Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Choosing the Best Leash and Collar for Your Dog

By Suzanne Alicie

Just as there are many different sizes and types of dogs, the same is true for leashes and collars. Choosing a leash and collar combination that is right for your dog’s size and strength is an important part of being a responsible pet owner.

There is no definite right choice and no definite right style of leash and collar, because each dog requires different features. But the number one feature of safety for your dog is universal, and should always be the first factor when shopping for a leash and collar.


There are retractable leashes in many different strength levels; there are braided leashes, leather leashes, and nylon leashes. Leases come in all colors, thicknesses and lengths to make sure that when you walk your dog he is secure. When purchasing a leash it is important to look at the weight suggestion on the tag. You certainly don’t want to walk your German Shepherd on a leash made for a Poodle.

The type of fastener is also important when choosing a leash. You want a fastener that is easy to clip on and off, but not one that is easily triggered into the open position by rubbing against a collar. Your comfort also comes to mind when choosing a leash. Some have handles that are simply a loop made out of the leash material; others have a leather handle that is secured with rivets. For security, a one piece is always your best bet, and many times for comfort as well.


You can find rhinestone collars, spiked collars, chain collars and many other styles. You will also find collars made of leather, nylon, and braided fabric. The main things to look for when choosing a collar are whether it will fit your dog’s neck well, without choking, and whether it is strong enough to hold your dog. Dog collars are sized from extra small to extra large based upon the neck and head measurement of the dog.

A secure fastener that won’t come loose is also important when selecting a collar. So keep these important factors in mind and don’t just buy a collar because it is cute. Some of the other features to look for in a collar are the location and position of the leash clip ring, a tag hook, and padding between the leash and the dog’s neck. Read this article for more information on choosing the right dog collar.


Large and small dogs alike are often outfitted with harnesses instead of traditional collars. These also come in all colors and sizes. The benefit of harnesses is that they give the pet owner more control of the dog while walking, and because they don’t pull tight around a dog’s neck, which is a choking hazard.

No matter what style or color of collar and leash you choose for your pet, their safety is the main point of importance. Therefore a good fitting collar, secure fasteners and clips, and a strength that is appropriate for your dog’s weight are definite requirements when shopping for these products for your dog.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How Smart is Your Dog?

By Linda Cole

We like to think our dogs are the smartest and cutest dogs around. Some breeds are more intelligent than other breeds, but they aren't necessarily good with children or even other pets in the home. Responsible pet owners choose a dog based not on intelligence but how well they fit with their specific lifestyle and living quarters. Still, if you’ve ever wondered how smart your dog really is, reading on for a few ways to test his intelligence.

There are three types of intelligence in dogs: adoptive (problem solving), obedience (how well they learn commands) and instinctive intelligence (inherited or genetic behavior). IQ tests to determine a dog's intelligence are used to measure their adoptive intelligence. All dogs can learn basic commands, although some may learn slower than others. A motivated dog is eager to learn, and a persistent dog is also a good sign of intelligence.

If your dog doesn't perform well for all of the following tests, it doesn't necessarily mean he's not smart. He may need better motivation, or a rest. Make sure to have his favorite CANIDAE dog treats on hand.

The towel test. Have your dog sit in front of you and carefully place a towel over his head. Count how many seconds it takes for him to remove the towel. The faster he gets it off, the more points he gets. Score 3 points for less than 15 seconds, 2 points for 15-30 seconds and 1 point for 30 seconds or more.

Hidden treat test. How smart is your dog? Can he find a treat hidden under a can? Take three cans and place his favorite treat under one while he's watching. Turn him around a few times and then let him find the treat. If he picks the right can the first time, he gets 3 points, two tries gets 2 points and 1 point for getting it on the third try.

Find your favorite spot test. Take your dog out of the room and rearrange the furniture. Score him by how long it takes for him to find his favorite spot. He gets 3 points if he goes right to his spot, 2 points if he has to look around for more than 30 seconds and 1 point if he just picks any spot.

Let's go for a walk test. Pick a time you don't usually go for a walk. With your dog watching, do what you usually do when getting ready to go for a walk. If he responds immediately when you pick up his leash and gets excited, give him 3 points, if you had to walk to the door before he gets the clue, give him 2 points, and if he doesn't respond, 1 point.

Chair puzzle test. This one is designed to see how smart your dog is at problem solving by making him work to get a treat. Place a treat under a chair or table that sits low enough that he will have to use his paws to get the treat. If he gets the treat out in a minute or less, he gets 3 points, if he has to use his paw and his nose, only 2 points, and if you have to get it out for him, 1 point.

Go around a barrier. Using cardboard, make a barrier five feet wide and taller than your dog when he's standing on two legs. Cut an opening in the middle of the cardboard going from the top to the bottom, but only large enough for your dog to see through. Toss a treat on the other side of the barrier. If your dog walks around the barrier in 30 seconds or less, 3 points, 30 seconds to a minute scores 2 points and if he tries to get through the hole in the middle or doesn't respond, 1 point.


16 points or more – your dog is a genius
13 to 16 points – above average
9 to 12 points – average
5 to 8 points – below average

IQ tests only measure how smart your dog is at problem solving. The above tests are standard IQ tests you can make into a game while testing your dog. Don't try doing all of them at the same time if he doesn't seem interested in the game you want to play. To truly measure your dog's intelligence, take his entire learning ability into consideration. Some dogs respond to commands better than others , and some have superior instinctive intelligence.

Regardless of how the score turns out, you know your dog best – and his loyalty and love can't be measured by a few tests. How smart is your dog? With the right kind of motivation and patience, he just might surprise you.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank: A True Success Story

By Julia Williams

Last November I told you about a wonderful Portland charity called The Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank. In seven short months, what started as one man’s heartfelt desire to help two homeless men feed their starving canine companions, has blossomed into Oregon’s largest charitable pet food resource. Thanks to the Pongo Fund and CANIDAE, more than 500,000 premium quality meals have now been scarfed up by hungry pets in Oregon and southwest Washington. That, my friends, is a lot of fortunate dogs and cats who not only have full bellies but are able to remain with a loving family instead of being given up due to dire financial circumstances.

I recently spoke with Larry Chusid, The Pongo Fund Founder and Executive Director, to ask him how things have been going. Larry said “The Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank is only open two days a month for three hours. In other words, we’ve been open to the public for the equivalent of 42 hours. That’s it...42 hours. We know that we provide food for thousands of families with pets that are at risk of being abandoned or surrendered because their families cannot afford to feed them. But how do we really measure success after only 42 hours?”

Well, I’ll tell you how. You measure success by the hundreds of people who, rain or shine, come to stand in line for their pet food every two weeks. You measure success by their radiant smiles when they receive the pet food, because you can see how much it uplifts their spirits to be able to feed their beloved dog or cat. You measure success by realizing that, because of your pet food bank, more than 50,000 premium quality meals are being provided to family pets each and every month.

You measure success by the unprecedented accord the Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank has been able to establish and maintain with a long list of major human services agencies and charities – organizations that have direct contact every day with people who need help feeding their pets. You measure success with your recent donation of seven tons of pet food to the Oregon Food Bank for statewide redistribution, which means that you’ve now extended your reach far past the Portland city limits.

You measure success with the knowledge that The Pongo Fund has already achieved two of their primary goals: 1) using premium quality food as a lifeline to keep family pets from being abandoned or surrendered because their families cannot afford to keep them fed; and 2) reducing shelter populations without using euthanasia or other fatal methods. And you measure success by each human life that’s saved because now they can use their money and food stamps to feed themselves instead of giving their own meager provisions to their pets.

So you see, it’s really not that hard to measure success, is it? Of course, all of these things only scratch the surface of the impact the Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank has on people and their animal companions. It’s not just the people and pets of Oregon who are being helped either. As word spreads, the Pongo Fund has begun receiving pleas for help from as far away as Florida, from people concerned about their Oregon friends and relatives in dire need of pet food. Knowing that help is at hand enables those who live far away to feel less helpless, and gives them peace of mind.

CANIDAE All Natural Pet Foods is a vital part of The Pongo Fund’s mission to keep family pets from starving or being surrendered to a shelter because their families cannot afford to feed them. Their initial donation of $125,000 worth of pet food was the lucky break this humble nonprofit needed to turn a dream into reality.

