Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why Do Dogs Roll in Disgusting Things?

By Ruthie Bently

I've lived with American Staffordshire Terriers since 1981 and have been lucky enough to own four of them. While they were all basically the same because they were AmStaffs, they were all different in their personal habits. AmStaffs are a wonderful breed and my first dog Nimber was a great dog that literally cleaved to my left hip, but for all his nice traits (and he had many) he had one habit that I was never able to break. He liked to roll in nasty things.

Before I had put up fencing for a dog yard where Nimber could exercise safely, there was one weekend that the person supervising his recreation period wasn’t leashing him for his walks. As a result he got loose and went wandering on his own. Nimber ended up getting three baths in a day and a half because he kept rolling in green deer poop. I am totally convinced that he went back to the same spot after each bath just to get smelly again. After I put up the dog run fencing, he was confined safely; but every time he got loose he found the smelliest pile of stuff to roll in.

There are many schools of thought as to why our dogs roll in things we think are nasty. Whether it is a pile of fresh cow or horse manure in a pasture, a pile of deer poop in the woods or maybe a dead animal carcass that they run across on a daily walk, some dogs will roll in it. I have happy news, though – not all dogs roll in smelly stuff.

Some people believe that our dogs roll in nasty things to cover a rival dog’s scent, which seems foolish to me. I have owned enough dogs, both male and female, that will mark a spot with either feces or urine after another dog has left a deposit of their own, but they never rolled in it. If anything they got perturbed by the miscreant marking territory that they felt was theirs.

I read something else that I tend to agree with after living with my own dogs, which suggested that the behavior goes back to that original pack. A dog finding something to roll in was doing it to take a message back to the pack. Bees go back to a hive and do a dance, ants lay a pheromone trail back to their nest for other ants to follow back to the food source they have found. What better way for a dog to take a message back, than to roll in the filthy mess? Their whole body is covered in a new smell!

Dogs are very scent oriented in nature; they always smell each other when they meet (if their owners allow them). If a wolf were to roll in fresh deer poop, they could lead the pack back to the area, and the pack could track the deer, which in turn could lead to a new source of food.

Yet another theory that goes back to the original pack, mentions that our dogs may be trying to camouflage their own scent from others. Think about it – they roll in very smelly stuff and come home not smelling like our dog any more. What better way to protect themselves from anything that may want to harm them, or prey they may not want to smell their scent and become spooked?

The last theory is that our dogs get turned on by many odors. Maybe they just like to smell different than they already smell. We humans use perfume, and according to the findings of one laboratory experiment performed, the dogs tested rolled in a large scope of things, including rotting garbage, dung, tobacco, lemon rind and perfume. This would seem to shoot down either the theory about covering the scent of a rival or camouflaging their own scent from another animal.

So the next time your beloved dog rolls in something disgusting, try not to get angry. And if it makes you feel better, think of it as aromatherapy for your dog.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Health Benefits of Dog Ownership

By Anna Lee

We love our dogs and they love us. As responsible pet owners we do the best we can for our furry friends and they repay us in kind. We also know that laughter is the best medicine and dogs are very funny. Therefore, it makes sense that owning a dog is healthy for us! I am extremely lucky because Abby is a funny dog. She also knows how to melt my heart.

We know that pets enrich our lives. Recent scientific studies have begun to pin-point the ways that companion animals improve our minds and our bodies. Beyond walks and games of fetch, eager faces at the end of the day and many kisses, pets provide documented health benefits.

A 1993 report in the Harvard Health Letter explains that companion animals have more consistent behavior compared to our human companions and that they offer unconditional affection. The effect is lower blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety levels for pet owners. We repay our pets with love and attention. More than 60 percent of pets receive "as much attention as children," according to the 1994 American Animal Hospital Association pet owner survey. In my house Abby receives 100% since we have no children.

Laughter has been proven to reduce stress, increase muscle flexion, lower blood pressure and boost immune function by raising T-cell levels. Laughter also releases the body's natural painkillers, endorphins, and increases emotional well being while decreasing feelings of depression. Dogs are natural born comedians; mine is and your dog mostly like is also. Abby makes my husband I laugh on a continual basis. With recent studies suggesting that depression is more deadly than many other chronic diseases, spending some time with a canine goof-ball might be the best health insurance available. If I am in a bad mood and Abby does something typically Abby, the bad mood lifts away!

Exercise - In a Columbia University Study participants lost an average of fourteen pounds when they started walking the dog for just 20 minutes a day five times a week. Dog owners are more likely than non-dog owners to walk regularly and longer. Taking responsibility for someone else's well being is more compelling than looking out for your own health. I agree with that totally. I put off going to the doctor myself, but if Abby looks a little ‘off’ I call the vet instantly for an appointment.

Socializing - When we walk our dogs in the park or around the block people are more apt to speak to us. Dog lovers will naturally start up conversations. When we socialize with others we feel good about ourselves. We were on vacation a few years back in Chattanooga and visited Rock City. This is a huge mountain with all kinds of fun and interesting things to look at and squeeze through on the climb to the top. At the summit is a fantastic view of several states. That day there were many families with kids who had no desire to look at a view.

We sat down to relax and within seconds were surrounded by kids all wanting to pet Abby. Just watching their little faces made us feel better and Abby certainly didn’t pass up one kiss or pat on the head! Finally, parents realized the kids were having a better time with our dog because they were all on vacation and they missed their dogs back home. Rock City is pet friendly – check their website for more information on a great attraction! (

Sleep - I don't know about other dog owners, but I know feel confident at night knowing my dog is in the same room snoozing – with one ear and one eye open! Our quality of sleep has a big effect on health. Lack of sleep has been linked to some cancers, heart disease, diabetes, etc. Now if I could just get Abby to sleep later than 6 AM I would be very happy.

All of the health benefits of canine companionship are good for us. Better brain chemistry equals better sleep. More exercise makes for less depression. Better sleep eases mood problems. And wet sloppy kisses can mend a broken heart!

Dogs are good for our health! Since they provide us such a beneficial service we need to make sure we take care of them in return. What better way to take care of your best friend than to feed your pet a premium food like CANIDAE?

Read more articles by Anna Lee

Monday, September 28, 2009

Do Dogs Understand Words?

By Linda Cole

Most of us who own dogs or cats swear they understand every word we say to them. Dogs tilt their head and listen with eager eyes, and cats respond with an acknowledging meow or tail flick which I'm sure means, “Of course I understand exactly everything you are saying.” In reality, they probably understand only a fraction of what I say, but I know cats and dogs understand words.

Research has shown that dogs are more intelligent than what was once believed. It's possible your dog's intelligence equals that of a three year old child. Dogs are just as capable of understanding what we say as parrots or apes, two species considered to be the “Einsteins” of the animal kingdom. Some breeds are considered more intelligent than others, but most dogs are not purebreds. Does a mixed breed have an advantage over purebreds when it comes to intelligence? Do these dogs understand words just as well as their purebred counterparts?

Dogs have an advantage over their owners. Not only do they understand the laws of the pack, they also understand our tone of voice and body language. Body language and tone may contribute more to how dogs interpret our words than what we realize, but dogs understand words and can learn signals from whistles and hand signs. Herding dogs work with their handlers through a series of specific whistles and voice commands. Police dogs and rescue dogs are taught the language of search and rescue, and therapy dogs understand how to assist humans in everyday activities from learned signals and words.

It's believed an average dog can understand up to 165 words and count up to 5. Some dogs may be able to understand even more words. My mom had a mixed breed named Ben. He was so mixed even our vet couldn't figure out the possible breeds, but he was smart as a whip. Ben loved toys and my mother loved buying them for him. A green frog was his favorite and he understood each toy had a name. Each night, mom had Ben pick up his toys. It became a game Ben loved to play. Mom called out the name of a toy and Ben picked up each one correctly every time and put it away in his toy box. I learned from him that dogs understand words and can associate those words with an object or toy.

I have two mixed Jack Russell terrier sisters who know the names of the other members in our dog pack. Just as Lassie knew who Timmy was by name, they know and understand the names we use to call the other dogs. They look at the dog just as we would do in a group of people when someone's name is called out.

Of course our dogs learn to associate words by commands we give them. Down, go outside, stay, go for a walk, fetch or any other word or phrase dogs learn through repetition. However, understanding words and actually knowing what they mean are two different things.

