Thursday, December 31, 2009

Do Dogs and Cats Like to Be Hugged?


By Linda Cole

To us, a hug is a natural human reaction that shows affection. We don't hesitate to throw our arms around the neck of a special friend or family member we haven't seen in a long time. Unfortunately, our pets aren't human and probably have no understanding of what a hug means. When we give our dogs and cats hugs, it won't ruin a friendship but we might have just ruined the moment for them. Hugs can be a touchy situation for most pets.

Cats and dogs use body language to interpret the intentions of other cats and dogs. Dogs understand social order in the pack and which actions signal dominance and aggression. When one dog puts a leg over the back or shoulder of another dog or mounts him with both legs on his back, this is showing that the dog on top has dominance over the other one.

There's a similar social order for cats, but it's defined more by the sex of the cat and reproductive status. A pregnant female has a higher social rank than a neutered male. It's also more complicated than the dog hierarchy because it can change depending on where the cat resides. For cats who live with humans, we are seen as the alpha if we are providing for their care. The one who cleans their cat pan and feeds them, as far as they are concerned, is the boss. However, cats and dogs view hugs in about the same way.

Cats can be more standoffish than dogs; that's just their independent nature. Like dogs, cats feel threatened by other cats and even their human standing over them, especially if eye contact is being made. In both the dog and cat world, eye contact can mean aggression and most cats become uncomfortable when we stare at them. When we wrap our arms around our pet's neck to give them hugs, most pets would prefer that we didn’t, if they had a choice. That's one area where dogs and cats do agree.

Like dogs, most cats don't like the confining feeling that comes with one of our loving embraces. A cat will react in the same way as a dog when we drop our hand down toward their head. It's seen as an aggressive move on our part. A cat will generally let you know when they want attention, and it's usually on their terms. Plus, very few cats or dogs like to be held down against their will which leaves them with a feeling of no control over the situation.

Of course we want to give dogs and cats hugs, and some pets do seem to enjoy them. The more pets trust and respect us, the more apt they are to “allow” us to wrap our arms around them in an embrace. But since there are no hugs in their world, they are confused about what it is or how they should respond to one. So they react accordingly.

Children should be taught to never hug dogs or cats they don’t know. When hugging a family pet, they need to be careful not to squeeze the pet too hard. For most dogs, the shorter the hug, the better. Like us, they need their space, and when we wrap our arms around their necks, we are violating their space. We don't like having someone standing with their face close to ours during a conversation and that's how it likely feels to a dog. You know your dog better than anyone else. It's up to us as pack leader to help our dogs understand that hugs are not threatening and that we mean them no harm. Dogs and cats who trust their owners are more likely to tolerate hugs.

There's nothing wrong with giving your dog or cat a loving embrace. I hug mine all the time. Some pets do seem to enjoy a hug now and then as long as we don't get carried away with our affection. By all means, hug your pet! Just keep it short and sweet because even though we enjoy hugging our pets, for the most part, it's not their favorite way to spend time with us.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tips on Finding a Reputable Breeder


By Ruthie Bently

If you’re looking for a new dog or cat and want a purebred, do you know what to look for? Do you know which questions you should ask to help you choose the right pet? If you’re not sure what breed you want, going to a dog or cat show is a great way to find out. At a show you can look at the different breeds, talk to the breeders and find out if a pet you are considering would be a good fit for you. If you have already decided on a certain breed of dog or cat, finding a reputable breeder is fairly easy. The best advice I can give you is to remember to do your homework.

Don’t buy a particular breed simply because your children are begging you for the dog they saw in a movie. You need to make sure that the breed you choose is going to fit into your family and your lifestyle. Many Dalmatians ended up in shelters after the 101 Dalmatians movie came out because people found out that they didn’t have either the patience or energy to keep up with that breed.

Go to your local library and check out a cat or dog breed book and read about the breeds that are available. A reputable cat breeder won’t let you purchase a cat if they know it will be spending its time out in the barn hunting for its food. And no reputable dog breeder is going to let you chain one of their dogs to a dog house and leave it to fend for itself. A good breeder wants their animals taken care of; you should be aware that you are bringing home an animal for their lifetime and need to provide for them in a proper manner.

If any of your friends or family members have a purebred you like, ask them where they got it, how the pet’s health is and what they think of the breeder. Check with your veterinarian and ask them if they know of any reputable breeders. CANIDAE has links to reputable breeders on their website. You can also check the American Kennel Club website for a list of dog breeders. If you are looking for a purebred cat, the Cat Fanciers’ Association website can help.

Beware of “backyard breeders” (also called puppy mills). They breed dogs and list them in newspapers and on the Internet to make an easy dollar. The problem is they are not looking to breed a quality dog; they are breeding for quantity because the more dogs they breed the more money they make. While I have not heard much about “kitty mills” I am sure they exist. These animals can have many genetic and health issues because of their breeding, and that cute bundle of fluff you bring home can cost you thousands in vet bills down the road.

Reputable breeders can be found in the classifieds of your local paper, but they will have a list of qualifications for you; they don’t sell their animals to just anyone. They want to make sure you can take care of the pet you choose in a manner that is up to the standards they themselves will approve of. They also want to make sure you can handle the dog or cat you purchase.

Once you find a prospective breeder, there are several things you should ask them. Such as, are the parents on the premises, and can you see them? How old does your pet have to be, before you can take it home? Does the pet come with a health guarantee? (See my previous article for more questions you should ask a prospective breeder.) A reputable breeder will have requirements for you as well. Will the breeder want you to show this dog or cat? If the answer is yes, and the dog or cat becomes a champion, will the breeder want to breed the pet you have chosen?

I have had American Staffordshire Terriers since 1981. I had a personal relationship with the breeder before I ever considered getting one, and though I enjoyed all the dogs she and her husband brought into my store to socialize, I never thought I would give my life to this breed. Once I had my first one, however, I couldn’t imagine sharing my life with any other breed.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How to Stop Wool Sucking in Cats


By Julia Williams

I had a gray tabby cat named Binky who was the sweetest, most affectionate feline I’ve ever known. Binky was my kitty companion for 19 years, and I loved her dearly. But Binky had a bizarre habit – she sucked on my blankets and sweaters until they became a soggy mess. Like countless other cat owners confronted with such odd behavior, I thought something must be mentally wrong with Binky. Should Binky see a cat therapist, I wondered? I opted to consult with my vet instead, who informed me that Binky’s behavior was actually fairly common. It even had a name: wool sucking.

What causes wool sucking in cats?

Some cats, like Binky, become fixated with sucking, licking or chewing on fabrics. Because wool is generally the fabric of choice, this behavior became known as wool sucking. Although there is no definitive answer as to why cats engage in wool sucking, it is believed to be a misdirected, compulsive behavior related to nursing and too-early weaning of kittens. Genetics may also play a part. Although many people wonder if there might be something missing in the cat's diet that causes them to be wool suckers, my vet said this was highly unlikely.

For survival reasons, a young kitten’s drive to nurse is quite strong. Healthy kittens nurse vigorously until they are about six to seven weeks old. After that, the momma cat usually rebuffs the kittens when they try to nurse, until they are completely weaned and eating solid food on their own. As the kitten grows older and naturally progresses to solid food, their drive to nurse fades. But in some cases, when a kitten experiences abrupt early weaning while their nursing drive is still strong, they may turn to non-nutritional substitutes that have the same feel as Mom, such as that soft wool blanket on your bed.

Is wool sucking dangerous for your cat?

Wool sucking is a strange behavior, to be sure. Having spittle -soaked blankets is no picnic either. But is wool sucking harmful to your cat? As long as the behavior stays at the wool sucking stage and doesn’t progress to the chewing and swallowing stage, it may not be a problem that requires intervention on your part. The kitten may also outgrow the behavior in time. If they don’t, and the wool sucking turns to chewing and swallowing, the behavior could be dangerous for your cat because they could suffer intestinal obstruction from the ingested fabric.

What can you do about wool sucking?

As I said, sometimes the wool sucking will subside on its own. It may go away completely, or your kitten or cat may only engage in wool sucking in times of stress or conflict. If your cat engages in wool sucking, the right course of action would be to have your cat examined by your veterinarian to rule out any medical causes for the behavior. Then, depending upon what your vet recommends, you may want to consider consulting with a cat behaviorist.

