where the nerves and blood vessels end in the nail. You don’t want to cut into this or too close to it, as it can cause bleeding and pain for your cat. I suggest you try and cut at least 1/8” to 1/4” from the quick (toward the tip of the nail). If your cat’s nails happen to be a dark color, just snip off the end of the nail, this way you are less apt to hit the quick.  
You can save time, money and gas by clipping your cat’s nails at home yourself. Not only that, it is a great time to bond further with your cat. And who couldn’t use a little more cuddle time with their favorite feline.

Ruthie Bently

Monday, March 9, 2009

Choosing the Right Pet Food for Your Best Friend

There are more pet food brands on the market today than ever before in history. There are hundreds if not thousands of different formulas. As pet owners, this competition among the many competing pet food companies should be welcomed. If all dogs were created the same and had the same needs, we would only need one brand and one formula. But as we all know, each dog is different. Just as every dog has a unique personality, every dog has unique nutritional needs. Luckily, we live in a place and at time when virtually any need can and will be met. 
Until recently, there was little if any choice for pet owners who wanted to feed their dog a commercial grain-free diet. Because customers asked for a grain-free food, the industry responded by offering several. There are now many high protein formulas completely free of grain that are available to those who believe that a grain-free diet is what's best for their dog. 
After all, it is not up to the pet food companies, or the media, or even the veterinarian to dictate a dog's diet. That is the right of the dog's owner. It is the right of the person who loves that dog and no one else to decide what they will eat.
For that dog owner, this enormous range of choice and privilege comes with responsibility. It is his or her job to choose from among the staggering array of formulas, zeroing in on the best food among them for his or her beloved pet. If your dog doesn't do well with a particular ingredient, then there is no need to buy a dog food with that ingredient in it. If one brand doesn't agree with your dog, you have literally hundreds of other brands that want your business. Do your research and try another.
Most reputable pet food companies even have a money back guarantee. If your dog doesn't like the product, or in the rare instant your particular pet doesn't do well with a certain formula or ingredient, they will refund your money. What other industry will guarantee a product around the specific needs of an individual?
We now live in a very vocal world where anyone can offer his or her opinion on the Internet anonymously. But what doesn't work well for one might work well for another. Does this mean something's wrong? No, it means you have choices and finding what works best for your pocket book and your pet is key.
The pet food industry is very heavily regulated and closely monitored. Much more so than most any other food industry with the possible exception of infant formulas. In fact, pet food regulations and guidelines govern ingredients used, ingredient origins, the process by which the foods are made, the nutritional content, and the exact ingredients information that appears on the label.
When it comes to dog food, the label tells the story. Read your labels! In the end, it is up to you to decide what to feed your dog, but once you have decided what ingredients are best, you simply need to read the labels to find out which brands and formulas have what you need. It's then that you can compare prices and look for the best value.
It's interesting to note that there are human foods that do not even list ingredients on the packaging. Wine labels don't list ingredients, but many wines contain products other than grape juice. They sometimes contain sugars, yeast, added water and even hard liquor. They all contain alcohol of course. Yet none of these are listed on the label. Products labeled as non-dairy may contain Caseinate which is a milk product used to make our non-dairy creamers more white. The label still says non-dairy. Milk products as a whole only somewhat recently had to list their ingredients on the package. Some might call these practices and others like them deceptive.
This is not the case with pet food labels. Ingredients are listed clearly and completely by order of weight. Distinctions are made among chicken, chicken meal, chicken fat, and chicken by-product, for instance. There are exact definitions for each ingredient and the FDA and AAFCO do not tolerate non-adherence to the rules. Individual states in the U.S. have further rules about ingredients labels that must be followed.
Commercial pet foods truly are one of the amazing products of the 20th and 21st centuries. They provide carefully balanced nutrition at an affordable price and offer some of the widest ranges of choice among any sort of food. There are more formulas of dog food on the market than there are breakfast cereals in the grocery store.
This huge range of choice puts the power, and the responsibility, in the hands of the pet owner. Read the ingredients labels. Pick what's best for your dog. Find the best price. Above all, find the brand and formula that is best for your unique dog. Your best friend deserves it.

Who is Ruthie Bently?