Researchers question whether our pets have the mental capacity to understand love, for instance. Can they really be capable of understanding something as complex and abstract as love or hate? I know dogs are just like us in that they seem to like or dislike certain people. This could be due to body language, protective posturing by the dog or other factors such as unpleasant odors like perfume or other smells on a person. I also know when I cuddle with my dogs and look them in the eyes when I tell them I love them or give them praise, there's subtle ear flicks and a different look in their eyes like they did understand what I said and what it meant. Of course, that too could be simple association with my body language, tone of voice or actions because I'm also scratching their ears or back or giving them a kiss and hug.

Maybe one day research will be able to determine if our pets can learn abstract concepts, but at the end of the day, does it really matter how much they may or may not understand what we say? Talking to our pets is good for them as well as for us. I think most pets actually treasure our conversations as only they can. Positive attention is always good. They may not understand why your boyfriend/girlfriend is such a loser or why you don't have time to play ball right now, but dogs understand words more than what was once thought. So enjoy your next conversation with your dog, but remember, they may understand what you are saying more than you realize.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Saturday, September 26, 2009

How Many Cats Makes Someone a Crazy Cat Lady?

By Julia Williams

Although I couldn’t find any information on who actually coined the term “Crazy Cat Lady,” it supposedly was first used to describe a cat hoarder, i.e., someone who collects hundreds of cats. Hoarders have serious mental health issues; hence, these cat collectors were called “crazy” despite the very un-pc nature of that slang term.

Later, the term Crazy Cat Lady evolved as a stereotypical label for a lonely, (usually older and always single) woman who either has a house full of felines, or one who likes cats “a little too much.” The Crazy Cat Lady is the butt of many jokes, and she’s made out to be someone who is unnaturally obsessed with cats. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone mocking the Crazy Cat Ladies, I’d be rich.

I’ve often wondered, though, how people determine whether someone fits the Crazy Cat Lady stereotype. How many cats does it take to qualify? How much “cat love” is too much? Are you a Crazy Cat Lady if you wear something emblazoned with a kitty, or have cat knick-knacks in your home? Why do we never hear of Crazy Dog Men? Do the same rules even apply to men?

So many questions, and the only one I have a definitive answer to is how many cats it takes to be called a Crazy Cat Lady. I know it has absolutely nothing to do with the number, and everything to do with attitude and lifestyle. You can be a Crazy Cat Lady with one cat, or a dozen. If you dare to choose cats over the traditional route of marriage and children, then you’re most definitely a CCL.

For years, I had a cartoon on my fridge with a woman who said, “My husband told me I had to choose between him and the cats. We miss him sometimes.” It still makes me laugh when I think of it, and I only threw it away because it became tattered and unreadable.

I haven’t always been a Crazy Cat Lady, because I was married for five years. But I am a CCL now, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I really don’t care what anyone calls me, or who judges me because I choose to love cats. My three cats are among my very best friends, and they bring me the greatest happiness and joy. If someone thinks this is wrong or weird, so be it. I’m content with my choices and lifestyle, and this is all that matters to me.

However, I was a bit surprised to see that the Crazy Cat Lady stereotype has become so ingrained in our society. I discovered this by accident when, out of curiosity, I googled the phrase one day.

I found out there is a Crazy Cat Ladies Society whose purpose is “to use humor to counter the stereotypes made about people who love cats.” They say that claiming the CCL phrase on their own terms takes away its power to offend. Whether it actually does or not, I do appreciate that they’re using humor instead of indignation to counter the stereotype. I don’t personally see the need to be a member, but good for them for taking a stand.

Would it surprise you to learn that there are dozens of products out there devoted to the Crazy Cat Lady? It did me. There is a Crazy Cat Lady Board Game illustrated by four goofily dressed women with silly expressions on their faces. The aim of the game is to collect cats, of course, and the player with the most cats wins.

Then there is the Crazy Cat Lady Magnetic Sculpture Kit, which includes a figure and 12 metal cats that will jump on her the first chance they get. There is a Crazy Cat Lady Nightshirt with a cute illustration on the front, a Crazy Cat Lady Action Figure that comes with six cats (only six?) and a hardcover book titled Outing the Cat Lady: Embracing Your Feline Addiction with Style.

Last but not least is a product that isn’t specifically associated with the Crazy Cat Lady label, but leaves no doubt who the target market is. The Cat Butt Magnet Set includes five furry feline behinds and a hairball. Um…cat butts? I must admit, I find the notion of displaying cat butts on your fridge a little bit strange. It takes the CCL concept to a whole different level. But hey, to each their own.

If there is a Crazy Cat Lady in your life, now you know what to get them for Christmas!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Friday, September 25, 2009

What Happens at a Dog Show?

By Ruthie Bently

Have you ever been to a conformation dog show and thought you had just entered a three ring circus? Now that the Westminster Kennel Club Show at Madison Square Gardens is being televised, it is a bit easier to follow a dog show, but what really goes on? The premise of an all breed conformation dog show is to find the one dog that is the best representation of its own breed. The way this is done is to judge the dog’s physical structure and overall appearance against a set standard for the breed.

At an all breed conformation dog show, the first thing that happens is that the breeds are judged against their own kind to find the best single dog of one given breed. For example, all Labrador Retrievers would compete against each other. This competition is done in the breed ring. After a dog wins its breed, it goes on to the group ring and competes against the other dogs in a specific group. The different groups are Working, Herding, Non-sporting, Terrier, Toy, Hound and Sporting. So a Labrador Retriever would be shown in the Sporting Group, and a Chihuahua would be shown in the Toy Group. After a dog wins in their group ring, they go on to the Best in Show ring and are shown against all the other group winners that were chosen that day.

There are two other kinds of conformation dog shows: specialty shows and group shows. The specialty show is held for one specific breed; for example, there is an American Staffordshire Terrier specialty show every year. Only AmStaffs are invited, but they could come from all over the world, as long as they are registered with the AKC (if the show is held in the United States). The group show is open to dogs of a certain AKC group, i.e., a show for the hound group would be open to Bloodhounds, Greyhounds, Afghan hounds and other dogs in that group. Each dog entered in any AKC or breed club sanctioned dog show must at least meet the minimum requirements for their breed. Each dog is judged by a set standard for its own breed, and can earn points toward a championship.

It takes fifteen points to become an AKC champion. Out of those fifteen points the dog must earn two majors, which is an awarded score of either three, four or five points. The way they determine how high the points awarded will be, is by the number of male and female dogs entered in the show. The more dogs entered, the higher the points awarded. There are seven different classes that a dog can be entered in depending on their age, whether or not their handler is an amateur, who their breeder is, and whether they were born in the United States. After the seven different classes are judged, the winning males and females are brought back and compete again to see which one is best. The males and females are judged separately and only the top two dogs judged “Best Female” and “Best Male” are given championship points.

Besides regular conformation dog shows, you can attend field trials for agility, tracking, herding and hunting, as well as lure coursing, rally, and obedience trials. You can find shows scheduled in your area by visiting the American Kennel Club’s website for more information. These shows are also a great way to get a feel for a specific breed of dog, and what they are capable of doing. So, if you are looking for a new game to play with your own dog, you might want to give one of these shows a look.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Best Food and Water Bowls for Dogs

By Anna Lee

You are probably wondering what the big deal is, right? Grab an old plastic container you don’t need anymore and put some dog food or water in it. Actually, there is a little more to it than that. There are things you need to consider when choosing a food or water bowl for your dog.

You need a bowl that is easy to clean, dishwasher safe, tip and spill proof, durable, and the right size for the job. If you have a 120 pound female Mastiff you can’t put her CANIDAE dry dog food in an old butter container, because it isn’t big enough. She would probably destroy the bowl in a week! On the flip side, you don’t want to use a mixing bowl as a water bowl for a Yorkie!

You need to determine the bowl size by the dog’s size and needs. Narrow and deep feeders are ideal if you have a long-eared dog such as a Bassett Hound or Blood Hound. This design allows your dog to drink or eat without getting his ears in the water or the food. A lab needs a rather large water bowl so you won’t have to fill it quite as often during the day.

There are also automatic feeder bowls on the market. They run on battery and you set the time and amount of food or water that is dispensed. They are not recommended for puppies, but they are fine for the established dog.

At the top of the list for an appropriate bowl, heavy weight stainless steel is the best choice. Get one with a rubber bottom which will stop your dog from pushing the bowl all around the room. It is almost impossible for a dog to break a stainless steel bowl.