If your vet feels that your cat’s wool sucking is endangering its health, they may suggest one of the following treatments:

Aversion – If your cat only sucks on one or two objects, you can try a pet deterrent spray. Just be sure to test it on a small, inconspicuous area first to make sure it won't harm the fabric.

Eliminate or reduce sources of stress for your cat – Some possible stressors include: separation anxiety, conflicts with other cats and dogs in your household, neighborhood cats coming into your yard, rowdy visitors and loud noises.

Redirect the wool-eating – When you see your cat chomping on your favorite sweater or blanket, offer it something else to suck on, such as a fuzzy sock or a soft cat toy.

Drug Therapy – Your veterinarian may prescribe medication such as anti-anxiety or anti-depressants.

Discourage the behavior – If you catch your cat in the act of wool sucking, gently tap them on the nose and say, "No" in a firm voice. You can also help to discourage the wool sucking by not giving them access to the objects they like to suck on. For example, keep all clothes picked up and put away, and always make your bed so the blanket is covered up.

I found Binky in my backyard when she was only about five weeks old, so the theory that wool sucking is caused by abrupt early weaning makes sense to me. Binky never did outgrow the wool sucking behavior completely, but since she did it less frequently as she got older and never progressed to wool eating, I viewed it more as an annoyance rather than a problem which required treatment. As in all cases where your cat exhibits strange behavior, you should discuss it with your vet to determine if treatment is necessary.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Monday, December 28, 2009

How to Stop Puppy Biting Before It's a Problem


By Linda Cole

Most puppies gnaw, chew and bite everything in sight, including our fingers, hands and toes. They have an unlimited supply of energy when they are awake, with a playful spirit that only adds to their cuteness. Puppy biting may seem innocent enough, but if it isn't addressed early, a bigger and more aggressive adult dog could accidentally hurt a family member during play. It's up to us as the pack leader to set rules and limitations for our dogs, and it’s important to stop puppy biting before it becomes a problem. Luckily, there's a simple solution that's safe and harmless for the pup, and easy to learn.

The first step in stopping the behavior is to understand why puppies bite. Each dog has to learn their place in the social order of the pack. Puppies play fight and bite their litter mates in order to determine where they fit in. A more aggressive biter is showing he is more dominant which could make it harder to stop your puppy from biting.

As the pack leader, it's up to us to teach a dog what our pack rules are as soon as possible. Nipping and grabbing hands or noses during play may seem cute until someone gets hurt. It's best to correct now what will be unacceptable behavior when the pup grows up. Consistency, patience, staying calm and never hitting the dog is the key to training a puppy or an older dog. We may have a dog's unconditional love, but we also want his respect and trust. If you lose your dog's respect and trust, it will be a constant battle every time you try to teach him anything.

It may take some time to teach your puppy not to bite. Normally, this can be accomplished in two weeks up to a couple of months, so don't give up. The first thing to remember is not to scare the puppy. You want to correct a behavioral problem, not make him afraid of you. Every time your puppy bites or attempts to bite your hand, look directly at him and say “Hey” or “No” in a stern voice. Don't use your hands to push him away. He thinks your hands are paws and you are still playing. Break eye contact with him and turn your side to him or simply get up and walk away. By ignoring him and leaving the puppy with no one to play with, you are teaching him that biting is unacceptable. This is how he learns what you expect and what behavior is acceptable. When he plays nicely and doesn't bite, be sure to praise him for good behavior.

For most puppies, walking away from them works well. If you have a more stubborn pup, you may need to be more assertive to stop them from biting. If after a couple of weeks he still bites, continue with the stern “No” or “Hey” and if he doesn't stop, use a spray bottle filled with water and squirt him on the nose. It won't hurt him and the sudden spray should get his attention. If he continues to bite, give him another squirt and then get up and leave or turn away from him. He will learn that if he wants to continue playing, he can't bite. Of course you need to remember that a dog at any age will use his mouth or bite to communicate with other members of his pack and we are considered part of the pack. Sometimes a nip is meant to tell us something important we need to pay attention to.

Any puppy or dog training needs to be done while you are calm and patient. If you get excited, so will the puppy. Just like kids, dogs need direction so they can understand what is expected from them. Consistent and calm repetition is the best way for your puppy to learn. Make sure everyone in the family uses the same method to stop your puppy from biting.

A puppy has sharp little teeth and can do a lot of damage, especially if they chomp down on a child's hand. The sooner you stop a puppy from biting, the better. Never yell at or hit your pup because this can lead to other behavior problems as they grow into adults, and you risk losing their trust and respect. He's only behaving like a normal puppy should. It's our job to teach him that although we love him, there are things we, as his pack leader, won't accept and biting is one of them. Most puppy biting will cease naturally as they get older. But if it doesn't, you need to stop it before it becomes a problem.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Breed Profile: Basenji (Congo Dog)


By Ruthie Bently

The Basenji is a small hunting dog native to Africa (also known as the Congo dog). The African natives used it for driving game into nets and for pointing, as well as retrieving wounded game. It was also used to warn about dangerous animals in the forest and as a guide. These traits helped the dog in the field as they were frequently out of the hunter’s sight. Their silence, adaptability and courage, as well as their speed and power, were prized as an asset in a productive hunt.

The Basenji has a short coat. They are known as a barkless dog, but depending on their mood will crow, howl or growl and when they are excited they “yodel.” They are a member of the AKC’s hound group; they hunt by using both scent and sight and were recognized in 1944. The first Basenjis were given to ancient Pharaohs of Egypt as gifts, and a Basenji-like dog has been seen on wall drawings and in Egyptian tombs dated to five thousand years ago.

The Basenji breed has some habits more reminiscent of a cat than a dog, as they are fastidious and can spend hours cleaning themselves. They have also been seen sitting on the back of furniture to look out a window. They lack a “doggy” odor and are a low shedding dog, which endears them to their fans.

Basenjis were taken to Britain in 1895 but contracted distemper and died. In 1937 they were taken to Britain again, as well as the United States. The pair imported into the US was able to have a litter of puppies, but all except one male died from distemper. A female was imported to Boston, MA in 1941; she was bred with the surviving male and their litter lived. In subsequent years more Basenji dogs were imported from Britain and Canada, which helped further the breed in the United States.

Basenjis usually live between ten and thirteen years although one lived to the age of twenty-two. The weight for a male dog is between 22 and 26 pounds (10 to 12 kg) and their height is between 16 and 17 inches (41 to 43 cm). Females should weigh between 20 to 25 pounds (9 to 11 kg) and their height should be between 15 and 16 inches (38 to 41 cm).

The Basenji is known as an independent, curious, alert, energetic and affectionate breed that loves to play. There are cautions about having them in a household with non-canine pets, but they do well in multiple Basenji households. They need to be socialized from an early age, are very intelligent with a desire to please, and are fairly easy to train. They do well with children and will form a strong bond with their owner though will be naturally reserved and aloof with strangers.

When introducing a Basenji to new people you should let the dog make the first overtures and approach them head on and not from behind. They need exercise daily to release pent up energy and do not easily tire when playing. They are chewers and should be provided with lots of options so as not to chew inappropriate items around the house.

They are known as climbers and are not averse to scaling a chain link fence. When curious, a Basenji will often stand on their hind legs, and they’re known to be able to jump over six feet straight up. Basenjis are very smart and need an owner who knows how to be the “alpha” dog, or they can become unruly and demanding. If they are exercised enough, a Basenji can be kept in an apartment or in a house with a small yard and would do well with a long daily jaunt.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Friday, December 25, 2009

Season's Greetings From CANIDAE!

All of us here at the Responsible Pet Ownership Blog and CANIDAE All Natural Pet Foods would like to extend our warmest wishes to all of you and your pets for a Joyous Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!


pictured: From Left Top: Jason, Julie, Carl, Diane, Sarah, Mike. Bottom: Kristine, Johnny, Lois, Beth, "baby" Autumn

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Best Warm Winter Clothes for Dogs


By Linda Cole

For some dogs, winter clothing is a must. If you see them shivering, they are cold and could be at risk for hypothermia, but don't be fooled into thinking any coat will do. Not all winter clothes for dogs will keep them warm, and no one wants to spend a fortune trying to find what works and what doesn't work. I have dogs who do need coats to stay warm when they are outside. The trick is finding the right coat or sweater that actually keeps them warm. The best winter clothes for dogs aren't expensive and if you layer their clothes, you can keep your dog toasty.