But why did a California-based company decide to support an organization in Oregon? For one thing, the Pongo Fund’s founder has unmistakable passion for his humanitarian mission, and it’s this unbridled passion that creates incredible momentum for the organization to grow and succeed. CANIDAE wholeheartedly believed in the Pongo Fund’s vision from the start, and they believe in it even more now. The company continues to provide donations of their premium quality pet food, and recently expanded to include a $20,000 shipment of Snap-Biscuit® dog treats. “What would dinner be without dessert!” quipped Chusid.

The Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank has achieved some truly remarkable things in seven months. But mark my words – this is just the tip of the iceberg, and the best is yet to come. To quote a hit song from the 80s, “the future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.”

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Why Do Dogs Love Riding in Cars?

By Ruthie Bently

Most dogs love riding in cars, unless they have been traumatized at an early age. When you brought your dog home for the first time, did they ride in your car? Even if your dog was delivered to you in another vehicle, your dog has an instinctual understanding that allows them to see your car as an extension of the pack’s space, as well as its importance to the pack.

Have you ever parked next to a vehicle with a dog in it that went absolutely nuts for seemingly no reason? Has your own dog ever protected your car after you left them in it? Any dog left in a vehicle is capable of acting this way because they see the family car as a movable den. They feel safe in it just as they do at home. Dogs like having a job to do, and they’ll watch over the vehicle you have left them in charge of. It is instinct that makes a dog guard the vehicle they are in. You’re the alpha member of the pack, and as a lesser member some dogs feel the need to defend your vehicle to the best of their ability.

Skye loves to sit and watch the scenery passing by the truck window. I’m amazed that she doesn’t get dizzy at times trying to see everything at once. She never gets bored, and is always interested in what she is watching. On long road trips she has been known to lie down for a bit, but then she will hear or smell something and she is up like a jack-in-the-box to see what she might be missing. Have you ever looked back as you are entering a store to see what your dog is doing in your vehicle? I have, and Skye’s gaze is often glued to me as I enter the store. What makes this more interesting is that when I exit the store, it isn’t long before she catches my scent and stands up, and her body begins to wag as I return to my truck.

Dogs also love riding in cars because of all the odors that come in through the vents and the windows that are cracked. Cow manure laid on a newly plowed field; the llamas, sheep and goats in a field we pass by, newly mown grass in the road ditches. Maybe it is the French fries at the local McDonald’s my dog smells as we drive by. Whatever it is, her nose is glued to the dashboard vents.

As a responsible pet owner, I don’t take Skye with me when the temperatures are too warm or cold for her. We’ve already had temperatures here that could cause her to have heat stroke if I left her in the car. Even on a cloudy day, if the temperature is warm enough (with or without humidity) a car can heat to dangerous levels in a matter of minutes, and cracking the window won’t help your pet.

You should make sure your dog is restrained in your vehicle. I used a short lead attached to Skye’s collar and tethered to the truck. Doggy seat belts and harnesses are available and while giving your dog freedom, will keep them safe. Don’t allow your dog to hang their head out the window, because flying bugs and debris from vehicles around you can injure them. For more information on how to protect your dog in the car, see my article Vehicle Safety and Your Dog.

If your dog suffers from motion sickness, don’t feed or water them before you travel. They won’t suffer from not eating and are less apt to disgorge their meal on your car seats. Discuss using a medication for motion sickness with your vet or homeopath, but be sure to test it at home before you travel. Traveling with your dog can be a wonderful experience; it opens your eyes to a different point of view.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Cute Things Pets Do

By Linda Cole

There's just no getting around it – pets are so darn cute, even when they've done something they shouldn't have. They're as bad as kids when they give us that adorable little grin with eyes that say, “I'm sorry.” You can't help but laugh when you think about all the cute things pets do.

It's been said that you can laugh with a cat, but never let them know you're laughing at them. They hate being laughed at, but when you find a cat hanging upside down on the screen door staring at you with a frazzled look, it's cute.

A cat is the perfect clown, and they do the funniest things. A cat can sleep anywhere, and it's not uncommon to find one curled up in the bathroom sink or in a box. Apparently, the smaller the box, the more comfortable it is for sleeping. Talk about being packed in like a sardine! I've found cats curled up in a skillet on the stove, in small bowls, draped over a dog, hugging each other while sleeping, and in every odd position or place a cat can get themselves into.

It's unfortunate we can't set the cat like we can an alarm clock. Who needs that irritating buzzing contraption when you have a cat who gets hungry around dawn and isn't shy about sitting on your face to get you up. It may not seem like a cute thing at the time, but since we're wrapped around their paw, we get out of bed and follow them to the kitchen. It was almost time to get up anyway. I had a cat who would turn my alarm clock off when it buzzed. Try explaining that one to your boss when you're late for work. Another cat loved to sit on the stove and turn on the timer.

The facial expressions of our pets are priceless. Such as, the look that says “You really don't expect me to eat that?” when the food isn't to their liking. My dogs don't like going out in the rain, so I have to go outside and encourage them to join me. One day, I turned around to see them sitting just inside the door, looking at me like I didn't have enough sense to come in out of the rain. They looked at me and then looked at each other, and I'm sure I heard one say, “Are you crazy? You do know it's raining, right?”

The cutest cat expression is the grimacing face of a cat trying to determine what they're smelling. The best expression is the “I meant to do that” look. Yeah, like I'm supposed to believe you meant to fall off the couch while you were asleep. That's worth some giggles for sure.

Since I have both cats and dogs, a lot of the cute things they do come from them interacting with each other. One of my cats loves stalking sleeping dogs. He slowly sneaks up on one, wiggles his backside, calculates his leap and springs on the dog's tail. The dog's look is always the same: “Isn't it time we found that cat a home?”

One of the cutest things pets do is when they've done something wrong, especially if the wrongdoer is a dog. I came home from work one afternoon to a living room floor covered in pillow stuffing that was couch pillows when I left for work in the morning. The two pillow shredders were found hiding away from the scene of the crime. The look on their faces was so cute, I couldn't help but laugh as I pictured flying feathers and happy dogs having the time of their lives playing tug of war with the pillows.

I had a cat who always followed me into the bathroom. He would sit and watch, and I guess he was learning. One day I went into the bathroom and there he was, perched on the toilet doing his business. I was pleased he had potty trained himself, but it wasn't nearly as cute when I had to wait for my turn. At least he didn't take the newspaper in with him.

Puppies tripping on their over-sized feet, kittens timing a jump that comes up just a wee bit short, cats sticking their head out between the curtains, and dogs eating a peanut butter sandwich are some of the cute things pets do that are good for a laugh or two. The next time you're feeling blue, watch your pet and I bet it won't be long before they bring a smile to your face. And just in case you missed it, here's another article on the funny things cats do.

What are some of the cute things your pets do?

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Friday, June 25, 2010

How to Train Your Dog with Invisible Fencing

By Suzanne Alicie

Invisible fencing is a method of containing your pet that, while it may seem quick and easy, actually requires quite a bit of training in order to make your pet understand. Essentially the fencing is laid underground and your pet will wear a transmitter collar. As your pet nears the fencing area the collar will beep; this is your pet’s signal to turn back. If your pet continues he will approach the fencing and receive (typically) a shock. Another method some company’s use is to spray citronella in the dog’s face. Either of these methods are a repellent to the dog, and he will want to avoid them. However, it is up to you as a responsible pet owner to work with your pet and teach him what the beeping and the fencing response means. Otherwise you may have a very confused dog who continually tries to bolt over or cross the fencing area.

Before attempting to train your dog with an invisible fencing system, it is essential that he knows the basic commands. It’s also important to keep in mind that the fence training is not something which can be fully accomplished in a few short weeks. Dogs continue to learn what is expected of them as they grow and encounter new situations.

To begin training your dog to understand invisible fencing, you must first mark the boundaries. Use flags or cones to outline the path of the invisible fencing. Place your dog on the leash with the fencing de-activated and walk him around the perimeter. Allow him to smell and become accustomed to these additions to his yard.