If you do happen to have a kitchen cabinet full of old butter containers, throw them in the trash. You don’t need them and your dog doesn’t either. Once you invest a few dollars in a quality bowl you won’t have to buy another one.

Abby is an older dog, and an item I am thinking of buying her is a set of elevated bowls. They come on a stand and there are two bowls fitted into the top. Since it is elevated the dog does not have to bend over so far to eat, which makes it more comfortable for the dog overall and supposedly aids in digestion. You can also clean around elevated bowls very easily.

Where should you feed your dog? That decision is totally up to you. Our last house had vinyl flooring in the kitchen and that is where Abby’s food and water bowls were. This house has hardwood floors in the kitchen. Water and hardwood floors are a bad combination! I keep her bowls just beyond the kitchen in the hall to the laundry room. It has vinyl flooring but I also use a rubber backed runner under the bowls to help contain some of the water spills.

You can find a variety of bowls in all sizes and shapes at your local pet store, online pet stores, Tractor Supply, and almost every discount store including WalMart and Sam’s Club. Check out for examples of stainless steel bowls and the raised dog bowl systems. They have a very large selection and you don’t have to leave the comfort of your easy chair.

You need the right size food and water bowls for your dog. You dog may not know the difference, but you will!

Read more articles by Anna Lee

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Simple Ways to Keep Your Dog Healthy

By Ruthie Bently

I own a dog and several cats, and I am always looking for ways to keep them as healthy as possible. When I adopted Skye, because of her special health issues I began looking at things I could do, that I may not have already been doing. We all know that we should provide fresh water every day for our dogs, but did you know your tap water could contain chemicals even if you live in the country and have a well? Cities regularly use chlorine to clean their water systems and some cities add fluoride to the water. Other chemicals that may be in your water are nitrates, arsenic and lead. By using bottled water or putting a filter on your kitchen faucet you can get cleaner water without the chemical additives.

You can use natural cleaners that have baking soda or vinegar in them. Vinegar cuts through grease and is great as a glass cleaner. Baking soda is a safe abrasive that can be used on dog dishes and water bowls, and you don’t end up with soap residue on your pet dishes.

By keeping an eye on your dog’s weight you reduce their chance of getting cancer or other health issues related to weight, like diabetes or heart disease. They can even have problems with their joints like hip dysplasia, and difficulty breathing. If you aren’t sure how much your dog should weigh, ask your veterinarian to help you decide the proper weight.

When walking, keep your dog away from puddles in the street, which could be contaminated by lawn chemicals like herbicides, insecticides or fertilizers. Don’t walk them across lawns that have been treated with chemicals; they can get chemical burns on their feet or get sick from licking the chemical residue from their feet. When working on your car in the driveway, make sure to sop up any spills of oil, brake fluid or toxic anti-freeze with pine shavings or clay kitty litter, and discard it in a tightly sealed, dog-proof garbage can.

Another great way to help not only your pet but yourself, is to get several houseplants that have the capability to filter the air in your home. Some good examples are Aloe Vera, spider plants, Gerber daisies, Mums and Philodendrons. However, a few of these are toxic to pets if eaten, so always keep them out of reach with a plant hanger attached to a wall or the ceiling. If you are a smoker, try not to smoke in your dog’s presence. Secondhand smoke can make them ill, and the more you smoke around your pet the more dangerous it is for them.

Try to use natural products to resolve issues with ants, ticks or fleas. There are many non-toxic organic products on the market today that will not harm your animals, but will take care of the bugs. Using diatomaceous earth or borax on the carpet or cracks between the carpet and the walls can help with the bugs as well. By vacuuming regularly and emptying your vacuum bag often, you can get rid of fleas in your household. There is even a flea trap that attracts the fleas with a light. The fleas jump toward the light and get stuck on a sticky sheet in the trap. And sprinkling powdered cinnamon around door and window sills will keep ants from coming in the house. If you have ant hills in your yard, I’ve been told that putting fish heads on top of the hills will drive the ants further into the ground, but that sounds a bit nasty to me and the cinnamon works fine for us.

Exercise your pet every day for at least 20 minutes at a time. Vigorous playing stimulates the tissues of the body and raises your dog’s blood pressure, which in turn sends more oxygen throughout your dog’s body and aids in removing toxins from the blood and body. Regular exercise has also been shown to strengthen a dog’s immune system.

Last but not least, try to keep your dog from getting overly stressed. Stress for your dog can be caused by a divorce in the family, guests visiting, other pets in the household, or getting ready to travel. You can help keep your dog stress free by sticking to a daily routine. Feed your dog at the same time every day. If you have a set time for playing, exercise or training, stick to it. Dogs need routine and the more regular the better. If you crate your dog when you leave the house, put a radio in the room that plays soothing music and set the volume to low. By trying any of these suggestions you can help keep your dog healthy for the long haul, and they will love you for it.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Benefits of Hiking With Your Dog

By Linda Cole

To me, spring and fall are the best times of the year to go hiking with your dog. Spring breathes new, fresh life into trees and wildlife. The land is once again colored with green grasses and spring flowers. Autumn gives us beautiful colors in different shades of orange, golden yellows and reds that enhance a hike through the woods or along trails. A change is in the air. Gone are the sticky, hot temperatures of summer! Fall is a great time to head out to your favorite trail and enjoy the benefits of hiking with your dog.

Even the most hardened four legged couch potato loves to get outside for much needed exercise. The problem with taking your dog on the same walk around the same neighborhood is that it's the same old routine morning, noon and night. Your dog needs some variety – new scents to smell and investigate; hills and valleys to race up and down; and grass, dirt or mulch to walk on instead of cement. Just like us, dogs need stimulation and a little excitement now and then. Hiking with your dog gives him a mini vacation from his daily routine.

Hiking is a great way to get rid of boredom. This is one reason why dogs dig in the yard and chew on furniture or rugs. If your dog is sleeping all day, a hike is just the activity he needs to perk him up and run off pent up energy. You can see a spark light up in his eyes when he sees your backpack, hiking boots, water bottles and his leash because he knows he gets to go with you to a place with lots of interesting sights, smells and things to do.

One of my favorite places to hike is a trail that winds up and down gentle hills and goes through a small grove of trees, a clover filled meadow and ends at a small, fast moving brook. Not a long trail, but long enough to give my boots a good workout as well as my dogs. Along the trail, we see mainly rabbits shooting out from their hiding places, birds, lots of butterflies and a hawk every now and then floating in the sky above. Occasionally, we'll run across other hikers and their dogs. Hiking with your dog gives you an opportunity to meet other people, and your dog gets a chance to meet other dogs. Plus it's one of the best ways to bond with your pet.

Hiking also provides you with benefits. It's a great way to reduce stress, get rid of your own boredom and get away from the noise of the world. A solitary trail with trees dressed in their best fall coats of color and fresh air all around make it hard to carry the day's burdens in your backpack. Hiking with your dog is just a fun thing to do anytime of the year. It's healthy and adds stimulation to your dog's life as well as your own with a good work out that doesn't feel like exercise. It also helps you and your dog maintain a healthy weight and keeps muscles toned and strong.

There are a few things to remember, however. Know your trail and the animals or snakes you may encounter while hiking. It's also important to know your dog. How well does he respond to you when you call his name if he's excited? If he takes off into the wild spaces and you have to run him down or you spend hours frantically listening for his bark, don't take him off leash. He can still benefit from a hike at your side safely on his leash. Don't forget water for both you and your dog, and it's good to carry a small first aid kit in your pack. Other useful items include a wind up flashlight (no batteries needed), emergency blanket, ace bandage, wooden matches, hunting knife, a compass, a good length of rope, sweatshirt or jacket, a pair of jeans or sweat pants, hat, some food and extra water. I seldom have to use any of the items I carry in my pack when I'm hiking, but it's always best to be prepared and not need them, than wish you had taken the time to plan in advance.

Don't forget your camera for capturing those unique moments you can only find on a beautiful day along a trail. Fall colors will soon begin replacing the greens of summer with signs of the coming winter approaching just around the corner. Go for a hike! It's fun, exhilarating, healthy and time well spent that will benefit you and your dog in more ways than one.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Monday, September 21, 2009

Should People Treat Their Pets Like Children?