My pet-related career began when at the age of just three years old; I found a nest of baby rabbits on a walk one day and brought them home. My poor mother must have been astonished when I began pulling rabbits out of my jacket pockets like a magician pulls them out of a hat. I was hooked and after that things just seemed to follow me home.
My first real career in the pet industry began in Evanston, Illinois in 1976, when I was hired and worked for Elsinger’s Pet Shop. Since then I have managed three different pet shops in the Chicago area. I was actually the office manager for the Aquarium Professionals Group in Evanston, a company that builds and maintains custom aquariums; when I got an offer to work for my brother here in Minnesota.
I became interested in nutrition for dogs and cats because I began seeing a lot of feeding issues with my customer’s animals. I found out that many veterinarians only have somewhat limited nutrition training in vet school, unless they go into that field. I wanted to help my customers, so I began learning everything I could on my own. I was very lucky to have a few veterinary mentors, who helped with my education and I became fairly well-versed in canine and feline nutrition. The local veterinarians in the area began sending their clients to me for my help with nutrition, when they had exhausted all their ideas. I currently hold a Pet Nutrition Consultant Certificate, and am the Owner/Consultant of Bently’s Beasties. I am also a second degree Reiki practitioner.
I am currently the Operations Manager of the WNR Company, which is based in Los Angeles, California and take care of the office. I am also the executive producer for Wendy’s Animal Talk, an Internet radio show that airs live on Tuesday afternoons from 1:00pm to 2:00pm Pacific Time on HealthyLife.net. As executive producer, I research the talent or product we are interested in, schedule the guest, send out confirmation and question letters and make up the weekly show sheet for Wendy’s show. I am also in charge of the monthly newsletter for Wendy’s Animal Talk.
As well as having two blogs of my own on the Internet and writing for our company newsletter and blogs, I felt that CANIDAE's Responsible Pet Ownership blog was right up my alley, so I applied for the position. I am very happy to say that they felt the same, and I was hired. I look forward to working with them and if you have any suggestions for things you would like to see in the future, feel free to contact me. I can be reached at: thedogs8myemail@gmail.com. Thank you in advance for your help.
I love spending time in nature, hunting agates on the shore of Lake Superior, gardening and sitting in my yard watching the local wildlife. I live on a farm in Minnesota with my boyfriend Steve; an American Staffordshire Terrier named Skye, numerous chickens, cats, and a small flock of geese. 

Ruthie Bently

Friday, March 6, 2009

Hiking PET’iquette

If you’re anything like me, you prefer the great wide open to the confines of a dog park and there’s nothing wrong with that. Like me, my dogs also prefer to hit the trail. But, there are rules of etiquette in the wilds, just as there are in the city. Here are a few tips to Doggie Pet’iquette on the trail.
Leashes. Always...
Just because you’re in the wild doesn’t mean your dog gets to act like a wild animal. Especially if you live in the West. Out here, we carry guns and most know how to use them. In the west, there is the potential to run across a rattlesnake (which is no fun when you’re two miles into the mountains and have to carry out a 100 lb dog), and if you’re in the East, you could run across lots of other creatures. So keep your pet on a leash at all times. Trust me – they’ll still enjoy their time! All those smells, new sights, fun things to explore… Yeah, they’ll love it even if on a leash.
Size Matters
The rule is, the bigger the dog, the more of an interred threat. As dog servants, we know that this is not always true, but to the layman, they associate a big Rottie with an eminent attack. Now, if you have a friendly Rottie, you can teach the newbies a thing or two, but never force your knowledge on another. Generally people who fear dogs are fairly unreasonable to begin with, so just show how great your Rottie is by having him sit quietly by your side and letting the person pass by you. Don’t let your big dog off leash – ever. You never know when someone will take their friendly bounds as a sign of aggression and react like prey. We’re all instinctual creatures after all.
Keep small pets off the trail. There has been a recent increase in reports of prey animals (cougars, coyotes, even owls and hawks) snatching small pets from the arms of owners on a trailhead. And just for the record, this is due to human encroachment, not increased aggressiveness on the part of wildlife.
Trail Traffic
Traffic on the trailhead (and you should always be on a trailhead), is largely the same as on a sidewalk. Move to the right to let other people and pets pass, keep a wide margin of error between you and other pets (even if your dog isn’t aggressive, others may be), and if you pass someone who is obviously terrified of animals, put your dog in the sit position and let the humans pass.  The rule is, “dog and owner yield right of way to hikers.”
Clean Up
Be sure that you bring along a lot of plastic baggies and a way to pack out waste. Your dog’s waste can seriously impact the delicate ecosystem and even pass along disease or parasites to the wildlife, but it’s also a matter of having respect for the environment. Be sure your dog is well away from water sources before allowing it to eliminate. 
Additional Resources