After the first few trips around the yard, activate the fencing and allow him to only go to where the warning beep sounds. Continue this daily for about a week. Next, place your dog on the leash or a run and affix it so that he can’t go past the beep trigger area. Allow him to wander and roam within this area only. Continue this practice for a few days.

Lengthen the leash so that your dog can reach just past the perimeter of the fencing. As he wanders the yard, and you see him approaching the warning beep area call him back. Be sure to praise him and reward him for his effort. If he continues after you call him he will either be shocked or sprayed. At that time, walk him around the perimeter allowing him to recognize the warning beeps and if necessary get sprayed or shocked as he examines the perimeter. This will help reinforce the boundaries and teach your dog the consequences if he attempts to leave the boundaries.

Each day, remove a few of the perimeter markings and continue to let your dog explore while leashed until he knows the boundaries. It takes approximately 6 weeks for a dog to learn the boundaries and be allowed to play in the yard while off the leash.

As a responsible pet owner, it is important that you never leave your unleashed dog unattended in an invisibly fenced yard. Some dogs are smarter than you think, and will realize that if they get over the perimeter the shock will stop. A black lab owned by a neighbor of mine had it figured out that if he could just get past the fencing he was in the clear. It was dangerous for the dog, but also amusing to watch him race across the yard, jump the boundary with a little yelp and then run down the street. Despite the owner’s expense, and the training, that dog was simply destined to spend his outdoor time on the leash. Another neighbor has a dog that no matter what will not cross the warning beep. As soon as he hears it he high tails it back toward the house.

Invisible fencing is not right for every dog. Each dog is different, and each person must make the right choice for his pet. Evaluating the pros and cons of invisible fencing is an important part of making this decision.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Keep Your Pet Safe on the Fourth of July

By Julia Williams

Many Americans love to celebrate Independence Day with backyard barbecues, picnics in the park and noisy fireworks that go POP POP BOOM BANG for hours on end. While these festivities may be great fun for people, they’re not so pleasant for our pets. I don’t have anything against celebrating the 4th of July holiday, really I don’t. But I shudder every time I see those familiar roadside fireworks stands materialize, because I know how scared my poor cats are going to be in the coming days.

Dogs and cats have acute hearing, and those noisy fireworks can send them scurrying for cover. Add the frightening flashes of light, and it’s easy to see why Independence Day can be stressful for pets. I remember how my childhood dog, Flavia, would bark wildly at our fireworks. She’d become so agitated we had to shut her indoors while we set them off. In retrospect, I think she was just trying to protect us from these strange and dangerous things.

Unless you live in a state that bans personal fireworks, you probably hear those familiar noises not only on July 4th, but for several days before and after. Each city sets their own laws for how many days neighborhood fireworks are allowed, but in general, it’s about a week. During this time, I rarely see my cats. They spend the week hiding under the bed, and sometimes don’t even emerge for their evening meal.

In the past, I’ve just let them “ride it out,” knowing things would be back to normal for them in a few days. This year I decided to research ways to lessen their Independence Day stress. Here are some tips for helping pets get through the 4th of July holiday without shattered nerves.

Keep your pets indoors on July 4th. Since firecrackers will be going off all day long, it’s best if pets (especially cats) stay indoors for the entire day.

Keep your windows and doors closed to prevent your pet from running away if they become frightened by the fireworks. Be sure they are wearing identification tags in case they do escape.

Give your pet something to do, such as toys that will keep them occupied for long periods of time.

Put on some soothing music, or turn on the television. This may help to mask the fireworks noise, as well as lessen your pet’s stress.

Create a temporary “safe haven” for your pet in the closet. Set down their pet bed or favorite blanket, some toys, water and perhaps even food. Being in the closet will help them feel safe because it’s enclosed, and the closet blocks out some of the noise of the fireworks.

If you’re having a party on the 4th, keep your pet behind closed doors, and be sure to put a sign on the door so that no one accidentally opens it. Cats especially, will feel more secure locked away from all of the hustle and bustle. Even if you have an outgoing dog who loves people, they could still get scared from the fireworks and bolt off, or help themselves to food and drinks that might make them ill.

Don’t take your dog to a fireworks display. No matter how calm they normally are, the noises and crowd activity on this day are just too unpredictable.

Distract your pet with some new treats, chews or toys. They may be so focused on these that they hardly notice all that cracking and booming going on around them. Admittedly, this tip is more for dog owners – I highly doubt new toys or treats will have any effect on my skittish kitties.

Some people give their pet a mild tranquilizer to help them get through the 4th of July holiday. For pets that become extremely distressed by loud noises, this could be a viable option. Please consult your pet’s vet if you are considering it.

Store your fireworks safely out of reach. Like children, pets are naturally curious about things they see lying around. To them, anything has the potential to be a fun new toy they can bat around or chew on. But fireworks contain substances that are harmful for pets and could even kill them, so be sure they’re kept where dogs, cats and kids can’t get to them.

Clean up the firework debris from your yard too, so your pet won't try to play with it or gnaw on it.

Responsible pet ownership means keeping our pets safe, healthy and happy, to the best of our ability. I hope these tips help your pets come through the noisy 4th of July holiday unscathed. I’m also hoping that this year, I see more of my cats than fleeting glimpses of three trembling forms underneath my bed.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Prison Dogs: A Second Chance at Life

By Ruthie Bently

There have been several discussions on the social networking sites lately about dogs in prisons. There are numerous organizations around the United States that match dogs with prison inmates to the benefit of both. There are training programs associated with all of them, and several of them train service dogs. I found one that has a twofold purpose: they not only match a dog with an inmate to enable the dog to enter a loving home fully trained, they use rescued retired racing Greyhounds.

I recently spoke with Beverly Sebastian about the program 2nd Chance at Life, which is affiliated with the National Greyhound Foundation. What makes this program unique? It is nationwide and not localized to one state or region of the United States. Their ultimate goal is to partner with over 100 Department of Correction facilities in twenty states, using 12,000 inmates and 100 Greyhound adoption groups to save the lives of more than 6,000 retired racing Greyhounds a year. If you would like more information about 2nd Chance at Life, click here to visit their website.

2nd Chance at Life places retired racing Greyhounds with prisoners to be socialized and obedience trained so they can be adopted. After an extensive obedience training course, each dog receives a certificate (tailored specifically to retired Greyhounds) that is the equivalent of the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen award. Each inmate also receives a certificate of completion. The hours an inmate spends training each dog can be used toward becoming certified as a dog trainer, which they can use as a vocation after their release. All the equipment needed for the Greyhound is furnished by 2nd Chance. This includes a crate and dog food, and no monies come from any of the correctional facilities where the dogs are placed. A certified dog trainer works alongside the inmates training the Greyhounds to assist them, and their salary is also paid by 2nd Chance.

The 2nd Chance at Life program teaches the inmate trainer responsibility and patience, and allows them to experience the unconditional love of a pet, sometimes for the first time. It begins with a rescued racing Greyhound being placed with an inmate in a prison foster home. This gives the dog a place to live until they can be adopted, which keeps the Greyhound from being euthanized in a shelter facility. Each inmate is screened before being accepted into the program, and must have a clean record for at least two years prior to acceptance. Inmates are relieved of idleness and boredom as they are entirely responsible for the Greyhound’s care. A Greyhound with obedience training that has graduated from the program is more apt to be retained in a new adoptive home.

Each inmate keeps a daily journal, in which they write their dog’s progress as well as their thoughts about the program, their dog and what it has done for them. When their dog graduates and is adopted, to alleviate any separation anxiety the dog may have they are sent to their new home with a blanket that has the inmate’s scent on it. This helps them adjust to life in their new home. Some new owners even pass on photos of the adopted Greyhound for the inmate trainer. The inmate is immediately given a new dog to train and the process begins again.

Director Wilkinson of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections stated “The program alleviates boredom and tension in prison, resulting in a safer environment for both staff and inmates.” This sounds like a win-win situation to me, how about you?

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Would You Like to Own the World’s Ugliest Dog?

By Julia Williams

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is one of the oldest, and most often repeated, sayings, and nowhere is it more evident than at the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest. This internationally acclaimed contest is held every summer at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma, California. I lived in Petaluma for ten years and attended the event many times. It was a lot of fun, but it was also interesting to see just how much the owners (and the fairgoers) adored these hideously homely dogs.