By Julia Williams

Several years ago I was actively blogging on another site when a heated debate erupted concerning people who thought of their pets “like children.” A man who evidently did not have pets, had gotten his knickers in a twist over the idea that some people consider their pets a member of their family and – gasp!— akin to children on many levels. He stated that anyone who felt this way was off their rocker and further, that it was an insult to all “real” children. He also said that anyone who referred to their pets as “fur kids” or “fur babies” owed all children an apology.

It made me laugh then, and it makes me laugh now. My cats are “like children” to me, and the idea that it insults human children to feel this way is really quite funny. He’s certainly entitled to think of his own pets however he chooses. But no one has the right to tell anybody how they should feel about their pets, or about anything else for that matter! Moreover, no one has the right to tell a person they are being inappropriate for thinking or feeling in a way that is contrary to their own beliefs or emotions.

I don’t personally see the need to put little bows on dogs or dress them up in cute outfits (except on Halloween which is a whole different story), but I’d never tell a dog owner who did that they were in the wrong. Simply put, I have no right. My moral compass guides me and me alone; it guides only my choices for my pet, and no one else’s.

I firmly believe that if it floats your boat to think of your pets like children and treat them like cherished members of your family, then you should. If it doesn’t, then don’t. As long as there is no cruelty, neglect or harm being done to your pet, it’s nobody’s business.

If celebrating your pet’s birthday with a cake (made from dog food or cat food, of course) and buying them some presents is fun for you, by all means do it. If you want to include your pet in your family portrait or on your holiday card, it’s your prerogative. And why should anyone care if you choose to call yourself their “Mommy” or their “Daddy.” (Incidentally, according to a survey for the American Animal Hospital Association, a whopping 83 percent of pet owners do!).

I was watching a comedy show on TV the other night, when I heard a joke that really made me chuckle. The comedian said: “You can get everything from a dog that you can get from a child, but the dog doesn’t grow up to resent you.” Okay, technically that’s not true, but I still found it funny.

Well, I must go for now, my three children are meowing for some attention from their Mom.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Teaching Your Dog Basic Commands: Come and Stay

By Ruthie Bently

“Come” and “stay” are important commands to teach your dog. They could save your dog’s life. I also teach the command “wait,” which is a variation on the sit/stay command or a long down, though your dog does not have to be in the down position.

I was lucky because Skye was already taught her basic commands when I got her, and was very well behaved. Teaching your dog to come is an easy command. Whether you are teaching a puppy or an adult dog, remember to have patience and only train your dog for fifteen minute intervals. This way they don’t get distracted or bored. As I mentioned in a previous article there are no time limits for training your dog. Each dog learns at their own pace, and you should never rush them or compare their progress to another dog’s progress.

The training tools needed are a collar (regular or choke collar), and a long lead line (cotton or nylon). I do not suggest using a retractable lead for training of any kind, though you could use one in a pinch. I use a twenty foot cotton lead, which is lightweight and easier for me to control, especially when I have a sixty pound dog on the other end. I also have plenty of CANIDAE Snap-Bits treats available, which I love because of their small size.

The “come” command is easier to teach if you have already taught your dog to sit, although it can be taught if your dog has not yet learned to sit. Attach the long lead to your dog’s collar and have them sit. Next, while facing your dog, walk backwards to the end of the lead so it is fully extended between you and your dog. Then call them in a happy voice and say “come” repeatedly until they come. If they don’t immediately get the idea, begin drawing the lead (with dog attached) toward you while you are repeating the word come. After they come to you, whether they do it on their own or with your help, praise them, give them a treat, or a hug and a pat on the head. Keep practicing and training until your dog has this one down.

You can also use the long lead to teach the “stay” command. Put your dog in a “sit” facing you and back away from your dog to the end of the line again, repeating the word stay as you back away. After you get to the end of the leash length, keep repeating the word stay for fifteen to thirty seconds. You want the dog to stay where they are until you give them your release word, which can be as simple as OK. I teach in increments of time beginning with about fifteen seconds and work my way up to one minute. If you go into open obedience classes with your dog, they will need to “stay” for longer than thirty seconds, but remember that your dog’s attention span when teaching a new command may be distracted by something else, so you want to make it easy and fun for them, without them getting bored.

I also teach the command “wait” to my dogs. This is a great command if you are getting your dog ready to go outside, to go for a ride in the car, or if you need to put something on the dog, like a different collar or a coat, sweater or boots. When I was teaching this command to Skye, I began by putting her in a “sit/stay,” which is basically getting your dog to sit, and then giving the stay command. Then you add the “wait” command. As Skye was already trained, I didn’t need to use a long lead; but you can teach it very easily that way. Put your dog in a “sit” and as before back away to the end of the lead’s length. Tell your dog to stay, then add the “wait” command. After your dog learns “wait,” you will not have to use the “stay” command; just put them on a sit and then say “wait” in place of the “stay” command you would use.

It is really a long “sitting stay” the way I use it, but it has come in handy. Most recently I took her with me to her favorite pet store to get her CANIDAE dog food and the cats’ FELIDAE. I have a small truck and while I have her leashed it is a short lead, which is designed to keep her close so she can’t climb out the window. While loading my purchases, Skye decided to get out of the truck. She was still leashed to the truck, but I was worried that she might hurt herself if she pulled on the leash too much. So I told her to wait, which she did. After I got the truck loaded, I unattached her leash while holding her collar, put her back in the truck, re-leashed her and off we went.

I learned this command from a man I used to work with who taught his Labrador Retrievers to sit and “wait” at any street corner or curbside they came up to. This may sound over-simplified, but if you live on a busy street and teach your dog the “wait” command when you get to the curb, this could be all it takes to save your dog’s life if they get out of the house unattended and go shooting for the street. I have come to the conclusion that you can never over-train a dog. They love to learn, and training will always keep them safer than not training them.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Friday, September 18, 2009

Are Cats Smart? Smarter Than Dogs Even?

By Julia Williams

I can hear the dog owners scoffing and the cat owners saying, “Heck yeah!” I’m not really going to get into this age-old debate. For starters, I don’t believe there has ever been a scientific study which clearly proves either species is more intelligent than the other. Dogs and cats are both smart, in different ways. Furthermore, any study done is negated in my eyes by the fact that they are measuring intelligence in terms of what “humans” would do or are capable of. As I see it, you simply can’t measure the intellect of a dog or cat through human means.

Animal behaviorist, cat owner and cat expert Randall Lockwood said it best: “A cat is very smart at being a cat. Does it better than anybody.” If you asked a cat to write an 80-page thesis on nuclear fusion or the synthesis of carbon nanotubes, he would seem pretty dim-witted, wouldn’t he? But if your cat asked you to go out and catch a gopher with your bare hands, without getting so much as a scratch on you, you wouldn’t seem so bright either.

Dog owners often claim that because their canine companion learns commands and tricks much quicker than cats do, this translates to a higher degree of intelligence. However, what they fail to take into account is that dogs are pack animals with a strong desire to please the “top dog,” which coincidentally happens to be the human doing the teaching.

Cats, on the other hand, are inherently solitary creatures that are motivated more by the need to survive than to please. Moreover, felines have survived thousands of years in radically different environments and living conditions, which demonstrates just how crafty and adaptable they are. If we measured an animal’s intelligence solely by the ability to be self-reliant and resourceful, then cats would clearly be smarter than dogs.

Cats are smarter than dogs at cleaning themselves and covering their own waste. But dogs are smarter than cats at understanding “cause and effect” and memorizing commands. Then too, dogs will “protect and serve” but cats rarely work for anyone other than themselves. Cats almost never eat garbage or rotten food, but most dogs will wolf it down and suffer the gastric consequences. But perhaps the most compelling argument in the “cats are smarter than dogs” debate is that dogs are trained by humans, whereas cats train humans to do their bidding. Or, as the saying goes: “Dogs have masters, cats have staff.”

I hope you know that all of this is meant in fun. I’m not championing the intelligence of cats over dogs or vice versa. In the end, I think what it comes down to is this: some cats are smarter than dogs, some dogs are smarter than cats, and all of them are far more intelligent than any human can possibly comprehend. Further, cats and dogs all have the ability to make us laugh with their antics, and to make us want to be close to them every day. That means far more to me than any measure of intelligence.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Is a Goldfish a Pet?