Winter clothes for dogs need to be warm, but also easy to put on and take off. I've tried winter coats with zippers located on the underside of the dog. In order to zip up the coat, you have to roll the dog over on her back or hold her up on two legs. If a coat, jacket or sweater looks cute on your dog but it's not warm and functional, it's not worth the money. The best winter clothes for dogs can be put on quickly and easily, and should keep your dog warm and dry.

Dogs lose heat through their paws and ears. When buying winter dog clothes, look for coats or jackets that have a hood you can pull up over their ears. In my part of the country, we get cold temps that hover around 10 degrees and go down to subzero temperatures at the height of winter, with wind chills that are dangerous for humans and animals.

What works best for my dogs is a hooded fleece/quilted homemade coat and an outer dog blanket coat that is windproof and waterproof. If you aren't into sewing your own, a quality hooded winter or fleece coat will do the same job as my homemade fleece/quilted coat. On really cold days, I add a T-shirt, sweater or sweatshirt under their other coats. When layering, keep in mind an outer coat will need to be a little larger to fit over other clothes if the Velcro® fastener or snaps can't be adjusted when needed for a comfortable fit.

Winter clothes for dogs should include booties to help keep their feet warm and also give protection to the pads of their feet. Walking over frozen snow and ice can cut into their pads which can lead to infections. You can find inexpensive booties, but if they aren't waterproof and they won't keep their feet warm or dry. Look for dog boots that are lined with fleece and have a ribbed top. Booties are also great for summer use to help prevent accidental cuts from rocky terrain or broken glass. Use them to help prevent scratching on tender skin and protect injuries on the leg or paw. They are available in different lengths depending on your dog's need.

The best winter clothes for dogs aren't necessarily the most expensive. I have found affordable fleece coats, T-shirts, sweatshirts and sweaters at discount stores and online pet stores. The problem with buying online is the picture and description don't always meet expectations and you can't feel the coat until it arrives, so make sure you can return an item if it's not what you expected. A coat, jacket or any clothing you put on your dog should fit comfortably and not restrict their movements. Hoods or hats should not be able to fall down and cover their eyes so it's hard for them to see.

Winter dog clothes can be found at most retail stores that sell pet products and online pet supply companies. Sweaters and T-shirts start around $5.00 and up, winter coats, sweatshirts and windproof/waterproof dog blankets are $10 and up, and good quality dog booties begin at $10 and up.

I used to think dressing dogs in coats was silly and unnecessary. That was before my terrier/mix puppies joined my family 14 years ago. There's no denying that they get cold in the winter. I've spent years searching for the best winter clothes for dogs, and have finally found the right combination for my dogs and environment. It may take a little time to find what works best for your dog, but with hundreds of styles and prices to choose from, the task is easier now than it was in the past.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Best Dogs for Apartment Living


By Ruthie Bently

I have been in the retail pet industry for over twenty-five years now, and have seen many different dog breeds living with their owners in apartments. I have also seen many lists of dogs that are “suitable” for apartment living, and they included sizes from toys to giants. Then I realized one simple fact (at least for me); the best dog is the one that is right for you! In other words, if you love a dog, then you will do what you can to make it work. I lived with my first American Staffordshire Terrier in a small home with a postage stamp sized yard.

Whatever kind of dog you choose, there are a few things you should consider if you live in an apartment. Are dogs allowed in your building? Is there a limit to the size or weight of dog you can have? Do you need to put down a deposit? Do you need to supply references to the building owner? If you live in an apartment, are you willing to take the dog out at 3:00 AM to go potty? I actually had clients that lived with three Great Danes in a third floor walk up and they were very happy, but that isn’t for everyone. You should consider the dog’s daily exercise needs and energy level. How will they interact with others (pets, people and kids) in a small space? What is their temperament like? Are they hard to groom, and how trainable are they? What is their excitability level? Are they a barker and will they go off like a firecracker if they hear a noise in the hall?

Everything I have read agrees that any dog in an apartment needs exercise every day. This can help curtail boredom and the problem of having an over exuberant dog racing around the apartment when you get home. You don’t need a yard to own a dog, but the dog still needs daily exercise. A bored dog can do a lot of damage to your belongings and the apartment. There are several alternatives to a yard, including dog parks, public parks, hiking paths and dog walkers or exercisers. You could join a flyball or Disc Dog team and practice every day.

So which dog breeds are the best for apartment living? Small to medium breeds usually do better, as they need less exercise and may be less rambunctious. Some of the smaller breeds that may work for you are: Basset Hound, Bichon Frise, Bulldog (French or English), Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Chihuahua, Chinese Crested, Cockapoo, Corgi, Dachshund, English Toy Spaniel, Italian Greyhound, Lhasa Apso, Maltese, Miniature Pinscher, Papillion, Pekingese, Pomeranian, Poodle (Miniature, Toy, or Standard), Pug, Shih Tzu, Schnauzer, Poodle, and Terriers such as Australian, Boston, Bull, Manchester, Scottish, West Highland White and Yorkshire.

As to a list of larger dogs suitable for apartment living, I hesitate to suggest too many (other than the Greyhound, which is a great couch potato). Here are some larger size dogs that, with the proper amount of daily exercise, might do okay in an apartment: Akita, Chow Chow, Collie, Boxer, Bullmastiff or Mastiff, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Great Dane, Newfoundland, Old English Sheepdog, Rottweiler, Saint Bernard, Samoyed, Shar Pei and Springer Spaniel.

Regardless of size, dog breeds with higher energy levels should be considered carefully. If not properly exercised and well-trained, these dogs can be unpredictable and can do unbelievable damage in a short amount of time. Smaller breeds can sometimes be trained to a litter box or pheromone scented papers, which can be helpful late at night. Some breeds are more prone to barking or making mischief than others. My best advice to you is to research breed characteristics before you adopt a dog. These are only my guidelines and you should pick the dog that is best for you and your lifestyle. You might also wish to check your local shelter to see if anyone has recently given up a dog that lived in an apartment. This way you not only get a dog used to living in an apartment, you are also saving a life.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

5 Reasons to Support Your Local Independent Pet Store


By Julia Williams

Growing up, my parents knew that the local pet store was my favorite place to be, bar none. Animals were – and still are – “my thing.” I loved going down to the pet store to play with the kittens and puppies, and I could watch the hamsters spinning on their wheels and the fish cruising in their tanks for hours. If the owners and my parents had agreed to let me live there, I probably would have.

Today, the fond memories of those frequent childhood visits to this special place bring me joy but also a touch of sadness. I am all too aware that with the proliferation of discount mega-retailers, the future of the local independent pet store is uncertain. Now more than ever, it’s vital that we support these unique local stores so we don’t lose the many wonderful things they offer us as consumers and animal lovers.

Here are five good reasons to support your local independent pet store.

Personal service

For the last 75 years, the local independent pet store has been the heart and soul of our communities. These pet stores are operated by small business owners who are fully committed to giving their customers the very best service possible. The owners almost always live in the community, and chances are when you walk into their store they will greet you by name. My local independent pet store makes me feel like my patronage matters to them, because it truly does! I am so much more to them than just a nameless, faceless consumer among millions; I am an individual, with individual needs and concerns. When they thank me for my business as I walk out the door, I know that they really mean it.

Expert advice

The food we choose for our pets plays a crucial role in their development and ongoing good health. With so many choices available to consumers today, it can be difficult to decide which pet food to feed our beloved dogs and cats. Local independent pet stores can be of great help with this important decision. The owners and employees are highly educated about pet food and they have years –sometimes decades – of experience in recommending the right food for your pet.

Premium quality pet food

As responsible pet owners, nothing is more important than the health and well being of our beloved animal companions. We are concerned about the safety of the food we feed to our pets, as well as the nutritional value it provides. We want to feed them a pet food that is made from the most nutritious ingredients possible. Simply put, we want safe, healthy food at an affordable price.

Local independent pet stores carry only the finest, high-quality pet food brands available. When you shop at a local independent pet store, you can be confident that the premium brands on display, like CANIDAE dog food and FELIDAE cat food, are great choices that will help you keep your companion animal in good health.

Consistency

The highly trained staff of your local independent pet store provides reliable hands-on service and trustworthy advice. Their knowledge of the products they carry is impeccable, and this helps them provide a consistent shopping experience every time you visit their store.