To be crowned the winner of the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest, you must indeed be Ugly with a capital U – and these dogs definitely are! Many of these ugly dogs are hairless with odd tufts of hair here and there (often referred to as “Einstein hair”) and they usually have toothless grins or tongues that hang outside their mouths – in short, these ugly dogs have faces only a mother could love.

It got me to wondering, aside from this well-known contest whose past winners have achieved instant canine celebrity status, what the appeal is in owning an ugly dog. Some of these dogs are so ugly they make you laugh. And some are so ugly they make you shudder! In a society that values beauty so much, it’s fascinating to see ugly animals so revered. Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if we humans held a “World’s Ugliest Person” contest? I have to laugh at this double standard; it’s not only okay to call a dog ugly, but we revel in their ugliness.

Do the owners of these ugly dogs love them even more because they’re so ugly, or do they fall in love with the dog’s “inner beauty” and become oblivious to the outside package? I don’t know. What I do know is that the World’s Ugliest Dog contest is immensely popular with pet owners and the general public alike. Contestants come from all over the U.S., from as far away as Florida. Animal Planet sponsors the contest and has broadcast the proceedings for the last several years. The World’s Ugliest Dog winner gets a $1,000 prize, a trophy, doggie bling (collars, leashes, bowls and toys) and worldwide fame, complete with talk show appearances, videos, glossy magazine write-ups, a professional photo shoot and a modeling contract with House of Dog. Whew!

This year marks the 22nd annual World’s Ugliest Dog contest, and judging by the entries posted on the official website, there is no shortage of homely dogs hoping to be crowned the King of Ugly (or Queen) and take home all of those fabulous prizes. Past World’s Ugliest Dog winner Rascal is back for another go at the title, and his family says “To us, Rascal is the most handsome being to ever live, and is a loving family member, but it's in fun when he is called ugly.” And then there’s Handsome Hector, whose motto is “eat like a pig, look like a rat and lounge like a bloated seal!” You can see all of the ugly dogs vying for this year’s title of World’s Ugliest Dog here.

Call me shallow, but I’m just not sure I could ever fall in love with an ugly dog, or an ugly cat for that matter. Inner beauty notwithstanding, I just really prefer my pets to have hair…and teeth…and tongues that stay inside their mouths instead of lolling lopsidedly out one side like a drunken sailor. Then again, maybe I just haven’t met the right ugly dog, the one who’s “so ugly he’s cute.” Since there are so many other pet lovers willing to overlook the ugly canines of the world, I guess it doesn’t really matter.

Would you – could you? – love the World’s Ugliest Dog?

Photos courtesy of the World's Ugliest Dog® Contest, Sonoma-Marin Fair, Petaluma, California

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Monday, June 21, 2010

Five Famous Dogs Who Touched Our Hearts

By Linda Cole

Every now and then, we run across amazing stories about dogs who did extraordinary things or had to overcome obstacles to complete their mission. Dogs who showed their loyalty to the owners they cherished and did what they had to do to be with them. Canines who stood out from the crowd because of who they were as dogs and because they taught us a little bit about life, love and devotion. These famous dogs touched our hearts, and their stories should be retold from time to time as a reminder of the bond between dogs and their owners.

Greyfriar's Bobby was a black Skye Terrier who was born in 1856 and lived in Scotland with his owner, John Gray. This famous dog was as devoted to his owner as any dog could be, and proved his loyalty in 1858 after John Gray passed away. Gray was buried in Edinburgh, Scotland in Greyfriar's Churchyard with few in attendance and no headstone. The groundskeeper at Greyfriar discovered Bobby sitting on his master's grave and drove him away, but the little dog kept returning. The groundskeeper finally gave up and provided shelter for Bobby next to Gray's grave. For fourteen years, Bobby guarded his master's grave only leaving for food. Each afternoon at one o'clock sharp, Bobby left the cemetery long enough to visit a nearby restaurant he and John Gray had frequented. People would wait at the entrance to the churchyard for Bobby to make his daily food run, and it's been said they could set their watch by him. Bobby died on January 14, 1872 and is buried just outside the churchyard only 75 feet from John Gray. A gravestone marks his resting place and on it is engraved, “Greyfriars Bobby-died 14th January 1872-aged 16 years-Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all.”

Hachiko, an Akita born November 10, 1923, lived in Japan with his owner, Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor in agriculture at the University of Tokyo. Every night, Hachiko would go to the nearby train station and wait for Ueno to return home. This famous dog knew exactly which train carried his master. One day, Ueno wasn't on the train; he had died at the university. Hachiko never gave up and returned each night to wait for his master's train for nine years, until his death on March 8, 1935. A former student of Professor Ueno heard of Hachiko's nightly vigil and became interested in the Akita breed. He discovered there were only 30 purebred Akitas in the entire country. His writings on Hachiko and the Akita dog breed spread across the country. The Akita became a national symbol of loyalty as the breed became more popular. Hachiko's loyalty was used as an example for children to follow, and his unmoving devotion inspired the people to strive for loyalty and devotion in their own families.

Bobbie the Wonder Dog was a Scotch Collie/English Shepherd mix. In 1923, Bobbie was with his family on vacation in Indiana when he got lost. Unfortunately, his home was in Silverton, Oregon. The family searched for Bobbie with no success and finally had to return home without him. Six months later, Bobbie was found sitting in front of his home, thin and with very sore paws. He had traveled 2,800 miles through the Midwest and plains states and crossed over mountains to reach his home during the peak of winter. He died in 1927 and was buried at Oregon's Humane Society's Pet Cemetery. Today, Bobbie is remembered in an annual children's pet parade in Silverton, as a reminder and tribute to all pets and the special connection we have with them and how much they enhance our lives.

Spike, a yellow Lab mix, is better known to us as Old Yeller. He's included in this group of famous dogs who touched our hearts because the story, which is based on a true story, taught us about loyalty, devotion and life. Old Yeller contracts rabies after being bitten by a rabid gray wolf and his fate is played out in a scene where a tearful Travis is faced with having to do what's most humane for his beloved pet.

Marley, the yellow Lab from the movie, “Marley and Me,” was born in 1991 and belonged to author John Grogan. Marley is described by Grogan as the world's worst dog, but you knew just how much he was loved by the entire Grogan family in spite of his misdeeds. He became a famous dog when Grogan started writing about life with Marley for his newspaper column. Marley's antics made us laugh and cry, and we could sympathize with the Grogan family as this mischievous pup kept them on their toes. Marley didn't take life too seriously and enjoyed every minute of it. He died in 2003.

Cats also have a special place in the hearts of those who love them. For the cat lovers who may have missed it, read Famous Felines Worth Remembering, a fun article about some extraordinary cats.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What is Kennel Cough?

By Ruthie Bently

Kennel Cough is known by several names: Bordetella, Bordetellosis, canine infectious respiratory disease (CIRD), and canine infectious tracheobronchitis. It is highly contagious to dogs, and is the most common canine upper respiratory problem in the United States, though it is found throughout the world. It is a complex disease which can involve several pathogens that when present simultaneously, can act together to heighten the severity of the disease. Kennel cough outbreaks are most commonly seen in shelters, kennels (including boarding) and training programs where multiple dogs are housed.

The most common pathogens that can cause kennel cough include the Bordetella bronchiseptica bacterium, parainfluenza virus and mycoplasma. It is thought that reovirus, canine adenovirus type two and canine herpes virus can contribute to the disease too. While any one of these can cause symptoms of kennel cough, most cases diagnosed are the result of more than a single organism. During the past several years it has been found that canine respiratory coronavirus and a subspecies of Streptococcus equi have also been associated with kennel cough.

If occurring alone, signs of a Bordetella bronchiseptica infection are seen between two days and two weeks after exposure. Symptoms last about ten days, but after the infection has been solved the affected dog can still shed bacteria for another six to fourteen weeks, and can pass the infection on to other dogs. Kennel cough can affect both domestic and wild dogs, so you may want to consider vaccination if you live in an area with foxes, coyotes or wolves.