Photo Credit: Copyright PetsWeekly, 2001

Stacy Mantle

Thursday, March 5, 2009

American Staffordshire Terrier, Breed Profile

The beautiful lady in the picture is my dog, Skye. She is an American Staffordshire Terrier. The American Staffordshire Terrier is a breed that was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1936 and is a member of the Terrier group.
According to the breed standard of the AKC the general impression of the breed is as follows: “The American Staffordshire Terrier should give the impression of great strength for his size, a well put-together dog, muscular, but agile and graceful, keenly alive to his surroundings. He should be stocky, not long-legged or racy in outline. His courage is proverbial.” Skye is all that and more.
American Staffordshire Terriers (AmStaffs) are a true terrier breed. They are fearless, loyal, courageous and strong for their size. They are well-suited for many of the canine sports available to dog enthusiasts these days. They are good at agility, tracking, and obedience, as well as confirmation. Some of the jobs assigned to this plucky breed include police work, guarding stock, weight pulling, as well as being watch dogs. They need to have a job to do and are never happier than when they are active. This is a breed that needs a fair amount of exercise, and is perfectly happy whether going for a walk or playing a rousing game of ball or Frisbee in the yard.
The adult AmStaff should weigh about 50-65 pounds (23-30kg), and size range for males should be between 18 to 19 inches and bitches should be between 17 to 18 inches at the withers. They have a short coat that is easy to care for. Their life span is usually between 10 and 12 years, but Smokey, my last AmStaff was almost 20 when he passed. They don’t tend to be troubled by hip dysplasia, but congenital heart disease and hereditary cataracts have been reported. Because of their deep chest they can suffer bloat.
The AmStaff is a very social dog and loves their family. They are bred for their temperament and gentleness and make great family dogs. However, because of their keen intelligence like most terriers, they can be independent and stubborn, so they need to be trained and socialized properly. They are not a dog for everyone, and like any large strong dog they need to know you are the alpha dog. However, when raised with love and kindness they make fabulous companions.
Skye was raised in a kennel and only knew other AmStaffs, before she came to live with us. While she was good with other dogs and people, I wasn’t sure how she would be with my cats, chickens and geese, as she had never been around any. She does like to chase the chickens and I have never left her unsupervised with them. I did watch her chase a gander one day, but watching her, I noticed she wasn’t trying to catch him, even though I knew she was capable of it. She was just trying to put him in his place and establish her own place in the pecking order. As for the cats, when everyone gets into bed at night if Skye is up with us, Munchkin (a 6 pound adult) likes to sleep perched up on top of Skye; and the rest of the cats have a healthy respect for her, though she has never harmed any of them. 
AmStaffs can be a handful and are not for everyone, but with the right person, they can be a super companion and friend for life.