Uniqueness

Local independent businesses are the backbone of our communities. Each store has its own distinctive style, with unique décor and an ambiance that makes stocking up on pet food and supplies an enjoyable experience rather than a chore.

For these five reasons and more, CANIDAE Pet Foods will always support the local independent pet stores. And as a cat owner who wants the very best for my cherished companion and my community, I will too. If we all support these irreplaceable local pet stores, there is hope that they can remain in our communities to serve future generations of pet lovers.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Paw Care for Dogs


By Linda Cole

Winter weather can be rough on a dog's paws, and at times can be downright painful. A combination of cold temperatures, snow and ice can take a toll on your best friend's feet. Winter paw care for dogs is essential to keep their feet pain free and healthy during the cold days of winter.

Winter Paw Care for Dogs Tip #1:

Beware of chemical de-icers and ice melt on streets and sidewalks. Your dog needs to go outside even during the coldest or snowiest days of winter. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a dog pen where their dog can hang out, take care of their business and stretch their legs. A dog who stays in their own yard doesn't have to worry about getting ice melt or chemical de-icers on their paws along with the snow and ice. If you walk your dog during the winter, it's important to pay attention to sidewalks and streets after a fresh snowfall, and try to avoid as much of the chemicals used to clear streets and sidewalks as you can.

Winter Paw Care for Dogs Tip #2:

Trim the hair between their pads. Even dogs like Siberian Huskies can get cold paws during winter weather. Some dogs have hair that grows between their pads and if it gets too long, it collects snow and ice that can dig into their pads. Hair growth between the pads should be trimmed even with their pads to help eliminate as much frozen snow as possible from sticking to the hair.

Inspect your dog’s feet after they come inside and clean them with warm water to remove any chemicals they may have picked up. An inside/outside cat should also have their feet cleaned when they come in. This is the perfect time to inspect between their toes and the pads to make sure there are no cuts or scrapes that have become infected. Never allow your dog or cat to clean their own paws after an afternoon or evening walk. The chemical ice melts and de-icers can be toxic to them.

Winter Paw Care for Dogs Tip #3:

Apply a soothing salve if needed. A dog's pads can become irritated from walking on snow and ice. After washing their feet, apply petroleum jelly, Bag Balm or a similar salve to help soothe their irritated paws. You can reapply before going outside for their next walk or a game of fetch in the snow. Waterproof booties are a good solution to eliminate wear and tear on your dog's feet. They will also help keep your dog warmer. Dogs lose heat through their ears and feet. Along with booties, a good waterproof/windproof coat with a hood can help keep your buddy warm while enjoying outside activities or taking care of business.

Winter Paw Care for Dogs Tip #4:

Keep your dog’s nails trimmed. If your dogs are anything like mine, nail trimming time is not one of their favorite bonding moments. However, it's important to keep their nails properly trimmed. Nails that are too long can lead to a foot deformity called splayed feet. When their nails are too long, the toes are spread apart more than they should be and when they walk in snow or icy conditions, there is a greater probability the dog will collect more snow and ice between their toes. Nails that are too long can also lead to sore nail beds, torn nails, hip and back problems and painful feet that make it hard for them to put their full weight on their feet.

Winter is a beautiful time of the year, but the snow and ice can damage your dog's feet with little cuts and scrapes from ice and snow that gets packed in between the pads on his feet and toes. Help him stay safe and healthy in the winter by paying close attention to his feet. Winter paw care for dogs is important. After all, we wouldn't want to walk barefoot over what our dogs have to deal with. A little TLC goes a long way and makes all the difference in the world to them.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Right Way to Discipline a Dog


By Ruthie Bently

I grew up with several dogs and got to see training methods first hand. I have seen both well trained and unruly dogs and have found that the old maxim is true: “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” As I get older, my life experiences have taught me that this is true and I have been applying it to my training methods.

Growing up, if a dog had an “accident” in the house they got their nose rubbed in it. In my mind all this resulted in was a dirty nose which had to be cleaned. One of my favorite memories (though probably not for my grandfather) happened on a Sunday morning. Grandpa was reading his paper in the living room, with it spread on the floor in front of the couch. Grandma’s dog Peggy came in, walked right over to the newspaper, and relieved herself. Grandpa started blustering for Grandma to come get her “damn” dog. Grandma picked up Peggy and dutifully carried her outside, praising her the whole time. You see, Peggy had been trained to go on newspaper and though hers was in the kitchen, she probably thought Grandpa’s paper was for her.

Growing up, if a dog chewed something “off limits” they got hit on the butt with it. I remember watching the floor near a dog being hit with the damaged item and the dog cringing. When my dog Katie’s playmate passed, she grieved and took to chewing shoes. I put them behind a closed closet door on a high shelf, and she still got to them. This taught me to take responsibility for my own actions around the house, yard and anywhere else Katie would be. Things she could reach had to be moved out of reach or it was my fault that she got them. This means if you leave your cell phone, glasses or TV remote where your dog can reach them, you have to take responsibility for your dog being able to get to them – and believe me dogs can be very inventive.

When your dog does something wrong they should be disciplined, but while they may know you are angry at them, they may not know why. Catching them in the “naughty” act is easier to discipline because if it is after the fact, they won’t understand what you are mad about. If your dog chews something inappropriate, take it away from them. Tell them “NO” in a strong voice and hand them something that is OK to chew. Using praise to get them to chew their own toy or taking them outside for a game of “catch the chewy” will help.

If you have been away and the dog had an accident in the house, you may have been gone too long. While Skye is housebroken, she does have accidents from time to time. I take any solids outside to her “potty” spot and leave them. If the stain is liquid, I mop it up, carry the paper towels outside and put them in the composter after showing Skye where she is supposed to go.

Several articles I’ve read on discipline agree that you need to take responsibility for your actions, and your dog will react to body language you project when you are angry. An angry scowl, raised voice or hands on your hips is a dead giveaway. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard to smile and make nice when the dog has just done something naughty. However, beating, yelling and shouting will only make your dog more fearful of you. It also makes them less likely to come the next time they hear your angry voice. Try to keep your voice quiet and project a sense of calm when calling your dog after a misdeed, and then discipline them.

One of my clients came home one day to find that their Border Collie had torn the fringe off an antique rug in the living room. They liked the rug there and didn’t want to ban the dog from the living room. They respected their dog enough to try and figure out why it was suddenly acting out. We did some research and found that the dog had herded sheep and the rug was made of wool. The dog, trying to herd the “perceived sheep” was nipping the fringe off the rug, much as it would nip the heels of the sheep to get them to move. The rug got repaired and moved to another room.

Respecting your dog is an important aspect of proper discipline. When I trained my first dog, I added several training books to my library. Now almost thirty later I’m reading about a newer concept that makes more sense to me: respect. I’m not trying to humanize my dog but she is a sentient creature and when I treat her with respect, I get better results than if I treat her like a “dumb animal.” This means not overtraining Skye, and making sure there is a balance between training, working time and playtime. I’ve found this to be a happy medium and though we still have issues sometimes, Skye personally likes the “honey” method.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Friday, December 18, 2009

How to Keep Cats Out of the Christmas Tree


By Julia Williams

Christmas tree decorations come in all sizes, shapes and colors, from glittery round balls and intricate figurines, to handmade ornaments and whiskered cat faces peering out at you from inside the tree. Wait. What??

Yes, it’s true. Cats are the biggest Christmas tree ornament you will ever have. I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me for suggestions on how to keep cats out of the Christmas tree. Nearly all cat owners have a story (or two) to tell about waking up to find the Christmas tree in shambles and their precious ornaments either broken to bits or scattered throughout the house. One friend even joked about starting a 12-step support group for people whose cats ruin the Christmas tree.

I sympathize, because I can relate. I’ve had my share of knocked over Christmas trees and shattered ornaments. But here’s the thing: expecting a cat not to be infatuated with your Christmas tree is, well, just plain silly. You can’t change any creature’s instincts, let alone one whose middle name is usually “mischief.” Simply put, cats love to climb trees. All of those shiny things dangling from the branches of your Noble Fir or Blue Spruce just make it all the more enticing to a tree-loving feline.

If your kitty is smitten with your tree, you basically have two options. You can forego the tree, or you can try one of the various methods other people have tried for keeping cats out of the Christmas tree. However, you must keep in mind that every cat is different and what works for one person’s cat might not work for yours. I will give you some suggestions for things to try, but I can’t say for certain that any one of them will be the answer to your trashed-tree prayers. Try one, and if it doesn’t work, try another. Above all, please don’t be mad at the cat for doing what comes natural to them!