A dog with kennel cough may have a watery nasal discharge, but the most common symptom is a hacking cough, as if your dog is trying to cough up something. It may be followed by dry heaves. I have personal experience with this, and listening to my dog cough was reminiscent of a goose honking. If your dog does not have a severe case of kennel cough they will still be active and alert. Symptoms in more severe cases include: pneumonia, fever, lethargy and no appetite. It can be severe and cause death, though these cases tend to occur in puppies that have not been vaccinated or dogs that have compromised immune systems. If your dog contracts kennel cough, it is suggested that a harness or head collar should be substituted for their regular collar, as pressure on the trachea and throat can worsen the coughing.

While bacterial cultures, blood work and viral isolation may be conducted to isolate the pathogens, a veterinary diagnosis can usually be made based on the recent exposure to other dogs and the symptoms involved. Depending on the severity of the attack, there are several forms of treatment for kennel cough. A mild form may be treated with antibiotics, cough suppressants or a bronchodilator. It should be noted that this does not lessen the length of time that an infected dog can pass on the disease. In the case that a dog is showing signs of pneumonia, running a fever or not eating, antibiotics are prescribed. Aerosol therapy may also be prescribed. If your dog is showing signs of pneumonia, get them to the vet immediately; if left untreated you could lose your canine companion.

Some protection against parainfluenza virus is offered by a vaccine that protects against “kennel cough” or 5-way vaccine (which covers canine distemper, hepatitis, adenovirus cough, parainfluenza and parvovirus). While these vaccines can help, they may not keep your dog from contracting kennel cough. Not exposing your dog to puppies or other dogs is the best protection for kennel cough. If this is not an option, you may want to consider vaccination. Intranasal vaccines, which are effective, are only recommended for higher risk animals due to possible side effects. Some veterinarians suggest vaccinating a dog for kennel cough before boarding or training where the dog may come in contact with other dogs. Talk to your veterinarian about vaccinating your dog for kennel cough if you are concerned.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, June 19, 2010

How to Help Pets with Flea Allergy Dermatitis

By Linda Cole

Responsible pet owners know how important it is to make sure their pets are treated for fleas. Unfortunately, some pets have an allergic reaction to a flea's bite even with flea medication on them. Some reactions can be quite severe. I have a dog that has an allergic reaction to flea bites. Left untreated, a pet will whine and chew their skin raw, which isn't good for them and can drive you and your pet crazy. My dog has flea allergy dermatitis, also called flea bite allergy.

The first and most important step in helping a pet who has an allergic reaction to fleas is to make sure they are treated with a quality flea control medication monthly. Start treatment at least one month before flea season starts and continue it until at least one month after flea season is over. Talk with your vet to determine which flea treatment would be best for your pet.

Fleas don't actually live on our pets. Most of their life is spent lounging somewhere in the home. Some people assume that if they don't see fleas on their pet, they don't have a flea problem, but that's simply not true. If you don't find fleas on your pet at the time you inspect them, it doesn't mean your pet or home is flea free. If it's flea season and you have pets, a community of fleas could be hanging out in your home and yard, and using your pet as their own personal diner.

To help a pet who has flea allergy dermatitis, it's important to treat the pet and the home at the same time and try to eliminate the little pests completely. The best way to control fleas in the home is to have a pest control service spray monthly during flea season; inside and outside. By having an effective flea control on the pet and with an aggressive attack on fleas around the home, you have a good chance of getting rid of the fleas.

Pets who suffer from flea allergy dermatitis are so sensitive that just one or two flea bites can cause them to chew on themselves constantly, and won’t stop even when their skin has become raw. You don't have to have an infestation of fleas for your pet to be miserable. It's not the flea bite itself that drives a dog or cat crazy, it's the saliva of the flea that causes all the itching. Flea bite allergies are the most common type of allergy found in cats and dogs.

Signs of flea allergy dermatitis are constant scratching, chewing, licking and whining. Their skin may be red or even raw from constant scratching and chewing. You can feel bumps on their skin when you run your hand over the area they've been chewing on, especially along their back at the base of the tail and along the tail. You may notice an area where your pet scratched and chewed so much, they have a bare spot or thinning hair in the area. They can develop hot spots on their face or other parts of their body, and you are apt find flea debris in the area. The debris looks like little pieces of dried blood because that's exactly what it is. Flea bite allergy can cause secondary infections if left untreated, so it's up to us as responsible pet owners to make sure to tackle a flea problem aggressively and use all of the weapons available to us during flea season.

Keep your pet’s bedding clean. Vacuum regularly where your pet sleeps, along baseboards, and move furniture so you can vacuum under it. Remove couch and chair cushions and vacuum thoroughly underneath them. Dispose of the vacuum bag after each vacuuming and if your vacuum has no bag, dump the dirt out into a small trash bag and seal it before throwing it away. You don't want any of your captured fleas to escape back into the home.

If your pet shows signs of having any adverse reaction to fleas even with flea medication on them, talk with your vet. They can recommend a flea control product that might work better for your pet and they can also advise you on other products you can use to help relieve their itching. You want to make sure to use flea control that kills adult fleas and has an insect growth regulator (IGR) which will kill immature fleas before they have a chance to mature into adults.

Flea allergy dermatitis can drive both you and your pet crazy. Start your fight against fleas before they have a chance to attack your pet or invade your home.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cat House on the Kings: an Amazing Feline Sanctuary

By Julia Williams

Nearly everyone has a few grandiose dreams, those “if I won the lottery I would…” type of musings. I don’t even play the lottery, but I still fantasize about how I would spend my fortune if I were to strike it rich someday. (That’s normal, right?). One of the things I envision, and have for many years, is buying some land and starting a cat sanctuary. And if I did, I would model it after what I consider to be one of the best, the Cat House on the Kings.

This safe haven for felines is California’s largest no-cage, no-kill lifetime cat sanctuary and adoption center. The Cat House on the Kings is located along the Kings River in Parlier, California, which is just southeast of Fresno. The sanctuary was founded 18 years ago by Lynea Lattanzio, and today is “home” to more than 700 cats and kittens (as well as a few dogs). Yes, you read that right – 700!!

I became aware of the Cat House on the Kings several years ago after watching a YouTube video about this amazing sanctuary and the extraordinary woman who founded it. I don’t really know Lynea Lattanzio, but after learning about the Cat House on the Kings, I imagine she’s a lot like me – crazy about cats, an animal lover to her core, and someone who gets deep gratification from helping felines in need. On the video Lynea says, “When I was a child all I ever wanted was a kitten, and my Mom wouldn’t let me have one. But she’s sorry now.”

After her divorce in the early 80s, Lynea retired to the peaceful Kings River area to renew her spirit. On a quest to locate Manx kittens for her father, Lynea visited a local animal shelter, and ended up taking 15 abandoned kittens (none of them Manx!) to her property. Lynea sold her Mercedes and her diamond ring to help finance improvements to the property, and by the end of the year, she had rescued and placed 96 homeless cats. Lynea had found her true calling, and she has dedicated her life to helping cats ever since.

The sanctuary’s mission is “to place rescued cats and kittens into loving, permanent homes; to provide a safe, happy and healthy home for unwanted cats and kittens in a unique, no-cage facility; to prevent pet overpopulation through spaying and neutering; and to educate the public about responsible pet ownership.” The Cat House receives no government or public funding, and relies entirely on donations from the public to fulfill its mission.

All of the animals who live at the sanctuary are available for adoption. None are euthanized; they live out their lives until they either find a loving home or die of old age, however long that may be. The Cat House adopts out approximately 500 cats every year. Since its inception 18 years ago, The Cat House on the Kings has saved over 18,000 cats and 5,000 dogs!

From the video and pictures on their website, it’s quite clear that the Cat House on the Kings is a great place to be if you are a kitty without a forever home. The entire 12 acre property is secured by cat-proof fencing and buried chicken wire that prevents the cats and dogs from digging out, and predators from digging in. Cats have the run of the property, where they can climb trees, run and play, and take long naps with the California sunshine warming their fur. The cats are encouraged to make themselves right at home in the sanctuary’s main building too, which is a 4,200 square-foot house. Besides the house, there are numerous other feeding and bedding facilities for cats with special needs, including a Kitten Quarantine, Senior Center, Short-Term Boarding and FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) Ward.