Ruthie Bently

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Naming Your New Best Friend

The best dog names are stolen. Just think about it. How many dogs will be named “Marley” after the Labrador in the movie and book Marley and Me? How many Chihuahua’s will be named Chloe or Papi from the characters in the movies Beverly Hills Chihuahua or Princess after the cherished Chihuahua of celebrity Paris Hilton. When it comes to naming our new pet, either dog or cat, puppy or kitten, or older rescued adult, half the fun of adding a new member to the family is getting to name it. Where does the inspiration come from? What names appeal to you and your family and what names are just really cool? There are many sources to research pet names including books and the internet. A Google search on pet names listed over 75,700,00 sites dedicated to naming your pet.
Here are some useful tips to help you choose the perfect name for your pet. Try picking a name that is easy to say and is limited to one or two syllables. Avoid names that can be confused with the normal obedience commands like sit, stay, down, come and no. Your pets breed heritage can also provide inspiration for good names. Make sure you do not choose a name for your pet that might be intimidating or frightening to other people. Don’t pick one name and “force” it on your pet as some pets will respond better to the sound of one name over another. Wait a few days, try out some names, and then pick the one that fits the best.
Want to know what I do? I steal names and I’m not too proud to admit it. I know that down the line I will eventually add one more animal to my “pack”, so I keep good names on file. I read dog show catalogs and realize so many people are so very clever, so how can it hurt to “borrow” a good name. I think the first name I stole was from someone I knew in my Labrador club. Their dogs’ call name was Taylor and I thought that is a perfect name for my next puppy. About two years later when I got that puppy her registered name became Krugerrands Storybook Tale, call name Taylor. I’m dating myself, but remember when Top Gun was a hot movie, well a dog trainer friend of mine loved Top Gun and named his cat Maverick, well I thought that is a great name to add to my list and you guessed it, my next cat was named Maverick. Warning – expect that if you come up with a good name someone else will steal it. One of my current Labradors is named Tori and my very close friend who has German Shorthaired Pointers just named her new puppy Tori. She claims she just came up with the name, but we know better now, don’t we?

Diane Matsuura

Doggie Day Care PET’iquette

So you’re thinking about alternatives for your very dominant miniature pinscher, or your high-strung Jack Russell, or your laid back (easily dominated) Golden Retriever. Doggie daycare is an excellent way for your pet to beat boredom, eliminate destructive behavior, and get exercise at the same time. But, before you sign up, there are a few things you need to know.
Daycares Don’t Train
That’s not to say they can’t train, but that’s not the point of daycare. Daycare is designed to be a social outlet for our highly social pets and give them an opportunity to burn off some energy. Ensure that your dog responds to their name, knows basic commands, and “plays well with others.”
The Lone Wolf
If you have a dog that prefers to be the lone wolf, don’t torture him (and everyone else) by subjecting him to a pack he doesn’t want or need. Doggie daycare is designed to simulate a pack scenario and there are dogs (like mine) that just prefer to be alone. Yes, this means more daily walks for you, but hey – if you’re like me, the extra exercise will do you some good.
Find out how the daycare is organized. There should be separate play areas for different personalities. An ideal pack consists of one ‘commander’ (remember that ONLY the HUMAN should be the Alpha), a second in command, and an assortment of other roles that members play. That’s not to say that all packs will be like this, but dogs should be carefully evaluated and their “role in the pack” established before they are turned loose. Two or more dominants in the same pack spells trouble.
As for you, let the sitters do their job. If your dog is being dominated in the corner for the first 10 minutes, let the handlers handle it. Jumping in to your pets rescue is like breaking up a fight between two men. If the handler is responsible (and it’s your job to ensure that they are), let them determine when enough is enough. Posturing is common in a pack situation – it’s a way of establishing roles, so don’t interfere because you’re overprotective.
Before you drop your dog off at a daycare, be sure he understands the rules of the pack. If your pet doesn’t get that annoying the big Shepherd in the corner is not a good idea, do yourself a favor and get your dog out of that pack. Dogs will “train” other dogs to a point, but if you happen to have one of those pups that are just oblivious to the signals they’re annoying others, you might want to reconsider daycare and just start walking your pet more often.

photo credit: Copyright PetsWeekly, 2005

Stacy Mantle

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Dog Got Skunked, What Do I Do?