By Anna Lee

There are many people who do not want the responsibility of a dog or a cat, no matter how many times their children beg for one. When you bring a dog or cat into your home it is a huge commitment. Cats are a little easier to deal with, but they still require time, energy and love. A dog takes even more time, and typically, more money. If you’re not ready to add a dog or cat to your family, maybe you can slide by with a goldfish, or perhaps a hamster?

If you lead the type of life that would not allow you to take care of a dog in the proper way, then please do not get a dog because the kids want one. No matter how much they plead and cry it is a bad idea. I think it is very sad when the family gets a puppy and the poor dog is home alone in a crate all day with little to no attention. Then the pup spends most of the evening in a crate while the family is off running errands and attending sporting events.

So if you’ve told your children that there’s no way right now a dog or cat would fit in with your lifestyle, but they keep asking, maybe it’s time for a different approach. You need to instill in them that dogs and cats have many needs. They need to be fed, they need water, they need you to play with them, they need you to make sure they are healthy and have checkups at the vet. The list goes on and on.

Now is the time to say that perhaps in a year or so the family might be in a better position to get a dog. Try to explain what their responsibilities will be when that time comes. Suggest that they work their way up to a dog in stages. If they can prove to be a responsible pet owner with a smaller animal such as a fish or hamster, then you will consider getting a dog.

Suggest that each child can pick out one or two goldfish at the local pet store. Take the kids with you for the purchase, and let them help you pick out a nice size bowl and the accessories. Then approach the large fish tanks and let them each choose the fish. The movement and color will fascinate the kids and hopefully get them interested in having a goldfish as a pet.

Make a big deal out of picking out the fish. The more you play it up the easier it will be for them to accept. Have the salesperson at the store explain to all of you how to care for the fish, and emphasize that they should not overfeed the fish, that the water needs to changed and that they need to pick out names for their fish.

Fish not your thing? Maybe a furry little hamster would do. You can buy a nice big cage and all the accessories and watch the critter run around and play for hours. Hamsters love exercise wheels and can stay inside a wheel for hours on end. You just need to make sure you (or your children) clean the cage weekly and feed it the appropriate food. Pet stores sell hamster food and all the supplies you need. Again, let the store employee give the kids the run down on what is required to take care of a hamster.

A goldfish or a hamster will probably not put an end to your child’s desire to have a dog or a cat. However, these low maintenance pets can be a stepping stone in the learning curve of responsible pet ownership.

Read more articles by Anna Lee

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Breed Profile: Airedale Terrier

By Ruthie Bently

I have met many of the AKC recognized breeds in my long and varied career, and one of the most interesting is the Airedale Terrier. The Airedale should not be confused with the Welsh Terrier, which is also black and tan, but quite a bit smaller and looks like a version of its larger cousin.

The Airedale Terrier is the largest of the recognized terrier breeds. Males stand between 22 and 24 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 50 to 65 pounds. Females are 22 and 23 inches at the shoulder and should tip the scales between 40 and 45 pounds. Airedales have a life span of about twelve years of age. They can be prone to hip dysplasia, bloat, skin infections and degenerative eye conditions.

The Airedale’s coat is medium length and consists of a harsh, wiry top coat with a soft shorter undercoat. They should be tan in color with a black saddle, or have a saddle of black mixed with gray and white, which is called a dark grizzle saddle. Grooming is done with a stripping comb, which is used to remove loose hair and can be very time consuming. When regularly groomed the Airedale may shed very little, but they are not a shed-less breed and do blow their coat with the seasonal weather changes.

The Airedale Terrier has boundless energy and is very alert. Because it was bred as a working dog, it needs plenty of daily exercise. They are good swimmers and love to retrieve objects thrown for them. They are a good breed for agility training, competitive obedience and Schutzhund, and work well as hunters. Before German Shepherds became commonly used as police dogs, many police departments in England and Germany used Airedale Terriers. They have also been used for hunting and rodent control. They can be used for herding livestock, but need proper training, as they have a propensity for chasing things. They need to be kept busy lest they become bored and restless. Like most of the larger breeds, they don’t become adults until the age of about two, so you could have your hands full until then.

Airedales are independent, strong-willed, intelligent, loyal and tenacious. They are loving, and like to be in the middle of any activity. They can be stubborn like many other terrier breeds, so obedience training is a must. While doing research for this article, I learned that they also have a sense of humor. This breed needs a mix of play along with their training regimen, or you will not get the results you desire.

Albert Payson Terhune wrote this about the Airedale: “He is swift, formidable, graceful, big of brain, and ideal chum and guard. To his master he is an adoring pal, to marauders he is a destructive lightning bolt.” Among their other fans are three presidents: Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, all of whom owned Airedales. Two Airedales were among the casualties of the Titanic’s sinking. The author John Steinbeck also owned an Airedale. Perhaps the most famous Airedale owner was movie star John Wayne who reportedly had one named “Little Duke.” Since he didn’t like his own first name (Marion), the story goes that he became “Big Duke” and eventually just “Duke” when making movies.

The Airedale breed came to North America in the 1880’s. The first Airedale to win the Terrier class in New York was named Bruce, and that was around 1881. They were accepted into the Canadian stud book and were recorded in the year of 1888-1889. The Airedale Terrier was developed by working class people in the West Riding of Yorkshire in an area called Aire, which was a valley between the Wharfe and Aire Rivers during the mid-nineteenth century. They were also used by British miners in the area of the Aire River for working in the mines. They crossed the Otterhound with a dog called the English rough-coated Black and Tan Terrier, which we know today as the Welsh Terrier. The Kennel Club of England formally recognized the Airedale Terrier name in 1886. The breed was shown at a dog show sponsored by the Airedale Agricultural Society for the first time in 1864, and were known by many different names including the Waterside Terrier, Bingley and Rough Coated.

During World War I, Airedales were used for mail delivery and carrying messages to soldiers behind enemy lines. They were also used as wartime guard dogs and by the Red Cross for finding soldiers wounded on the battlefields. One story tells of an Airedale named Jack with a message attached to his collar that traversed half a mile of enemy fire to reach headquarters. Even with one leg severely injured and a broken jaw, he got through and delivered his message. There are many such stories of heroism for those four-legged warriors, which protect our troops in times of war. There was even a War Dog Training School established by Lieutenant Colonel Edwin Hautenville Richardson for use with the British Army.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Best Lap Dogs

By Anna Lee

When I was a little girl I wanted a dog that would sit on my lap while I watched TV or read a book. We didn’t get a small dog; we got a Chesapeake Bay Retriever instead. As an adult I wound up with an 80 pound lab that ‘thinks’ she is a lap dog. I have the room for a large dog, both inside and outside, and am a fan of large dogs. Many people, however, would prefer a small dog, and in particular a lap dog.

According to Wikipedia, “A lapdog is a dog that is small enough to be held in the arms or lay comfortably on a person's lap. Lapdogs are not a specific breed, but a generic term for a type of dog of small size and friendly disposition.”

Following are some suggestions for the best lap dogs. If you want your pooch to curl up with you and relax, to keep you company, these dogs will do the trick.

The Pug is affectionate, loving, and has a happy disposition with a wonderful personality. They are sensitive to the tone of your voice. Pugs are very devoted dogs. You do need to let them know that you are the boss as they have a mind of their own. They weigh anywhere from 13 to 20 pounds.

The American Cocker Spaniel is a great choice and a versatile dog that fares well as a gun dog or a house dog. They do need discipline and daily exercise. They respect their master. They are a little difficult to housebreak, but they get along well with other dogs. The Cocker Spaniel can weigh anywhere from 15 to 30 pounds, which is a good weight for lap sitting!

The Toy Poodle is said to be the breed that is the easiest to train. They like to be with people and are perky and lively. Toy Poodles love to run around outside, but once inside they are very calm. They weigh about 6-9 pounds. They need frequent baths, and they need to be clipped every 6 weeks. All that cuteness requires more grooming!

The Whippet looks similar to the Greyhound and is slender but hardy. This breed is intelligent, lively, affectionate, sweet, and docile. This devoted companion is quiet and calm in the home and willing to sit with you. Whippes should never be roughly trained, for they are extremely sensitive both physically and mentally. They are good with children, odor free and extremely clean dogs. At 25-40 pounds, the Whippet is a little bigger than the other lap dogs.

The Lhasa Apso is another adorable little lap dog who is very affectionate with its owners. They have excellent hearing and make wonderful guard dogs for their size! Lhasa Apsos are generally suspicious of strangers and not very well suited to kids, and tend to fight with other dogs. They weigh about 13-15 pounds.