The first thing you should do is eliminate temptation as much as possible. Ornaments hanging on the bottom branches and cords dangling in mid-air are a cat’s invitation to play. And if you have breakable ornaments with sentimental value, leave them off the tree. If you must display them, use them on a small tree you can put up on the mantel or some other place your cat can’t get to.

Various sprays have been met with success by some cat owners. Some to try include Bitter Apple, vinegar, pink grapefruit body spray, natural citrus room spray, cranberry room spray and animal-deterrent sprays. Spray your tree thoroughly before you put on the decorations, and spray the tree skirt as well. If one of these sprays works to deter your cat, you may need to reapply it a few times a week (be sure to unplug the tree before spraying). The exception is the vinegar; your cat will smell this long after it can be detected by human noses.

Other scented things some cats find objectionable are dryer sheets, orange peels, strong-smelling bars of soap and red pepper flakes. These can be placed around the bottom of the tree, underneath the tree skirt or on the tree trunk.

Double sided sticky tape is a well known cat deterrent, but it’s not terribly practical for keeping cats out of the Christmas tree. You could, however, try putting it over the tree stand and wrapping it around the bottom of the tree trunk.

Train your cat with the “coins in a can” method. Put some pennies in an empty soda can and keep it handy when you are in the room where the tree is situated. When you see your cat start to approach the tree, shake that can with all your might. The noise startles them and may deter them from investigating the tree when you’re not in the room.

If none of these methods keep your cat out of the Christmas tree, there’s really only one thing left to do. Laugh about it. And while you are laughing, you may as well redecorate the tree, and be thankful for the mirth your kitty adds to your life – not only during the holiday season, but every day of the year!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How to Choose the Right Dog Obedience Class


By Ruthie Bently

It’s very important to find the right obedience class for you and your dog, whether they are a puppy or an adult. If you get into a class that is too advanced, not advanced enough or not the right fit, it can spoil the training experience for both of you. It can put you off obedience training, and put your dog off wanting to go to class and learn.

The age of your dog will help determine what kind of an obedience class to look for. Does your dog need basic training, or are you looking for something more advanced? When I brought my first dog Nimber home, he was only six weeks old and no class would take him because he was too young.

If you got your dog from a breeder, does the breeder want you to show the dog? If so, you will want to get into a confirmation class, which is a bit different from a regular obedience course. Your breeder should be able to help you find one if you can’t find one locally. Usually, training facilities will have more than one class for different ages. If you can get your puppy into a class at about three to four months, so much the better; the younger the puppy the faster they seem to learn. Unfortunately, many training classes don’t accept puppies under six months old.

To find an obedience class, ask your veterinarian, friends and family members, and check with your local park district office or YMCA. After you find a class that you may be interested in, call the facility and ask to see their training area. Does it look clean and well maintained, or does it smell of urine and feces? This is important because puppies can pick up bacteria and worms just by walking across a dirty floor. Do they have indoor facilities for bad weather or classes held during winter months? After you finish your first class, are there subsequent classes that teach the next levels of obedience training?

Some trainers will let you audit their class; this will help you determine if this is the right class for you and your dog. If you are able to audit a class, get there early so you can see the class from the beginning. Is there a recap session at the beginning of each class where you can show the trainer what your dog has done? This helps the trainer determine if your dog is doing the command correctly and if you are teaching it correctly.

Watch the trainer carefully to see if their method is one you can agree with. Is the trainer and staff congenial, or are they just passing time? Are they kind to the dogs or do they manhandle them? Get the trainer’s permission to talk to some of the students that are in class the night you visit. Ask them about the trainer’s methods, how well they interact with the dogs and how well they explain the commands you need to teach your dog. This may sound trivial, but it is important that you can understand what the trainer is trying to teach you and that the learning environment is beneficial to both you and your dog.

How long has the trainer been teaching, and what are their qualifications? Does the class instructor require a health certificate or vaccination record for all the dogs? If they don’t, you may want to think twice about participating in this training class. Before taking your dog to any obedience class make sure they have had all the appropriate inoculations; you don’t want your dog getting sick from another dog in class that may not be inoculated correctly.

The size of the obedience class is important as well; it will determine how much “hands on” assistance you will get from your trainer. If the class is too large, the trainer may be spread too thin and may miss something that you and your dog need to work on. I was able to get Nimber into a class with fourteen other dogs and our trainer had two assistants to help her. In my opinion, a good class size is between ten and fifteen dogs.

Every dog, no matter the age, needs to be obedient or you could have the equivalent of a “terrible two-year old” on your hands. By doing your research, you can find an obedience class that both you and your dog will want to attend. The benefits of an obedience training class are many; not to mention that you and your dog will make new friends, and you will have a well-mannered dog that is a joy to be around.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Giving a Pet for Christmas? Santa Says No


By Linda Cole

Adding a pet to a home anytime during the year is great, but careful consideration should be taken before surprising your kids or anyone else with a new pet as a Christmas gift. Giving a pet for Christmas may seem like a wonderful idea at the time, but pets don't always make good gifts. Here are five reasons why Santa says “No” to pets as Christmas presents.

No time for proper bonding

Christmas is the one of the busiest times of the year, and a new pet needs attention right away to bond with their new owner. If the bonding process is neglected during those first few days, the new puppy or kitten is more likely to form a relationship with the one who feeds them and attends to their needs instead of their intended owner. Plus, getting a pet for Christmas along with all the new toys and games Santa will leave under the tree can be overwhelming for children. Kids can quickly lose interest in a new pet after the initial surprise.

Insecurity

Giving a pet for Christmas can create an insecure pet. New puppies and kittens need to learn rules, and it's hard to give them the attention they need in a busy home. With family and friends coming and going, a new pet may have trouble learning who is in charge. There are so many unfamiliar smells in a new pet's environment that he may feel lost and uncomfortable. Insecurity can lead to behavioral problems later on, so it's important to help new pets, especially puppies, learn who their pack leader is.

Other pets already in the home

Giving a pet for Christmas adds more tension to an already busy household, especially when there is no time to properly introduce a new member who most likely will not be welcomed by other pets. Dogs and cats are territorial and are not eager to share their space with a newcomer. Kittens and puppies may not understand the social hierarchy in their new family and if you don't help a new pet learn proper socializing, the older cat or dog will give them a lesson of their own. Some little spats are to be expected, but outright aggression can leave a new pet hurt, frightened and harder to socialize with the other pets.

It's easy to forget that a new pet is in the house

During the holidays, we generally have more food sitting around for guests to munch on. Alcoholic drinks, chocolate candy, raisins, nuts and other food items can be deadly for pets. Plus there are electrical cords to chew on and play with, tree ornaments and tinsel, all of which can be extremely dangerous to pets. An emergency trip to the vet can dampen any holiday festivities. It's not easy keeping an eye on pets when you’re used to them in the house and even harder when the pet is new. An opened door as guests arrive can leave an exploring puppy or kitten out in the cold and lost. Refrigerator doors, cabinet doors or basement steps can all be harmful to a pet if you forget to watch out for them.

There's an emotional connection that comes with selecting a pet

Most pet owners can't tell you why they picked the pet they have. It may have been a look, a little yap or an outstretched paw catching an arm as a cage was passed. An emotional bond begins when you first see the dog or cat you will eventually take home. Choosing a pet is personal for most people and that's why giving a pet for Christmas isn't always a good idea.

If you want to give someone a pet for Christmas, a good alternative would be to buy them a gift certificate with a responsible breeder or make arrangements with a local shelter for an appointment after the holidays. This allows the person receiving your gift the opportunity and fun of picking out a new pet themselves. If you already purchased or adopted a pet, most breeders or shelters are happy to hold it until after the holidays when the new owner and pet have adequate time to properly bond. A picture of a new pet wrapped up gives someone, especially a child, something to look forward to after the holidays when life has returned to normal.

As far as I'm concerned, a pet is the best gift in the world to get. However, unless you are absolutely certain that the person receiving this heartwarming present really wants the responsibility of caring for a pet, it's best to not give a pet as a gift. Surprises are great, but giving a pet for Christmas may be a little more of a surprise than someone was expecting, and it may not be appreciated.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What My Dog Taught Me about Responsible Pet Ownership


By Julia Williams

In a perfect world, every pet would have a responsible owner. Our companion animals bring so much joy and love into our lives, it’s the least we can do for them in return. Why then, do so many of these wonderful creatures find themselves living with humans who are not responsible pet owners? Although intentional neglect does occur, sometimes people are just simply unaware of how to properly care for an animal. They may have jumped feet first into pet ownership without thinking about what an animal needs to be happy and healthy. It’s still sad though, because the animal pays the price regardless.