Living in rural Minnesota has been a wonderful experience, but sometimes it comes with unexpected challenges. There is a river and woods to the east of where I live and many animals travel across my property to reach it. We have deer, wild turkeys, hawks, eagles, turkey vultures, and many other wild birds; as well as raccoons, opossums and an occasional skunk. While I love watching all the wild traffic across the property, sometimes we come into closer contact with it than we would like.
Now with the days getting warmer, more wildlife is beginning to stir, and though skunks do not hibernate, during cold weather they do tend to den up and not eat as much, so we and our pets are less likely to run into them. My mother-in-law’s dog had a closer encounter recently with a skunk to her detriment, as she got sprayed. 
There are some easy ways to stay out of their way if you tend to have them in your neighborhood. Most skunks are crepuscular, which means they come out at dusk and dawn. If you see a skunk out in the middle of the day, there may be something wrong with it, as skunks do not go out in full daylight. So try walking after daybreak and before dusk, you will have less chance of running into one. If you do happen upon one while walking with your dog, you should know that they can spray up to 15 feet (5 meters) away with a high degree of accuracy. 
While it is a myth that skunks can only spray once before their body has to manufacture more musk, they can actually spray up to six times before their body has to make more. As this can take up to 10 days, skunks are reluctant to spray and usually warn whatever is threatening them. They do this by stamping their feet and raising their tail to display their stripes. Sometimes they will even wave their tail to get your attention. If you have to go out after dark, take a flashlight with you to light your way. To keep them out of your yard, make sure all garbage is in a can with a tight sealing lid, or in the garage or shed behind a closed door. As skunks are omnivores and scavengers, garbage is an easy mark for them and they will take advantage of it.
If your dog (or cat) is sprayed, tomato juice while an old standby is a myth and will not take away the odor. Try skunk odor removal products like Odormute™, which can be mixed in three strengths depending on the smell you are dealing with. A groomer’s favorite is Masengil powdered douche, and from what I understand works very well. There are many commercial products on the market today, specifically for skunk odor, but I haven’t tried any of them. I’ve always relied on Odormute™ and have for many years, because it works very well on many organic odors.
Here is a recipe for dealing with the odor. Mix together the following ingredients: 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide 3% solution and 1/4 cup baking soda. Add to a small amount of liquid detergent, and wash your dog. Make sure to rinse well to get all suds out of your dog’s coat.
By following commonsense practices when walking with your dog and safe garbage storage, you should have fewer issues with this smelly neighbor from the forest.

Ruthie Bently

Monday, March 2, 2009

Dog Park PET’iquette

In the event you missed it, dog parks are growing in popularity. As the recent housing crisis pushes many into smaller homes or apartments, it’s important to ensure that your pets get plenty of exercise. So, for those who are new to the experience, how can you get the most from your daily visits? Here are a few initial tips for you. 
Visit the Dog Park Without Your Dog
Every dog park has it’s own flow and personality, developed largely by those who have been showing up twice a day for the last year. Before you bring your laid-back but very scary looking large breed down for a day of play, be sure you understand the ebb and flow of the park. If you don’t see a larger-breed of dog there, talk to the caretakers and ask their feelings on the subject. This is a great opportunity for educating others on the benefits of allowing their smaller-breed dogs to interact with a larger breed.  Get a feel for the environment and the pack. If you want to play in the pack, you have to make sure it’s a good pack for you. 
Abide by the Rules
Every dog park has different rules (for humans and canines). Familiarize yourself with these rules and follow them. No one likes a person who shows up with a dog off-leash, or showing up without plastic bags to clean up after their pets. If your pet exhibits bad behavior, correct it. Don’t ignore it. 
Never Leave Your Pet
That should go without saying, but unfortunately, some people think that a dog park is their answer to “pup-sitting”. Never leave your pet unattended, not even to use the restroom. A lot can happen in four minutes and whether it’s your dog or another causing an issue, you had better be around to remedy the situation. 
Don’t Be Annoying with Treats
Really, you shouldn’t feed your own at a park either. You never know when another dog will become food-aggressive, or just plain jealous. This includes treats and snacks. Dogs can experience a lot of emotion (and related bad manners) when it comes to food.  Training should have already been done at home, and if you’re there to reinforce the training, go ahead and give Fido a quick treat, but do it quickly and without a big deal.
Be Sociable, Don’t be an Expert
Yes. We understand that you know more about the global history of your Chihuahua than anyone else in the world. We don’t necessarily want to hear it. Sure, you can brag about your dog, as long as you give us equal brag time.  You can be an expert if someone asks, but don’t bring it up if up if we’re talking about our day at work. 
Know When to Leave
When your dog starts showing aggression against someone or another dog, it’s time to walk away. If you sense an argument festering in the fenced area, it’s time to leave. Every animal, like every human, has their own tolerance level and it varies daily. Don’t fall victim to the desire to wear your pup out at the cost of being exiled.
Additional Resources

photo credit: Copyright PetsWeekly, 2005

Stacy Mantle
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