If you are more of a non-exercise type person who enjoys relaxing, then get yourself a cute little lap-lover, curl up while reading a book or watching TV, and while away the time!

Read more articles by Anna Lee

Monday, September 14, 2009

Are All Dogs Descendants of Wolves?

By Linda Cole

Through responsible breeding and centuries of domestication, dogs are certainly man's best friend. But how much of their ancestral instincts have dogs maintained even with continued breeding that has calmed ancient instincts? I sometimes wonder as my dogs lay sleeping if there is a quiet and secret wolf at my side. Are wolves and dogs close relatives?

Scientists have discovered that the DNA of wolves and dogs are identical. They share certain traits as well as a knowledge of pack hierarchy which provides each animal with a place in the pack along with protection and defense of the pack and their territory. Although scientists are uncertain whether man domesticated the dog or they tamed themselves, we do have evidence that dogs have been living with humans for centuries. What is known is that dogs have an instinctive knowledge of their wild counterpart, the wolf.

Wolves and dogs belong to the same family, Canidae, and come from the same species, Canis lupus. All dogs from the tiniest Chihuahua to the massive English Mastiff are related to wolves. Although most dogs look nothing like their wild ancestors, they do share a few qualities that have not been completely lost through responsible breeding.

Like wolves, dogs are loyal, protective of their pack and home, and they want to be near their pack leader. Both dogs and wolves are social animals who want to please the one in charge. But that is where similarities end. Shy and recluse, a wolf's instincts tell him to avoid humans. They would not make a good or safe pet, especially if children are involved. Wolf sightings are rare in the wild and if you are ever blessed with an encounter, you will be among a privileged group.

A pack of wild dogs, on the other hand, are more dangerous than a wolf pack as far as humans are concerned. Wolves prefer the secluded safety of the forests, but wild dogs have no fear of man and are more likely to invade our space as they search for food. Where a wolf pack is stable and more predictable, the wild dogs roaming in packs usually have no clear leader and can be erratic in temperament and reaction to situations they encounter -- including encounters with people.

I've always admired the resilience of wolves, their intensity and intellect to function together as one for the common good of the pack. However, a wolf is not a pet and belongs in the shadow of the mountains and forests. My dogs are pets and in reality, no longer share much of their ancient past. Breeding has removed most wolf tendencies and my sweet dogs have the ability to protect those who make up their pack and give us their loyalty and trust, but have very little in common with today's wolf.

Wolves also differ from dogs in that our pets would not be successful on a hunt. They have lost the concept of working together for the take down. Like wolves, dogs are scavengers if necessity dictates, but most dogs would have a difficult time trying to survive on their own. A dog is described by some animal behaviorists as being similar to an adolescent wolf because our dogs exhibit the same maturity as a young wolf by playing and licking our faces.

In the long run, it doesn't really matter. Even though wolves and dogs belong to the same family, the few traits dogs have retained from their early ancestor is what makes dogs unique in their own right. As I watch my dogs sleeping at my feet with one beside me resting her head on my leg, I know they share the DNA of a wolf, but if there is a wolf hiding inside, they aren't aware of it, and only their dreams hold secrets to an ancestor they no longer know.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Is Your Cat a Tuna Junkie?

By Ruthie Bently

My boyfriend Steven loves to go fishing. We usually eat fish several times a week when the fishing is good. I sometimes give our cats the cooked leftovers of fish, like the skins or heads when we have baked trout, as they love them so much. But did you know tuna fish is dangerous to feed to your cat? Have you ever heard of a “tuna junkie?” That is what a cat that gets addicted to tuna fish is called. Yes, your cat can become addicted to tuna fish, and this addiction can lead to more serious health issues.

The first time I ever heard that a cat could get addicted to tuna fish, I thought it was a joke. Then one of my customers came in with a cat that was a tuna junkie and had to go to the vet hospital because of it. I had to help her get her cat off the tuna fish. This was about twenty years ago, and FELIDAE® Grain Free Salmon cat food hadn’t been invented yet, which would have made my customer’s life a lot easier.

A cat addicted to tuna fish usually will turn down any other food offered. You should never feed any undercooked or raw fish to your cat, as they contain an enzyme called thiaminase. This enzyme can destroy the thiamin in your cat’s body, which can lead to a thiamin deficiency. This can cause neurological problems if left unchecked. Their addiction to tuna fish can also make them nervous or aggressive to their owners or other pets in the household.

Tuna fish is high in mineral salts, which can lead to bladder stones in your cat. If you are only feeding your cat canned tuna fish, it can also lead to a Vitamin E deficiency, which in turn can lead to a health issue known as steatitis – also known as Yellow Fat Disease. This inflammatory disease causes the fat in a cat’s body to harden, and can be extremely painful.

A little tuna treat once in a great while will not harm your cat. Just make sure that canned tuna is not a staple of their diet. You can help your cat stay healthy and address their craving for fish at the same time by feeding them the new formula of FELIDAE Grain Free Salmon cat food. They’ll get to enjoy the taste of fish that most cats seem to really love, but in a premium cat food that is good for them. You can buy this cat food at your local independent pet shop, and I’m certain that you and your cat will be glad you did!

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Friday, September 11, 2009

For 9/11: A Special Tribute to Search and Rescue Dogs

By Julia Williams

September 11, 2001 will always be remembered as the day two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. When the Twin Towers collapsed, they created a mountainous heap of smoldering rubble that burned for months. Countless firefighters and rescue workers risked their lives to search for survivors in the Ground Zero wreckage. Among them were an estimated 250 to 300 K-9 search and rescue dogs and their handlers.

I thought it fitting that on this fateful day, we take a moment to pay tribute to the heroic efforts of these amazing canines that have helped humankind for so many years. Beyond the 9/11 disaster, search and rescue (SAR) dogs have come to our aid during hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and other calamities. Although most of the handlers maintain that their search and rescue dogs are just doing the job they were trained to do, many people – dog lovers and the general public alike – regard them as extraordinary.

Disaster response dogs are called upon to work under the most extreme conditions, in highly dangerous and often toxic environments. Most of the K-9 teams at the World Trade Center disaster site rotated on 12 hour work shifts. The SAR dogs bravely dug in the fiery rubble at Ground Zero despite getting their feet singed by white-hot debris. They courageously nosed through the noxious smoke and dust despite its potential to harm their lungs. Who among us mere mortals could withstand such an ordeal? Not I, which is why I consider these dogs to be heroes of the highest order.

Many different dog breeds are used in search and rescue operations, but they typically come from the herding, hunting or working breeds. Some of the more common SAR dogs are German Shepherds, Bloodhounds, Golden Retrievers, Border Collies and the Belgian Malinois. More important than the specific breed, however, is the dog’s disposition. Each search and rescue dog has its own unique set of skills and endurance abilities, but all are hard-working and focused on the task at hand.

I recently came across a wonderful book on this subject, titled DOG HEROES of September 11th: A Tribute to America's Search and Rescue Dogs. Written by Nona Kilgore Bauer and the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, this oversized pictorial book is a riveting account of search and rescue work, and the dogs that play such a vital part in it. Profiles of various SAR teams show them hard at work at Ground Zero and the Pentagon, accompanied by descriptions of what they are doing. This is a very moving book, and a must-read for all dog lovers.

The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) is a non-profit organization founded in 1996 and based in Ojai, California. According to their website, their mission is to “strengthen disaster response in America by recruiting rescued dogs and partnering them with firefighters and other first responders to find people buried alive in the wreckage of disasters.” There are currently 69 SDF-trained search teams located in California, Florida, New York, Oklahoma, and Utah. SDF offers the professionally trained canines at no cost to fire departments, and they ensure lifetime care for every dog in their program. If you would like to support on-going search canine efforts, contact the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation at 888-4-K9-HERO.

In memory of 9/11, please join me as I pay homage to all the remarkable search and rescue dogs that help us when disaster strikes. These dogs provide an invaluable service that saves lives, and they deserve our utmost respect.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why Donate to the ASPCA and Local Shelters?