I am an animal lover to my core, and it pains me to admit that I was a less than responsible pet owner once. I didn’t do it deliberately, and at the time I didn’t even know I wasn’t being a responsible pet owner. Yet ignorance is no excuse, and although my story had a happy ending, I’m still ashamed I didn’t know better.

Growing up in the country, we had a dog, two Shetland ponies and several cats. I felt a deep kinship with all animals, but surprisingly never bonded with any of the family pets. When I was 18, I lived alone in an apartment that belonged to my Mom. I’d been volunteering for my local animal shelter for a few months when the most adorable little puppy came in. Every time I walked by this puppy’s cage, my heart melted. I wanted this puppy more than I can remember wanting anything else in my young life.

Thinking only of that desire, I adopted this puppy. I didn’t consider the consequences; I didn’t think about what it meant to be responsible for an animal who would depend on me for every single thing; I didn’t contemplate the future in any way, shape or form. Nowadays, I think shelters are stricter about who they approve for adoptions, but at the time I don’t think anyone questioned my ability to care for this poodle-mix pup.

In terms of providing PJ with proper nutrition and vet care, I was a responsible pet owner. But I didn’t have a clue how to raise my puppy to become a well-behaved and well-trained dog. In truth, I didn’t even think about it. Blissfully unaware of what responsible pet ownership really entailed, PJ and I lived quite happily together for a year.

Then one day, I decided I was tired of the simple life. I packed my minuscule belongings and my dog into my car and moved to a big city, to share an apartment with my best friend from high school. She was happy to have me as her roommate, but not so thrilled to live with my dog. It certainly didn’t help that at 19, I was more interested in going out to meet people, attending rock concerts and having fun, than I was with spending quality time with my dog. Walking PJ was a chore, and I didn’t do it nearly often enough.

PJ did what any young, energetic dog would do in her situation. While I was away all day at work, she ransacked the apartment. She got into the garbage and scattered it everywhere. She chewed holes in our clothes and shredded the sofa cushions. PJ was bored, and she destroyed anything she could get her paws on. Coming home day after day to a trashed apartment began to take its toll on me, and on my relationships with both PJ and my roommate.

At the time, I felt that the responsible thing to do was to find PJ a new home, one where she could get the attention she deserved and obviously craved. I gave PJ to this sweet old couple who had no children. I knew they would dote on her, and she’d be so happy. Still, I dearly loved PJ, and letting her go broke my heart. It brings tears to my eyes even now, as I write this. Much older and wiser now, I can’t help but wonder “what might have been,” had I only known what responsible pet ownership really meant.

The most important thing my dog PJ taught me, is that the time to learn about responsible pet ownership is long before you decide to adopt that cute puppy or kitten. Long before you bring them home, you need to educate yourself on every aspect of pet ownership and care. You also need to take an honest look at yourself and your capability to be a good pet parent. I didn’t do either of those things, and PJ paid the price.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Benefits of Doggie Daycare


By Suzanne Alicie

In this world there aren’t many families who are able to keep someone at home with the dog all the time. Dogs that are left alone at home every day for several hours can begin to exhibit bad behaviors as a result of loneliness and boredom. Doggie daycare is a solution many pet lovers are looking at to make sure their dogs are cared for and attended to when they have to go out to work and school. Doggie daycare is a wonderful alternative to crating or simply leaving the dog at home alone.

When it comes to choosing a doggie daycare for your four legged friend, your best bet is to check with your veterinarian for recommendations. Of course before you leave your dog you should spend some time at the daycare center to see how things work there.

Some of the things you should look at and ask about before leaving your dog in a doggie daycare are:

Cleanliness - A doggie daycare should not smell of dog waste or be dirty. Think of your dog daycare the same as you would a daycare for your child. Everything should be clean and neat, because not only is it unhealthy for the people there if it is unsanitary, but that is also a way for illnesses to spread between dogs.

Requirements - What medical requirements are needed to leave a dog at the center? Do they ask for vaccination records, vet information, and are they equipped to deal with dispensing medications or treatments to dogs who have non-contagious conditions? You don’t want to leave your dog where he could be exposed to dangerous conditions or not receive the care he may need.

Activities - What are the dogs doing at the doggie daycare? Are there toys, and do they get to interact with humans and other dogs? If your dog is going to be kept in a cage all day then there is no need to remove him from home.

Care Takers - Pay specific attention to the workers. Do they seem to genuinely enjoy working with dogs, or do they appear to be frazzled and short tempered? The worst thought for me is the idea of someone losing their temper and disciplining my dog unreasonably.

Many doggie daycare centers offer not only daycare but also sleepovers, parties, training and grooming services. Essentially you can take care of many different doggie challenges by choosing a good doggie daycare.

The cost for doggie daycare varies based upon the services offered, but for a general day visit you can expect to pay around $25. Doggie daycares usually offer a monthly fee that covers Monday through Friday, monthly grooming, and special rates on overnight stays and products, for around $400 per month. Families that have more than one dog should ask about discounts or special multi-dog rates.

If you choose a good dog daycare location there really aren’t any disadvantages to the service, except possibly the cost. However, it really depends on your dog how the experience turns out. A behavior assessment should be performed when you take your dog in so that the workers can determine if your dog is a good fit. Dogs who are aggressive and territorial when it comes to other dogs don’t usually do well in a dog daycare system. If your dog doesn’t thrive in a doggie daycare situation, then you need to re-evaluate and decide on another course of action for your dog during the day.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Unique and Cute Christmas Gifts for Dogs


By Linda Cole

Are you someone who buys Christmas gifts for your dog? This is the perfect time to buy something for your best friend you've been putting off buying. Our dogs do know when there's excitement in the air. They enjoy getting things just as much as we do and some dogs even look forward to opening their own gift. Christmas gifts for dogs can be anything from replacing a favorite toy to a warm coat to help keep them warm. This year's supply of Christmas gifts for dogs includes a wide variety of unique and cute toys, chew toys and balls. Here are some of my personal favorites that I think would make any dog happy.

Humunga Tongue - This ball comes with a huge tongue attached to it. When your dog retrieves the ball and brings it back to you, you will see a large tongue sticking out of his mouth instead of the ball. This is a fun Christmas gift for dogs who enjoy a good game of fetch or tug of war. Comes in 3 sizes: mini, medium and jumbo and retails at around $10.99 to $14.99.

World's Toughest Ball - My dogs can chew through most any ball in a matter of minutes. There's nothing sadder than a ball that has lost all of its ability to roll or bounce. If you need a tough, reliable ball that will be there when you and your dog are ready for a game of catch, this is it. The price is $14.40 for a small ball, $18.99 for a medium and $29.99 for the large size.

Treatstik - This is the perfect chew toy for entertaining your dog while he's home alone. It will dispense your dog's favorite treats giving him hours of good chewing fun. This toy holds up to the most aggressive chewer and is priced at $14.50 for both the small and large size.

Babble Ball - This unique Christmas gift for your dog will laugh, growl and talk to your dog. Retails at $9.99 for the medium, and $12 for large.

Double Chain Toy - This toy has two or three rings connected together. I have one with two rings and it's a great toy for a game of tug of war. It stands up to the abuse of a hearty tug from most any dog. My larger dogs like to tease the smallest one of my pack with this toy by pulling her up and letting her dangle in the air when she grabs the other ring. A two ringer costs about $10.50 and the three ring is $8.99.

Dog Backpack - For your adventure loving, “let's go for a hike” dog, this backpack will make you smile every time you take your dog on a walk. It is recommended by the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, to help dogs with a little too much energy learn how to walk instead of dancing all around you while you walk them on a leash. Runs $39.99 up to $47.99 depending on size.

Snackshotz Dog Treat Launcher - Want a way to help your dog run off some pent up energy without wearing yourself down? Then this treat launcher is just what you need. This nifty little gadget will run around $15.