When I perused their website, I saw something in their FAQ section that really made me laugh. Question: Where do all the cats sleep? Answer: Anywhere they want! Apparently this is no exaggeration, as pictures show cats lounging on kitchen counters, in front of a roaring fire, and on numerous cat trees in every room. The Cat House on the Kings is, without a doubt, a kitty paradise. It warms my heart to know such a place exists for those less fortunate felines without homes. I still hope to see my own “cat sanctuary dreams” come true, but if they don’t, there is always the Cat House on the Kings.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dog Breed Profile: the Loyal and Loving Samoyed

By Suzanne Alicie

When it comes to choosing a dog, most animal lovers have a list of characteristics that they are looking for in a pet. Loyal, healthy, even tempered, playful, protective, and good with children are some of the most common. The Samoyed breed meets all the requirements listed above, as well as many others.

I may have a personal bias since I have – and love – a dog of this breed, but over the years our Samoyed has proven to be an excellent pet. Originally, these dogs were bred by a nomad tribe called Samoyede in Central Asia and Siberia. While the dogs were considered working dogs with jobs such as hunting, hauling and herding, they were also considered part of the tribe’s families. The loving treatment that the tribe gave to their hardworking companions has led to the loving and loyal pets that Samoyeds are today.

Although they are an Arctic breed, the Samoyed has adapted to the warmer climates of North America, yet they still love to play in the snow. Samoyed dogs are able to live fully outdoors, even on the coldest of days, but their loving nature makes them a welcome addition indoors.

Samoyeds enjoy attention and will do whatever the need to in order to get the attention of everyone in the house, all the way down to the smallest of children. They are gentle, curious, and very energetic. The Samoyed is not a solitary dog, and will let you know that he is tired of being left alone and is bored and frustrated by destructing some of your favorite possessions. Our dog is named Chaos because she is truly a huge white ball of destruction when she is unhappy. I’ve lost books, shoes, belts and socks whenever she is displeased with me.

The AKC standards for Samoyeds indicate that males stand between 21 to 23 1/2 inches at the withers, with the female coming in between 19 and 21 inches. The average weight of a full grown male Samoyed is between 45 and 65 pounds, and the female between 35 and 50 pounds.

Purebred Samoyeds are white, cream or biscuit colored with a thick two layer coat. The dense wooly undercoat sheds out once a year, while the overcoat sheds twice yearly. Anyone who owns a Samoyed knows that they are willing to wear white hair covered clothing for a few months out of the year just to see that sweet “Samoyed smile.” If you haven’t seen a Samoyed smile, you don’t know what you are missing.

YouTube has many great entertaining videos featuring Samoyeds. These vocal pets have a distinctive plaintive howl when they want to get your attention, and a whining type growl that they use to communicate. Samoyeds “talk” and even “sing” using this growling language. You can spend hours laughing with your family at a Samoyed’s antics and personality.

Like most other large breeds, the Samoyed can develop hip problems and arthritis which can slow them down a bit. However, with proper care, immunizations and love the Samoyed can live a long and full life. Our Samoyed Chaos is nearly 12 years old and still loves to run and play, even though she has some stiffness and moves a little more slowly these days.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tips for Stress-Free Vet Visits

By Ruthie Bently

I’ve been a dog owner since 1981, and have been blessed with my dogs. My breed of choice is the American Staffordshire Terrier; while they are not the breed for everyone, they are a great fit for me. I got two of my dogs as puppies, and as a responsible pet owner I took the time to teach them a few things before we headed off to the vet’s office for the first time.

I began handling my dogs at an early age to get them used to it. Whether you show a dog in confirmation events or just want a family pet, they all need to get used to being handled. You want to handle them all over, touch their head, check inside the ears, open their mouth and look inside, check their gums, their feet, between toes, toenails, even their tail. Make it fun – using dog treats makes the job easier if you have a wiggler. Until a puppy gets used to being handled, it’s easier to do this after romping or just before you put them to bed for the night.

It is also important to teach your dog the basics of leash walking. When you go to the vets, use a regular six foot lead. It will give you more control than a retractable lead in the confines of the vet’s office where you may encounter other dogs. Get your dog used to riding in the car by going for short rides. Take your dog to the pet shop, a dog park or a beach, or other places they have fun.

Make sure to socialize them well and allow them to meet other dogs; this helps prepare them for encounters with multiple dogs at the vets. It also helps them to be less stressful, as they don’t just go in the car to the vet’s office. Schedule a trial run at the vet’s office at a time when the veterinary personnel can greet your dog and offer a treat. This lowers stress levels and puts a different spin on going to the vet. If your dog tends to get carsick, don’t feed them before going to the vet and keep this in mind when making your appointments. Make your appointments for early morning and feed your dog after you get home.

What do you do when you adopt an adult dog and don’t know the dog’s temperament at the vet’s office? If you adopt your dog from a shelter, ask to speak with the person who took them to the vet, or if the vet came to the shelter ask how the dog behaved there. How is the dog around other dogs? Do they ignore them, are they friendly or are they aggressive? Do they have a fear of noises? By finding out as much information about your new dog as possible, you will have an idea of what you need to work on.

If your dog acts anxious in the vet’s waiting room, don’t pet or comfort them. This only reinforces the behavior. Distract them with a treat or job to do that will bring praise. I have taught Skye the command “pay attention.” She knows that I expect her undivided attention and her eyes don’t leave my face. For example, if there’s another dog making a fuss at the vets, I say “pay attention” and Skye ignores the other dog. The vet's waiting area is large enough for me to work Skye, so sometimes we bone up on basic commands while we wait. You can also just keep your dog on a down/stay next to you until it’s your turn to be seen. Don’t let your dog wander, because the other pets that are there may be ill and you should not allow your dog to approach them. They may not be as socialized as your dog, and illness makes pets cranky.

Depending on your vet’s situation, you may be asked to assist by holding your dog and keep them calm during the examination. This may be required when the vet draws blood, takes your dog’s temperature or gives your dog a shot. Put one hand on your dog’s neck and keep the other on their collar to help steady them. Be generous with your praise, as this will distract your dog from the procedure being performed. The calmer you are, the more comfortable your dog will be.

Skye has to visit the vet every six months for blood tests. I don’t worry about her though, since she loves the vet and enters (and leaves) with her head high and her tail wagging vigorously.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How to Have Safe Summer Fun with Your Dog

By Julia Williams

Warm, sunny days are here at last! Though many dogs do enjoy romping in the snow, the pleasures of summer are hard to beat. Canines and humans alike shed their heavy winter coats and head outdoors, unencumbered and ready to play. With that in mind, I’ve compiled some ways to have safe summer fun with your dog.

Sports for the Four Legged

Whether your dog is endowed with natural athletic prowess or doesn’t seem to have a competitive bone in his body, you can both still enjoy participating in sports created just for dogs. They will have a good time regardless, because dogs simply don’t worry about such things like winning or losing – they just enjoy the activity for what it is, and they’ll get much-needed exercise too. CANIDAE sponsors many fine canine athletes, in disc dog, dock diving and other fun dog sports.

Disc Dog is an exciting sport that’s been around since the mid-1970s and continues to be popular today, for participants as well as spectators. Using flying discs, teams comprised of dogs and their human handlers participate in “toss and fetch” events or choreographed freestyle routines. Although sometimes referred to as Frisbee Dog, the preferred name is Disc Dog since Frisbee is a trademarked brand. If organized sports aren’t your thing, you and your dog can still have fun with flying discs at the park. Dogs love chasing the discs, and you can try teaching them a few tricks too.

Dock Diving is one of the most beginner friendly dog sports there is. Dogs jump from a dock that is usually 40 feet long into a pool with distance markers that is also 40 feet long. The dogs run down the dock and into the pool to retrieve a toy tossed by the handler. To learn more about this sport, read Getting Started in Dock Diving by Dan Jacobs of the CANIDAE-sponsored “Team Missy.”

Flyball is an international sport that features teams of four dogs competing against each other in relay races. Two teams compete at a time – the first dog jumps over four hurdles and then steps on a spring-loaded box to release a tennis ball. The dog catches the ball in his mouth and races back over the 51-foot-course to the starting point. The second dog then begins the course. The dog team who finishes first without any errors is the winner.