By Linda Cole

Pet owners understand the cost associated with caring for their pet or pets. Food, vaccinations, flea control, toys, beds and medical assistance when needed – it all adds up far too quickly sometimes. Shelters deal with financial challenges every day. Regardless of whether our economy is up or down, abandoned and lost pets who have found their way to any shelter need the continued generosity of others for food, shelter and medical care. “No kill” shelters are located in most states, and costs can be staggering. Fortunately, pet food companies like CANIDAE donate food to shelters to help out. However, most shelters still rely on the generosity of individuals who can donate money to help pay for everyday expenses, medical treatments and medications for those animals who are sick.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was founded in 1866 to fight for the rights of animals, both domesticated and wild. It is the oldest and first organization of its kind that gives animals a voice and has continued to fight for stricter laws against abuse and cruelty against all animals. They also share their resources with shelters throughout the United States.

We have a small local shelter that no longer accepts unwanted or stray pets simply because of a small yearly budget and not enough space. Our shelter helps local residents pay for spaying and neutering so money is extremely tight for them. They do receive donations of food, which is a big help, and they are passionate about promoting spaying and neutering to help reduce the number of kittens and puppies born that may become the next generation of homeless pets. Most no kill shelters and the ASPCA actively promote and educate the public on the importance of responsible pet ownership to help people understand why they should alter their pet. In order to help our shelter, which is at full capacity, a handful of us try to take in pets needing a home. Sometimes it's only for a short period until that pet can be placed in a new home, but usually we become their new caretakers. So I understand the cost associated with caring for multiple pets.

Money isn't the only way you can donate to the ASPCA or local shelters. You can help out by giving your local shelter time. You could be asked to help with office work, organize donation campaigns, groom pets, unload donations of pet food, exercise dogs, play with pets, clean cages or even be a foster parent for a pet needing some TLC after an illness or surgery. Time is just as important and appreciated as money if you can't make a cash donation. Shelters depend on volunteers to help stretch their yearly budgets.

The ASPCA is at the forefront in the fight against animal cruelty. Stricter laws imposed on those who are found guilty of being cruel to pets are largely due to the work done by the ASPCA and other organizations. Shutting down puppy mills is a never ending fight and the ASPCA is doing everything in their power to educate people on how to spot a puppy mill and help get them shut down.

Why donate to the ASPCA and local shelters? Because they need as much help as they can get to give lost or abandoned pets a temporary home until a responsible and loving home can be found. The work these organizations perform on a daily basis has saved the lives of countless pets and will continue to do so as long as we continue to support them in their passionate cause of saving as many lives as possible. Cats and dogs don't ask us for a lot. Yet they give us everything they have in the form of unconditional love. The least we can do for them is help out the organizations who have dedicated their lives to help unwanted and abandoned pets have a safe, warm home of their own, whether it be temporary or permanent.

Please donate what you can, whenever you can –money, your time or both if possible. The life that you save with a donation could be your own pet if he/she were to ever become lost. Visit the ASPCA website for more information or to make a donation.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tips for Socializing a Puppy

By Ruthie Bently

Every dog training book I have ever read has chapters about socializing your puppy. After living with a dog that was not properly socialized when she was younger, I understand the importance of socializing a puppy. You don’t want to live with a dog that barks at the mailman and delivery people. Or one that barks at every sound they hear outside, whether it’s your kids playing in your yard or a loud car stereo going by.

On the other hand, a dog that has not been socialized can also be a “Nervous Nellie” and may go hide in another room or under a piece of furniture. They can even be afraid of sounds inside the house, like the vacuum cleaner, dishwasher or clothes dryer. In a worst case scenario, they can become aggressive to other dogs or strangers that visit your home. So it is important to begin socializing your puppy as soon as you bring them home. But how do you go about it?

There are several ways to help you socialize a new puppy, and they don’t take a lot of effort. One good way is to enroll them in a puppy obedience class as early as possible, but make sure they’ve had all their shots first. Your puppy will get to meet other dog breeds, and by interacting with them will learn not to be nervous or fearful around them. When I took my first AmStaff to obedience class, I asked how many other dogs would be in his class. Since he was a younger, smaller dog, I wanted to get him into a class with fewer dogs. A smaller class is good because you can get more hands-on socializing, without overwhelming your new puppy.

The veterinarian’s office is also a good place for your puppy to have new experiences. They have a chance to interact with other pets and meet the vet and their staff. When you make your puppy’s first vet appointment, let the person you speak with know that you are bringing a new puppy, and that you would like help in socializing them. By having the vet and their staff make a fuss over your dog, your dog will learn that there is another place they are welcome to go and meet friendly people.

What about your local pet shop – are dogs allowed there? I managed one store in Illinois and we encouraged new puppy owners to bring in their dogs for a meet and greet. We asked for three things: 1) the puppy had to have a leash and collar (or harness) on; 2) we were allowed to give the puppy a cookie; 3) they should walk the puppy thoroughly before they brought it in to prevent “accidents.”

The place was large enough to negotiate with a puppy (or an adult dog), and the puppy got to help pick out their own toys and had fun being able to go into a store. Not only that, there were lots of people available (both workers and customers) to fawn over the puppy.

You can get your friends and family members involved in socializing your puppy too. Have a “meet the puppy” party, and supply puppy-sized treats in a dish by the door. CANIDAE Snap-Bits® are great for this; they are a perfect size, with a pleasant flavor, and they don’t have too many calories. Have the puppy next to you by the door and after the bell rings or they knock, open the door and hand the guest a treat for the puppy. If feeding your puppy between meals makes you uncomfortable, have the arriving guest get down on the puppy’s level and put out their hand for the puppy to smell, speaking to the puppy in a friendly voice and then have them pet the puppy. You can also ask a friend or family member with a dog to come over and meet your puppy. This way your puppy gets to meet other dogs in a safe arena under your supervision.

Are there any businesses in your town that hand out dog biscuits? Our bank has a treat jar right next to the lollipop jar at the drive through. Skye loves going for rides in the car, though I don’t take her with me when it is too hot or too cold out. By taking your dog for rides in the car when you can, they get used to going in the car and may be less apt to get carsickness, as it could be stress related. The dog park is a good place to meet dogs, but I recommend checking it out first before taking your new puppy. Go to the dog park and meet some of the other dogs’ owners, as well as the dogs, and see if you think your puppy is socialized well enough for that.

By following these simple ideas for socializing your puppy, you can meet new people and your puppy can make new friends as well. Nothing could be finer!

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pet Friendly Businesses and Fun Destinations

By Anna Lee

Thinking of going to the beach? Taking a day trip or mini vacation? If you’re wondering what to do with your dog, you will be pleased to know there are many businesses, parks, restaurants, and beaches that welcome your four-legged friend. More and more locations are jumping on the bandwagon too. I guess dog and cat lovers are finally making their wants and needs known, and businesses are listening. Thank you!

Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas County, Florida

A vacation at the beach sounds good to me. Being able to find a place to let my dog Abby run free would make it that much better. Fort De Soto Park is one of six ‘Paw Playgrounds’ in Pinellas County that are dog friendly. Fort De Soto is a 2 acre fenced park that has 200 yards of soft white sand for your dog to run and play on. Pack yourself a picnic lunch and bring along some CANIDAE Snap-Biscuit® treats for the dog, and enjoy a fun day at the beach! What could be better than that? For more information, including maps and a virtual tour of the dog park check out their website.

Nashville, TN

Traveling to Nashville soon and taking the family dog with you? You won’t be alone. Nashville is going to the dogs, and they don’t have to be country music fans – but it helps! Nashville has a fantastic dog friendly park system, with three dog parks that are open from dawn to dusk. Check out the Nashville Dog Parks by logging onto their website. The site offers lots of information on hours of operation and what they expect from their visitors.

There are also several Nashville restaurants that allow pets to dine with their owners at outside tables. You must realize that Fido can only join you at the outdoor tables, no dogs allowed inside the restaurants. Check out: 12 South Tap Room, Jackson’s Bar and Bistro and Calypso Café at this website.

Don’t hold back on a hotel – book the Lowe’s Vanderbilt Hotel which is not only dog and cat friendly, but offers doggie and kitty room service, plus gifts for your pet! They also have pet sitting and pet walking services available. It is quite an impressive hotel, and the fact that it’s pet friendly is even more impressive to me. Check out their website and decide if you and your pet would like to vacation in the lap of luxury. Photos of the hotel and information on their other amenities can be found here.

Lowe’s also has a pet friendly hotel at their Cornado Bay, CA location where your dog can learn to surf. A night’s lodging and surfing lessons is expensive. At $449 a night they won’t be seeing Abby and me any time in the future!