Personalized License and ID Tag - This is one of my favorite Christmas gifts for dogs because it puts a photo ID where it's needed most – right on the collar. This tag looks like a mini driver's license that includes your dog's name, address, phone number, description and photo. You will also receive a wallet ID you can carry. This unique and cute gift has all the information someone finding your lost dog would need to return him to you. $29.95

CANIDAE Pet Tag - Your dog can proudly wear the logo of his favorite premium pet food company with this solid brass pet tag that comes in your choice of a large bone or small bone emblazoned with CANIDAE. If your dog has a feline friend, they can wear the round pet tag with the FELIDAE logo. The pet tags are $5.99 each, or two for $10.99.

Of course, the best Christmas gift for dogs is time set aside just for them every day. Our best friends don't ask for much from us and they give us everything. Share as much of your time as you can each day and play fetch, tug of war or go for an extra walk. They don't care if it's only 5 minutes or an hour. To them, it's the moment that matters the most.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Purrfect Christmas Gifts for Cats


By Julia Williams

I don’t enjoy shopping for Christmas presents for my family and friends. There is too much pressure to find the perfect gift, e.g., one that won’t get returned or be met with that “what is this thing?” look. Cats, on the other hand, are quite fun to shop for. For one thing, buying Christmas gifts for cats won’t bankrupt my budget. Cats are also incredibly easy to please, and get just as excited about a simple catnip toy as they would with the latest, greatest “must have” cat toy of the season.

Here are a few Christmas presents for cats that I recommend. I think any of these items would make this holiday season merry for your feline friend. But here’s the thing: even if they don’t absolutely, pawsitively love your gift – they can’t return it, so it doesn’t really matter!

Elevated feeders let your kitty eat at the perfect height, which is said to be more comfortable and aids digestion. Elevated feeders are especially helpful for cats with arthritis, neck or back problems and other conditions that make swallowing difficult. Whether you choose the single elevated feeding station that holds one bowl or the double feeder, look for styles that have a sturdy metal frame and long-lasting stoneware bowls.

A water fountain provides a continuous flow of filtered H2O, which may motivate your kitty to take a drink more often. Most cats don’t drink enough water, so a fountain can help them stay properly hydrated and in good health. Another plus is that most water fountains for pets have a three-layer filter which removes impurities and makes the water taste better.

A “crinkle sack” is a great gift for a new kitten. I found a red velvet one last Christmas that I thought my paper-sack-loving cats would enjoy. Surprisingly, it didn’t interest them so I gave it to my friend’s new kitten, who loves the crinkling noise it makes and is always playing inside it.

Filled pet stockings are perfect if you are short on time – they come stuffed with all sorts of fun cat toys. To save money and time next year, shop the after-Christmas sales and you can pick them up at a steep discount.

Cozy window sill perches let your cat soak up the sun and watch birds, squirrels and other wildlife without endangering the critters’ safety.

A desktop cat seat gives kitty a comfy place to be near you while you work or play on your computer. It attaches to the side of your desk so the cat stays off your keyboard and doesn’t knock over your coffee while trying to get your attention. I need one of these badly (hint, hint) because my cat Mickey does this all too often.

Cat toys: Furry mice are always a feline favorite. Cats (especially kittens) can go through these quickly – buy a multi-pack or two so they never run out. Another inexpensive but highly entertaining cat toy is a ping pong ball. I put my cats into the bathtub with these; they can chase them without the ball ending up under the sofa or behind the fridge. Other favorite cat toys are feathers or streamers on a stick and catnip-filled soft toys. This year, my kitties are each getting a super cute Ho Ho Hairball cat toy, a furry round puff with eyes and a Santa hat.

Cat condos or cat towers provide your kitty with its own space to climb, stretch, scratch and sleep. Posts are either bare wood or covered with carpet or sisal, so be sure to get the scratching surface your cat prefers or buy a condo that has a combination of all three.

Dried bonito fish flakes are a natural, healthy treat that cats love. You can find these in many pet stores and in the ethnic section of most supermarkets.

A plush pet bed is a great Christmas gift for a cat, since a typical feline spends most of every day (and night) sleeping. Cat beds come in a myriad of styles and sizes. However, a cat will only care that it’s comfy, so choose the fabric and color you like, and everyone will be happy.

Buying Christmas gifts for cats is so much easier than trying to pick out that perfect present for Aunt Sally or Uncle Joe, or that co-worker you barely know. And one thing is certain – cats never complain that Santa didn’t bring them what they asked for!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fire Safety for Your Pets


By Ruthie Bently

Fire safety is just as important for our pets as it is for us. You can get window decals that let fire personnel know how many and what kind of animals are in your house. Most firefighters will attempt to save household pets if they can. Some fire departments now even have special oxygen masks to fit pets’ faces, as human ones are usually too large for them.

Do you have a fire safety procedure that includes your pets? You should have an evacuation plan and a prearranged place to meet in case of an emergency. Start by getting every member of the family involved; if you have older kids or teenagers, you can assign each of them a pet to be responsible for. Have a family meeting and make an evacuation plan. Your evacuation plan should include multiple methods of leaving your house if your main door is inaccessible. If you live in a multi-level home, you may want to invest in a safety ladder in case anyone has to leave from an upper story.

So how do you prepare to evacuate your pets in case of a fire? Practice, practice, practice. It is a good idea to make sure your pet(s) are comfortable with their carriers. With repetitive training you can even train them to go into their carriers, by using a treat or a favorite toy as a bribe. By doing this once a week, you can get them used to going in their carriers in case of an emergency. If you have a pet that gets nervous, there are several holistic preparations available to help calm them down.

If you have a cat that goes under a bed and won’t come out, get a pillow case and put the cat in it and knot the neck. The cat will be able to breathe through the pillow case though will not be able to see what is going on, and should be less stressed. It is a good idea to have your pet’s health records in a file near the front door. You should have collars, leads and name tags for all your animals even if they don’t usually wear them. If you keep their carriers and emergency equipment near the door you hope to leave from, this will make your task that much easier.

You should also have the proper tools in your house to help prevent a fire; these include fire extinguishers, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and a safety ladder if your house has more than one story. We have two fire extinguishers; one in the kitchen and one in the living room. If you have a fireplace in the living room, you should have a fire extinguisher nearby.

Fire extinguishers come in different styles, depending on what kind of fires they are used to fight. Attach the extinguisher to a wall, away from children and heat sources, but still accessible. When purchasing a fire extinguisher, discuss what kind of fire you may encounter, so you can get the proper extinguisher and one you can handle easily. Learn how to use your fire extinguisher and don’t wait until you have a fire to try it out.

Another very important fire safety tool is a working smoke detector. You should have one near the kitchen and one between the living room and bedrooms; if your home is multi-leveled you should have one on each level. There are several varieties of smoke detectors to choose from, including some which help the hearing impaired. Most are battery operated and should be tested at least once a month. The batteries should be replaced at least once a year, although the fire department suggests changing them with the daylight savings time change every six months.

Last but not least is a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion, which includes oil, wood, propane, natural gas and coal. Because it is colorless, tasteless and odorless, many people and their pets die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide can build up in any area that is not well ventilated, where there is a stove or fireplace that uses any of the above mentioned fuels. Some of the danger signs to look for are a fire that is hard to light, a fire that goes out or burns slowly, gas flames that burn yellow or orange instead of blue, and soot on or around the appliance being used. Carbon monoxide poisoning can affect both humans and pets; symptoms include headaches, nausea, dizziness, feeling drowsy or tiredness. Having a carbon monoxide detector in the house can help measure levels before they get out of hand and become an emergency that sends you or your pets to the hospital.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What is Left Gaze Bias? How Does It Relate to Dogs?


By Linda Cole

A recent study by a team of researchers at the University of Lincoln in England have found dogs can see our emotions more than what was once thought. In fact, dogs are unique among the animal kingdom as the only ones who can see and understand our emotions by looking at our face. Dogs have a left gaze bias and can see our emotions.

When we meet another person, our gaze normally scans the right side of their face, as long as they are in an upright position. The left side of our brain controls the right side of the body and the right side of the brain controls the left side. It's the left hemisphere of the brain that controls how we show emotion which is displayed on the right side of our face. The left side of our face shows almost no emotion because the right side of the brain has a different function and doesn't control our emotional state of mind. Looking at the left side of the face is called left gaze bias, or left face bias.