The sport of Dog Agility involves directing your pooch through an obstacle course in a timed race. As they run up ramps, snake through tunnels and race across balance beams, you’ll need to be guiding them every step of the way, which means that you both get lots of exercise in the process.

Water Fun

Most dogs love getting wet, and many are natural born swimmers. If you have your own backyard pool, let Fido practice his dog paddle, or throw floating toys into the water for him to fetch. If your dog doesn’t like to swim, he can still have fun in the water. Buy a kid’s wading pool and designate it a “doggie pool” that your four-legged friend can splash around in to cool off on hot summer days.

When the weather heats up, a dog-friendly beach is a great place to go for a family picnic. Or, teach your dog to surf so they can “hang twenty” in the ocean like the famous surfing-for-charity canine Ricochet, or CANIDAE employee Diane Matsuura’s dog Hailey, who recently competed in the Loews Coronado Resort 5th Annual Surf Dog Competition with 65 other canine surfers.

Vacations and day trips

Hiking is great exercise for people and dogs alike, and there are many state parks across the U.S. that welcome leashed four legged hikers on their trails. Dog friendly national parks are harder to find, but they do exist. You can research them online, but be sure to confirm with the park directly before you go to avoid disappointment.

Camping with your dog can be a wonderful experience. Camping offers lots of new sights and smells for your dog, as well as some stress-reducing peace and quiet for you. As with the hiking, be sure to confirm that your chosen campground allows dogs before setting off for your rugged outdoor adventure.

If hiking and camping aren’t really your cup of tea, you can still have outdoor fun with your canine best buddy by taking him to the local dog park. He can run and romp freely, and socialize with other dogs while you chat with their owners.

Most dogs love riding in the car, and travel with ease whether you’re going on a road trip vacation or just taking a little sight-seeing jaunt around town. A road trip with your dog can make for a fun and memorable family vacation, provided you seek out pet-friendly lodging. Thankfully, there are plenty of motels, cabins and vacation rental homes that allow dogs.

Now that you have some ideas for summer fun with your dog, isn’t it time to shut off the computer and head outdoors?

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Monday, June 14, 2010

Debunking Common Dog Myths

By Linda Cole

The dictionary defines a myth as a belief or set of beliefs that are false or unproven. Facts and myths have a way of getting tangled up with each other and it's hard to pull them apart. Dog myths can actually be harmful to the dogs if people believe them. In this article, I will set the record straight for six common dog myths.

If a dog is wagging his tail, he must be friendly. This common dog myth may garner a bite for those who believe it. Dogs wag their tails for different reasons. You can tell by a dog's body language if he's friendly. His tail is relaxed and straight out as he wags it, and he looks happy. A more aggressive or dominant dog will hold his tail up over his back and may be wagging only the very end of his tail. A playful dog will also hold his tail up over his back, but it's swishing from side to side. A dog that's submissive, afraid or anxious will have a tail that hangs down with a wag that seems uncertain, which is exactly how the dog is feeling. Never approach or pet a dog you aren't familiar with until the dog has been given a chance to properly check you out.

When a dog does something wrong, they know they're in trouble. They do know they're in trouble, but not because of what they did. They haven't a clue why we're standing there yelling, waving our arms and getting red in the face. We may not be experts at reading a dog's body language, but they are experts in reading ours. Plus, dogs can read our emotions on our face by what's called a left gaze bias. In short, dogs read our moods just by looking at us. When a dog hangs his head and gives us those puppy dog eyes that say, “I'm sorry,” it has nothing to do with the torn up chair or scattered trash on the kitchen floor.

You should never play tug of war games with your pet. This common dog myth will only deprive you and your dog from having fun. Tug of war is one of the more natural games for dogs to play. In the wild, wolves and wild dogs fight over their prey, and the one who wins the tug of war wins the food. A game of tug of war is a great way to teach your dog you're the one in charge. You won, and that makes you leader of the pack in his eyes.

That dog just tried to bite me. This common dog myth gets canines in trouble all the time. If the dog had wanted to bite the hand next to his head, he would have. A dog's reflex is much faster than ours. He only sent a warning shot across the bow that says to back off. Dogs snap to send a warning that “the next one will be the real McCoy and I won't miss.” A snapping dog isn't trying to bite, he's just asking you to leave him alone because something is bothering him.

You should never allow your dog to growl. Dogs communicate in different ways with each other and us. Growls are one of the tools they use to signal to us, other dogs and even cats to leave them alone. A growl is a request to back off because something is bothering your dog and he's uncomfortable. Give him space just like you'd want if there was something gnawing at you. There's also nothing wrong with a playful growl during a game of catch or tug of war. It's never wise to take a dog's voice away because that's his way of letting you know how he feels.

I can tell if my dog has a temperature by his nose. This is a very common dog myth. A dog's nose can be dry and warm in the morning, and wet and cold when he gives you a sloppy kiss on the cheek an hour later. It's normal for his nose to be one way or the other at different times of the day. The only way you can tell if your dog has a temperature is by taking it with a thermometer and yes, you have to do it using a digital rectal thermometer. Never take your dog's temperature using a thermometer with mercury in it because sometimes it can be sucked inside the dog and break. Mercury can make the dog very sick. The normal average temperature for a dog is 101.5 degrees.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Sunday, June 13, 2010

How Weather Affects Our Pets

By Ruthie Bently

I’ve lived in the Midwest my whole life, and I’m used to seasons changing. Growing up in Illinois, we had four definite seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. Since I’ve lived in Minnesota, several years it’s seemed as if we’ve only had two: winter and summer. On May 24 we broke a record that had stood since 1875. The high for the day had been 87 degrees; the new record is 95 degrees. While this is great for people who love warm weather, it is troubling to me. Normally our tick season is between May and August, but ticks appeared here in March due to the warm temperatures. We’re seeing a higher incidence of Lyme disease and the deer tick is no longer the only carrier. Due to the warmer weather there have been reports of the Lone Star tick (native to Texas) in Northern Iowa. The flea populations also get a head start during warmer weather, and though we’ve not been outside late at night, I saw mosquitoes early this year too.

We live in a rural community and don’t see air pollution too often, but during warmer weather sometimes there will be a haze in the sky when the air quality in the Twin Cities is bad and the wind is blowing from the north. Though Skye loves to play outside, I have to make sure she doesn’t play too much during the heat of the day. We try to go out during the early morning or late afternoon. Bad air quality affects our pets in much the same way it does us – they can become asthmatic and develop chronic respiratory problems.

Warm weather enables protozoa and bacteria to thrive, and each of these present problems to our pets. The earlier the warm weather, the more chance your pet could come in contact with one of these. A protozoan is a single celled parasite that lives in soil, water and the feces of an infected animal. There are several kinds that can affect a pet’s blood stream, circulatory system or digestive system, and if left untreated they can be fatal. A pet can become infected with Coccidiosis (Coccidia protozoan) after eating any infected rodent or other infected creature. It causes dehydration and severe cases can lead to death. Giardia can be found in stagnant or contaminated water, feces and soil, although most animals contract it through drinking water. It causes digestive problems in dogs, and they may have gas or diarrhea or show no signs at all.

A bacterium is a single-celled organism that when beneficial assists in decomposing organic material, breaks down food, and enables our pets to synthesize vitamins. Bacteria can also cause diseases, such as Lyme disease, leptospirosis and erlichiosis. My vet mentioned seeing a higher incidence of these due to the increased warmer weather of the past several years.

Lyme disease has been linked to several ticks and is no longer spread only by the deer tick. It’s caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which is passed to a pet through a tick bite. Canine Ehrlichiosis is caused by the bacteria Ehrlichia canis and is a tick borne fever, but cannot be passed dog to dog, or dog to human. Leptospirosis is passed through the urine of both domestic and wild animals, and can be found in stagnant water. While it can affect dogs and humans, cats rarely show signs. As we move into areas that were once wild, our pets come into contact with carriers of these diseases more often.