America’s Favorite Past Time - Baseball

Did you know you can take your dog to the ball field with you, on a specific pet friendly day that is! This event started in 1996 when the White Sox offered the fist “Dog Day” and was an instant success. Some of the festivities include parades, various competitions, vendors with products and services, and many of these events are fundraisers for animal related organizations. The thrill of the day is being able to have you dog sit with you in a special dog section and watch the game! Just a few examples: the Atlanta Braves have “Bark in the Park,” the St. Louis Cardinals have “Pooches in the Ballpark” and the San Francisco Giants have “Dog Days of Summer.” Check with your baseball team’s particular website to find out more about these special dog days.

Vacations no longer mean leaving the dog or cat at home. Doors are opening and it makes me smile to think I could take Abby to a great beach in Florida and a fantastic park in Nashville, or enjoy a ballgame together. What a life!

Read more articles by Anna Lee

Monday, September 7, 2009

23 Ways to Be a Responsible Pet Owner

By Julia Williams

We talk a lot about responsible pet ownership in this blog, for obvious and perhaps not-so-obvious reasons. For starters, our sponsor is CANIDAE All Natural Pet Foods, a company that is wholly committed to helping people be the very best pet owners they can be. Hence, we write about responsible pet ownership because it fits perfectly with that commitment, and it’s such an important topic. We also feel that being a responsible pet owner is an intrinsic part of animal companionship.

Our pets depend on us to provide the basics of proper nutrition and care. But being a responsible pet owner goes so much deeper than that. Pet ownership is not something one should ever enter into lightly or “in the spur of the moment.” Why not? Because when you bring a pet into your home and your life, you are making a lifetime commitment.

When you adopt a pet, it becomes your responsibility to provide them with everything they need to be healthy, happy, safe, well adjusted and well behaved. It’s your responsibility to teach them how to be good feline and canine citizens. And lastly, it’s your responsibility to give them an abundance of love. When you meet their emotional needs – which just might be the most vital aspect of responsible pet ownership – your dog or cat will repay you a thousand fold.

I’ve used the letters of ‘Responsible Pet Ownership’ to impart 23 ways you can take good care of your four-legged friend.

Recognize that pets require a long-term commitment of time and money.
Every family member should take an active role in caring for pets.
Shower your pet with love and hugs every moment you can.
Pet proof your home: lock up medicines, cleaners and breakables.
Obesity is preventable with a proper diet and plenty of exercise.
Never let your dog ride untethered in the open bed of a pickup truck.
Schedule a “wellness check” for your pet at least once a year.
Identification tags and micro-chips are a lost pet’s ticket back home.
Be kind to your pet every day, in every way.
Let your pet sleep on your bed if it makes you happy.
Exercise is vital for good health and maintaining a proper weight.

People food is not meant for pets, so give it sparingly if at all.
Emergencies happen: be prepared with a disaster plan and supplies.
Take precautions to keep your pet safe on July 4th and Halloween.

Obedience training can help your dog be a better “canine citizen.”
When in doubt about your pet’s care, consult your veterinarian.
Nails need trimming, teeth need cleaning and coats need grooming.
Elderly pets need special care and extra-vigilant owners.
Respect leash laws, vaccination laws and registration laws.
Spay or neuter to prolong their life and prevent unwanted litters.
Hire a pet sitter when you go away on vacation or business trips.
Invest in premium quality pet food for good health and longevity.
Pets deserve the very best care, and they depend on you to provide it!

P.S. This September, hundreds of AKC affiliated clubs and other dog organizations will be celebrating AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day nationwide. Rather than designate one particular day to promote responsible pet ownership, they’ve earmarked the entire month of September – even better! You can join the fun by attending an event in your area. Simply visit the AKC website to find a listing of events in your state.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Famous Felines Worth Remembering

By Julia Williams

Humans and cats have had a relationship for a very long time. Although domestication of the cat is commonly thought to have occurred in Egypt about 4,000 years ago, archaeological evidence of a homo sapien/feline connection actually dates to around 8,000 years. According to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the bones of cats, mice and humans were found together on the island of Cyprus. Regardless, felines have been companions of the rich and poor, the famous and infamous. Out of curiosity, I did some research on famous felines. Here then, are a few worth remembering.

Orangey was a feline movie star whose most famous performance was that of ‘Cat’ in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. This orange-and-black tabby got his first big break in Rhubarb, a 1951 movie about an eccentric millionaire who adopts a feisty feral cat. Orangey was rumored to be hard to work with, and so short-tempered that even his owner didn’t like him. However, Orangey did win two Patsy Awards (Picture Animal Top Star of the Year) for his catty performances, so perhaps his purr-sonality was not so unpleasant after all. Orangey also appeared with Jackie Gleason in Gigot (1962) and in the 1950s sitcom Our Miss Brooks.

Spot, another fine feline actor, rose to fame as a recurring character on the television series, Star Trek The Next Generation. Despite the name, Spot did not have any spots. Spot originally appeared as a male Somali cat, but later appeared as a female orange tabby. This led to speculation that Spot was actually a shape-shifter or victim of a transporter accident. Spot, however, has not commented publicly on either possibility. Spot did get to dine at the White House though, and his rabid fans sent him furry mice by the dozen.

Morris catapulted to fame as the finicky ‘spokescat’ for Purina 9 Lives. This 15-pound orange tabby lived up to his nickname ‘Lucky’ when he was rescued from an Illinois shelter by professional animal trainer, Bob Martwick. Morris made 58 TV commercials for 9 Lives from 1969 until his death in 1978. Morris would snippily turn up his nose at any cat food offered to him, except 9 Lives of course. Morris also starred in 1973's Shamus, which led Time Magazine to dub him the ‘Feline Burt Reynolds.’ Morris was named Animal Star of the Year three times by US Magazine, and his ad agency (the Leo Burnett company) staged mock campaigns running him for President in 1988 and 1992 on the Finicky Party Platform. Whew—that Morris was one busy cat!

Former ‘First Cat’ Socks was a black-and-white stray who was adopted in 1991 by Chelsea Clinton. In 1993 Socks moved to the White House with the Clinton family, where he spent eight years prowling the presidential halls and being photographed with visiting heads of state. Socks also appeared on an episode of the popular sitcom Murphy Brown, and inspired two books. When President Clinton left Washington in 2001, Socks went to live with his personal secretary Betty Currie in Maryland, at her request. Socks passed away in February at the age of 20 after battling throat cancer. "Socks brought much happiness to Chelsea and us over the years, and enjoyment to kids and cat lovers everywhere," the Clintons said in a statement.

Baker and Taylor were famous ‘library cats’ that were the pride of their Minden, Nevada library. People came from far and away to see this popular pair of Scottish Fold cats, who were immortalized on posters, tote bags and other merchandise. They even had their own fan club. When patrons asked if they could check out the cats, the librarian reportedly quipped that they were “for reference only.” Another famous library cat was Dewey Readmore Books, a handsome marmalade tabby who resided at the public library in Spencer, Iowa for 19 years, until his death in 2006. This wee scruffy kitten was found in the book return chute, cold and barely alive yet purring up a storm. Dewey’s story inspired a best-selling book, and a film is sure to follow.

Precious, a white Himalayan-Persian cat, lived on Liberty Street about a block away from the World Trade Center in New York. Her owners were away when the September 11, 2001 attacks occurred. When they returned, they weren’t allowed to enter their badly damaged building. Eighteen days later, animal rescuers heard meowing, and found a shivering, scared Precious on the roof of the 12-story building. Precious was dehydrated and her eyes were injured, but was otherwise in good shape for a cat who’d survived that long without food or water.

Scarlett was perhaps the most famous feline of all, which is why I’ve saved her for last. I’m sure you will remember the touching true story of how this heroic mother cat rescued her five kittens one by one from a burning Brooklyn building, badly scorching herself in the process. It was April of 1996 when firefighters witnessed Scarlett’s courage and amazing act of motherly love as, again and again, she went into the blazing building to get her 4-week old kittens. One kitten did not survive, but the remaining four, as well as Scarlett herself, recuperated and were adopted by loving families. Scarlett died in 2008, but not before her bravery was immortalized in a wonderful and inspiring book titled Scarlett Saves Her Family. I have just one word to say to anyone who believes that animals do not have souls: Scarlett.

Read more articles by Julia Williams
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