Our tendency is to look on the right side of the face for hints as to how someone is feeling or what their mood may be. We understand how someone is feeling by detecting clues on the right side of their face. We can usually tell right away if they are happy, sad or angry. It's something we all do subconsciously. Somewhere along the line in our evolution, we began a left gaze bias to help us determine how another person is feeling.

The study done in the UK has determined that dogs can see our emotions the same way. Left gaze bias is used by humans only when we are looking at another person. It doesn't hold true if we look at a painting, a pile of dirty laundry, a brand new car or other animals. Dogs are the same as we are in this bias, and so far the only animal that’s been found capable of actually seeing our emotions like other people can.

The researchers, lead by Dr. Kun Guo, studied 17 dogs. Each dog was shown photos of inanimate objects, monkey faces, human faces and dog faces while being videotaped. The dog's eye and head movements were the focus of the tape. When the researchers watched the tape, they discovered all of the dogs had eye and head movements toward the left side of the face (left gaze bias) only when shown human faces. They concluded that dogs have a strong left gaze bias when looking at human faces.

It's believed dogs evolved and developed left gaze bias and can see our emotions because of their long association with us. Dogs learned centuries ago to read our emotions by looking at the left side of our face. The interesting thing about this study is it looks like dogs are one up on us. When the researchers flipped the pictures of human faces over, the dogs were able to distinguish the difference and still showed the same strong left gaze bias. When we look at an upside down face, we lose our left gaze bias altogether.

If you have a dog in the house, try it yourself. Watch your dog's eyes when they look at you. It may be a subtle eye shift to the right, but it is true; they do scan the right side of your face first. So the next time you scold your dog or you are sad because you didn't get that promotion at work, your dog probably does know you are angry or sad even though he won't understand why.

When you factor in a dog's knowledge of body language along with a left gaze bias, it's possible your dog understands more than you know. When he tucks his tail between his legs before you start yelling at him for tearing up the pillows on the couch, he really does know he is in trouble. Forget the yelling and just let it go. The pillows can be replaced but your best friend needs all the love you can give him because he will be there when no one else is, and can tell when you are feeling angry, sad or happy.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Including Family Pets in Your Holiday Plans


By Julia Williams

The holiday season is filled with special traditions that make this time of year magical, memorable and fun for kids and parents alike. But what about the family dog or cat? Have you ever considered including them in your family’s favorite holiday customs?

Many would say that their pets don’t know the difference, so it doesn’t matter if they aren’t included. As a lifelong pet lover, I would argue that you and your family members would know, therefore it does matter. Although Fido and Fluffy probably won’t be miffed if there are no gifts for them under the tree and no stocking hung on the mantel with care, what harm does it do to include them? None, and it can create some wonderful memories for you and your family.

Besides, a recent Associated Press/Petside.com survey of more than 1,000 American pet owners revealed that half of them consider their animals to be as much a part of their family as any human member. And only a “Scroogely Curmudgeon” could ignore a loved one at Christmas! Here are some ways to include family pets in your holiday plans.

The photo Christmas card or annual family portrait is a great way to show others how much your pet means to you. Your children may not like dressing up for this photo, but they will get a kick out of posing with their pet. That is sure to brighten their smile and make the experience more enjoyable for everyone. Dressing up your dog or cat, however, is entirely optional. (If I tried that with my cats, I’m fairly certain they’d shred me to bits).

Fill a Christmas stocking with treats and small toys your pet will love. Remember earlier when I said that a dog might not care if they didn’t get a Christmas stocking? The wonderful photo used for this post just might just prove me wrong. It’s one that CANIDAE recently received for their Facebook Photo Contest, and features three white German Shepherds (Cheyanne, Cloud and Angel) all staring longingly at their filled stockings after being told “Santa was here. Go to your stockings!” These sweet dogs sure look like they can’t wait to see what’s inside their Christmas stockings.

Wrap up a special gift and put it under the tree with all the other presents for your family members. I have seen dogs ripping into their gifts with an exuberance that rivals any young child on Christmas morning, so you can’t tell me that giving dogs gifts is pointless. Cats on the other hand, may need some help “opening” their gift – unless it contains a catnip toy, in which case it will practically open itself. The best part about buying gifts for pets is that they are thrilled with pretty much anything you give them.

Give your pet a special meal on Christmas Day. For my cats’ holiday dinner, I usually put some cooked turkey meat on top of their FELIDAE wet cat food. This turns my docile housecats into wild beasts who ravenously devour their “prey,” and heaven help any fingers accidentally caught in the fray. Just remember to factor the extra treat into their daily ration of regular dog food or cat food. Bear in mind also, it’s not a good idea to let your pet sample the food from your holiday dinner. Human food wreaks havoc on an animal’s digestive system, and some can even be toxic.

I’m sure that will a little thought, you can come up with other ways to include the family pet in your holiday plans and traditions. Although it may not make a big difference to your dog or cat, it can give you and your children treasured memories that will last a lifetime.

Photo by CANIDAE Facebook Contest finalist Cynthia Z. of Bergenfield, New Jersey.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How to Dog Proof Your Home


By Ruthie Bently

Before you adopt a puppy or an adult dog, it’s a good idea to evaluate what you need to do to dog proof your home, i.e., to make it safe for your new friend. It’s easy to see why you should “puppy proof” your home, but why do it for an adult dog? An older dog needs the same consideration as a puppy because you may not know the situation the dog came from. If they were primarily an outdoor dog or lived in a kennel, there are many things your new dog may not have encountered before, which may seem like wonderful new toys to them.

So where do you start? Make a list of rooms to check, which should include all those you spend time in, as well as closets, storage rooms and the garage. Next, go room to room and evaluate the dangers or temptations your new dog may encounter. If you know the size of your new companion, getting down to their level to evaluate the room is a good way to find potential temptations. You will find more things by looking at the room from your dog’s eye view than you might by looking at it from your regular height.

In the living room, look for any exposed electrical cords the dog could trip over or chew on. Other items of interest include television remotes, cell phones and computer mice. Any item that contains batteries can be harmful if your dog decides to make it their new chew toy. Check desktops and tables the dog may be able to get to, and move all items that could be dangerous out of the dog’s reach. Window blind and curtain cords can be a strangulation danger for a pet. Check that they are at least 30” off the floor; if they aren’t you can purchase cord shorteners. You may want to move your knick knacks to a higher place, as a dog with a longer tail can empty a tabletop with just a few sweeps of their tail and won’t understand why your face is turning color when they are just happy you are home.

Your new dog will probably be spending time in the kitchen, so remove any temptations here too. Make sure your garbage is behind a door, has a tight fitting lid or is above the level your dog can reach. If you use recycling bins you will want to keep them out of the dog’s way; dogs can cut themselves investigating any cans or broken glass they might find. All cleaning supplies should be stored out of the dog’s reach. If you store your dish detergent and cleaning supplies under the sink, you can purchase cabinet latches that are not only kid proof, but dog proof too.

In the bathroom, move all soaps, toilet bowl cleaners and deodorizers to a safe location, since some dogs are attracted by the scents of these items. I actually had my bathroom and living room “toilet papered” by a dog that loved to play with toilet paper. He’d pull it all off the roll and go racing around the house with it flowing behind him. You can thwart this by getting a toilet paper guard, or hanging the dispenser up high. In the laundry room, install a shelf behind the laundry center for your supplies. You could also dedicate a shelf in your pantry to all the chemical cleaners, deodorizers and cleaning tools.

If you have children, get them a toy chest and keep it in their bedroom. The dog may be attracted to their toys and the small pieces can be dangerous for them. This will also keep your dog from chewing up your child’s stuffed animals and Barbie dolls.

The last room to dog proof is the garage. Although your dog may not spend time in the garage, some of the most dangerous things for them are found here. Anti-freeze is a well known pet hazard, but gasoline, paint, oil, brake and transmission fluids can be dangerous too.

Outlet plugs are a good idea for any unused electrical outlets around the house. A dog that isn’t housebroken may lift his leg on a wall plug; this inexpensive item can save you from a power outage or something more serious. The previously mentioned cabinet latches are also good for keeping dogs out of lower cabinets that may contain pots, pans and cleaning chemicals.

My friend used to store her two-liter bottles of soda in a floor height cabinet without a latch, until her dog got into it and grabbed a full soda bottle to play with. The pop bottle survived the bounce out of the cabinet, but didn’t survive the subsequent playtime with toenails and teeth. While this was more of a messy situation than a dangerous situation, it shows why dog proofing your house is a good idea.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently
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