One naturally occurring toxic danger to our pets is attributed to a specific family of blue-green algae named cyanobacteria. When it blooms it’s toxic to pets, livestock and humans. Cyanobacteria live in many aquatic environments year round. In bodies of water that are nutrient rich and shallow, during periods when sunny, sustained warm days occur, algae blooms. The toxin produced is one of the most powerful natural poisons. Most toxic algae blooms happen in late summer or early fall, but if conditions are favorable they can happen any time. The water may or may not have an odor and may not change color. Toxic algae blooms most often occur in fresh water, but can occur anywhere. A toxic algae bloom can affect a pet in as little as fifteen minutes after ingestion. If your pet comes in contact with a bloom, thoroughly wash your pet’s coat to prevent them from further harm while cleaning themselves. If you think your pet is ill from the bloom, contact your vet immediately.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ocicats May Look Wild, But They’re Tame at Heart

By Julia Williams

I vividly recall the first time I saw an Ocicat many years ago. I was at a cat show, and we were making the rounds looking at all of the different breeds. I stared at this exquisite spotted cat, certain that it wasn’t a domestic breed but rather, a jungle cat like those I’d seen at a wildlife park. Indeed, the aptly named Ocicat does resemble the ocelot, a wild “big cat” that is currently on the endangered species list. The similarities end there, however, as the domestic Ocicat’s temperament is anything but ferocious.

The French writer Fernand Méry, who penned several books about cats, is quoted as saying “God made the cat in order that humankind might have the pleasure of caressing the tiger.” Indeed, what cat fancier hasn’t entertained thoughts of peacefully co-existing among jungle cats in the wild? The tame-at-heart Ocicat allows us a taste of the exotic without the danger and unpredictable nature of a wild cat. For those who love domestic cats that look wild but will happily curl up on your lap, the beautiful Ocicat is a perfect choice. Had I not been owned by several garden-variety cats, I might well have taken an Ocicat home that day.

History of the Ocicat

The Ocicat is a fairly recent breed of domestic cat. The first Ocicat, a male named Tonga, was born in Berkeley, Michigan in 1964. While trying to produce a Siamese cat with Abyssinian markings, noted CFA breeder Virginia Daly accidentally produced an ivory kitten with golden spots. Upon seeing this unusual “ocelot look-alike,” Mrs. Daly’s daughter suggested they name the spotted kitten an Ocicat, and a new breed was born.

Other breeders soon took on the challenge of refining the breed, mating Ocicats with American Shorthairs. The Ocicat is the only spotted domestic breed of cat selectively bred to emulate its spotted feline cousins in the wild. The Ocicat was recognized for CFA registration in 1966 and was advanced to championship status in 1987. Today, Ocicats are frequently seen at cat shows in the U.S., and some have been exported to other countries where their popularity is steadily rising.

Appearance of the Ocicat

The Ocicat is a medium to large size feline with long legs and an athletic appearance: well muscled and broad chested, yet lithe and graceful. It has a wedge-shaped face with almond-shaped eyes, a short nose, and widely spaced ears that are sometimes tufted. Ocicats have the tabby “M” marking on their forehead, mascara markings around the eyes and on their cheeks, and rows of round spots that run along the spine from their shoulder blade to their tail. Spots are also scattered across their shoulders and hindquarters, extending down the legs.

The Ocicat’s short coat has a glossy sheen that beautifully shows off its spots and muscles. There are twelve accepted Ocicat colors: tawny, chocolate, cinnamon, blue, lavender, fawn, silver, chocolate silver, cinnamon silver, blue silver, lavender silver, and fawn silver.

Personality of the Ocicat

The Ocicat is a confident, playful, active and affectionate breed that loves human company, so much so that they often follow people from room to room observing them as they go about their daily routine. Most are not afraid of new experiences and are quite extroverted around strangers. They also usually get along with children, dogs and other cats. Because of their sociable nature, Ocicats do better in a household where they are not left alone for extended periods.

The Ocicat is a very intelligent breed that is easily trained. Some have even learned how to open doors and perform characteristically “dog-like” behaviors like fetching and walking on a leash. The Ocicat’s mellow nature, coupled with the ability to easily adapt to changes in their environment, make them a wonderful show cat and fine travel companion. There are no genetic health problems associated with the Ocicat breed.

If you love the “jungle cat look” but want a laid-back, friendly feline, the Ocicat is the perfect breed for you. I know I am smitten by them, and if I ever do decide to get a purebred, the Ocicat is high on my list.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Friday, June 11, 2010

Household Cleaners That Aren’t Pet Friendly

By Linda Cole

Some days, it's a constant battle trying to keep up with muddy footprints, nose smudges or footprints on the windows, and pet hair on our furniture. However, the household cleaners we use may impact the health of our pets. If you follow the instructions on containers, most pets can tolerate them. Pets with upper respiratory conditions, allergies or those sensitive to a product can have problems though, because many traditional household cleaners are not pet friendly.

I have a cat who loves to slide on a freshly mopped floor. He runs as hard as he can, hits the floor and slides across to the other side of the room. Kids! But he has a sensitivity to certain cleaners, so I have to make sure what he's sliding on is pet friendly.

Pine oil products. Any household cleaner containing phenol is not pet friendly. Phenol is found in pine oil products, and cats are especially sensitive to it. Phenol has been linked to liver damage. You will also find phenol in some air fresheners, so be sure to read all labels carefully and keep pets away from these products. They pick up cleaner on their paws when they walk over a wet floor or freshly dusted coffee table. When they lick their paws, some of the cleaner is ingested. Keep pets away from wet floors or tables.

Ammonia. Household cleaners with ammonia are not a good choice if you own pets. Spot removal cleaners want you to think they’re pet friendly, but in reality, ammonia draws pets to a spot faster than a bee to honey. Using ammonia to mop your floor or clean a spot on the carpet actually encourages your pet to go where they smell the ammonia. Avoid ammonia to clean up a pet stains. It acts like a flashing red sign that says, “Go Here.”

Dishwasher detergents. Residue on dishes will build up over time. Most of them use a highly concentrated form of chlorine which can become toxic over time. All dishwasher detergents are harmful if swallowed.

Laundry detergents work using enzymes, phosphorus and phenol, as well as other ingredients. Some residue is left on what was washed. Pets can be sensitive to certain kinds of detergents just like some people are.

Oven cleaner is not pet friendly. This household cleaner is probably one of the most toxic products we use in the home. It contains lye and ammonia which produce fumes that can linger in the air.

Toilet bowl cleaners contain hydrochloric acid, and many have bleach in them. Solid tablets placed on the inside of toilets designed to clean with each flush, or anything that's dropped into the tank can be harmful to pets who drink out of the toilet. Do not allow a pet to drink water from the toilet bowl if you use any product like this.

Furniture polish contains petroleum distillates (a concentration of vapors through a distillation process) making this product highly flammable. They also contain nitrobenzene which is quite toxic.

Carpet fresheners or cleaners, bleach, drain cleaners, liquid potpourri and window cleaners all contain toxic chemicals that are not pet friendly. Many cleaners can cause pets gastrointestinal problems and irritations to their respiratory tract.

So what’s a responsible pet owner supposed to do when they want to clean their house? Thankfully, there are some commercial and natural household cleaners that are pet friendly. These “green” products typically use vegetable-based cleaning agents that are safe for pets and people. You can find all purpose cleaners, detergents, toilet bowl cleaners and floor cleaners, to name just a few.

Baking soda can be used to scrub your tub and sink, or mop your floor. Sprinkle some into the carpet to freshen it. Use it to clean out the litter pan and sprinkle into the litter in between changes as a deodorizer.

Borax can be added to your regular laundry detergent to help remove pet odors from bedding and clothes. You can also use it as a tub cleaner, or sprinkle some into carpets to help control fleas. Rub it in with a broom and then vacuum; it acts like tiny knives to a flea population. You will find this in the laundry detergent aisle.

White vinegar works great as a deodorizer and degreaser, and helps remove stains. I mix half vinegar, half water and use it to clean up pet “accidents” (although I'm pretty sure some were on purpose). Vinegar also works great on windows and floors, in the kitchen and in the bathroom.

For more information on how to help your four-legged friend stay safe, read Simple Ways to Keep Your Dog Healthy.

Photo courtesy of Claudio Matsuoka.

Read more articles by Linda Cole
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