Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dog Breed Profile: Was Lassie a Typical Collie?

By Suzanne Alicie

While most people think of the popular television show “Lassie” when they hear the word Collie, this breed of dog deserves attention unrelated to television popularity.

The Collie is a very intelligent dog, as well as beautiful, loyal and useful. Originating in Britain, the Collie has become a common breed in the U.S. and other countries as a working dog and as a family pet.

The size of a Collie may lead you to think they are outdoor animals. They do live active and energetic lives outdoors, but the behavior and easy training also makes a Collie the ideal indoor pet as well. An average Collie weighs anywhere between 50 and 75 pounds, with the female weighing on the lower end of that range. While the Collie is an energetic dog breed, if he isn’t exercised regularly he will quickly become lazy and lethargic, so even if your Collie is an indoor pet, make sure to take him for a daily walk or run.

The Collie is a loving dog with an even temperament. They learn quickly and are eager to please. Because of their obedience and friendly nature, along with their prey drive, Collies are naturally good at herding livestock and working with other animals.

Because of the very sensitive nature of a Collie, it is important that a responsible pet owner always offer praise and correct their Collie gently, showing the dog instead the proper action. If a Collie is rebuked sharply his feelings may be hurt and he could shy away from you until you show him that you aren’t angry. While a Collie will protect his family from danger, they do not respond well to loud or violent behavior.

Collies are cautious of strangers and protective of their home and family, so they may bark more than other breeds. This can be dealt with by socializing your Collie and training him not to bark at some everyday things. However, the natural instinct to alert the family of potential danger makes the Collie an ideal pet to have around small children and to alert you if someone is trespassing too close to the family home.

When it comes to the appearance of a Collie, there are many different options. Rough and smooth Collies are available in four basic colors: sable and white, tri color (a mix of white, black and tan), blue merle and white. The difference between rough and smooth Collies is really no more than the grooming that will be required. Rough Collies have coarser fur that keeps mud and dirt from sticking and is easy to keep clean, but requires more brushing to keep from matting and tangling. The smooth Collie has finer hair that is easier to care for, but will need to be washed more often.

One thing that is common for all Collies is the extreme shedding. These dogs shed out twice a year, and will require extra grooming at that time to keep loose fur from becoming entangled and creating mats and lumps in the coat.

Collies are known as a hearty breed and are generally healthy dogs, but there are some things to keep in mind when it comes to the health and well being of your Collie.

• Collies are very susceptible to heat. On hot days they need a lot of cool water and a cool place to lie down.
• Collies are known for their sensitive Collie noses which are susceptible to sunburn.
• Collie eye anomaly (or CEA) affects almost 85% of Collies in the U.S.

The Collie is a great breed to have as a pet or as a working dog, and will serve either function happily. So, while your Collie may not rescue people like Lassie did, he will love you and seek to please you every day.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

Monday, August 30, 2010

Why It's Important to Groom Your Pet

By Linda Cole

Grooming and playing are two great ways to bond with your pet. Grooming also gives you an opportunity to monitor your pet's overall health and gain their trust. Sitting down regularly with your pet will leave them feeling good about themselves (even though they may complain the whole time) and it gives you time with your favorite furry friend.

Hair clipping will be included in your pet grooming routine if you have a long haired dog. Some dogs, like Siberian Huskies, have lots of hair between their paw pads. When the hair grows too long, ice and snow can collect on the hair and cut the dog's pads. Tiny rocks can be held in between their pads by the long hair and can injure their feet. It can be harder for them to walk on slippery surfaces because they can't get proper traction walking on the overgrown hair. Long haired dogs may also need to have the hair in and around their ears trimmed.

Combing or brushing is an essential part of pet grooming. It helps remove loose hair as well as dirt and debris along the skin and in their coat. Medium to long haired dogs and long haired cats can have tangled, matted hair that pulls on the pet's skin and mats can be difficult to remove. Regular brushing can help keep their coats mat free. Brushing stimulates their skin, removes dirt along the skin and in their coat and gets rid of loose hair that won't end up on the living room furniture or on an unsuspecting house guest. This is a good time, while your pet is relaxed, to run your hands over their body and check for any lumps, skin irritations or sores hidden under the coat. Use an appropriate comb or brush that won't scratch their skin.

Trimming your pet's toenails gives you a chance to inspect their feet to make sure there are no hidden cuts or foreign objects, like small rocks or burrs, caught in between the paw pads. Outside cats can come home with small injuries to their feet you may not notice right away. Both cats and dogs can get splinters in their pads or cuts that can become infected over time. Pet grooming should always include an inspection of their feet whether the toenails need trimmed or not, to catch any problems before they require a trip to the vet. If you aren't comfortable with trimming your pet's toenails, most vets are happy to do it for you. When trimming nails at home, be careful not to cut into the quick. Trim as far as you're comfortable with and then finish up with a nail file to smooth the rough edges. For more detailed information on trimming the nails, see How to Give your Pooch a Pedicure.

Bathing isn't a part of pet grooming that's necessary every time, especially for cats. Cats seldom need us to give them a bath, but on those rare occasions when one is needed, try to make it as positive as you can. (Read How to Bathe a Cat and Live to Tell About It for step-by-step directions). Outside cats require more baths because they roll around in all kinds of “stuff” and can get oily debris in their hair. Dogs, on the other hand, do need baths now and then. This is another opportunity to inspect their body as you work the shampoo into their coat.

Dental care is one area of pet grooming that’s often neglected by pet owners. It's easy to forget about the inside of the mouth; however, it's important to check their teeth and gums regularly for signs of gingivitis or other dental problems before they become serious.

Ear inspection is something my pets would rather I skipped, but it's important to include their ears during each pet grooming session. Dogs with floppy ears or long hair have a problem with adequate air flow and air doesn't circulate in the ear canal as well as it does in dogs with erect ears. Humidity can actually build up in their ears keeping them moist inside. If your floppy-eared dog loves to swim, make sure to dry the inside of the ears after he gets out of the water. They can have more buildup of dirt and crud as well, and are more at risk for ear infections than dogs with erect ears. Regular inspection of your pet’s ears can catch an ear mite infestation or yeast infection in the early stages.

Regular pet grooming allows us, as responsible pet owners, the opportunity of a hands-on inspection of our pets as well as helping to keep them clean. It's time well spent, and is as healthy for us as it is for our pets.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Keep Your Pets Safe from Poisonous Creatures

By Ruthie Bently

Growing up in northern Illinois, I didn’t see many venomous creatures, though my friends and I found a nest of baby rattlesnakes one day under a railroad trestle; we figured they’d fallen off a train car passing overhead. While venomous creatures exist in most of the United States and around the world, many employ flight over fight unless cornered. Venomous creatures use their venom when hunting, and at times we and our pets are in the wrong place at the right time.

There are many poisonous spiders that are dangerous to our pets. The best known are the black widow, brown recluse and tarantula. There are three black widow spiders indigenous to the U.S. The Western (Lactrodectus hesperus) is found from southwestern Canada down into Mexico; the Northern (Lactrodectus variiolus) ranges from southeastern Canada to the northeastern U.S., and the Southern black widow’s (Lactrodectus mactans) range covers New York to Florida, the southeastern U.S., and to the west across Oklahoma and Texas. The black widow’s venom (a neurotoxin) is reputed to be fifteen times more dangerous than a rattlesnake’s, and symptoms include increased blood pressure, limb rigidity, shortness of breath, abdominal spasms and dizziness.

The brown recluse ranges from Illinois south to Texas and from West Virginia to Georgia. Its range is expanding due to inadvertent transport by humans, and might be found in any of the lower 48 states. Its venom causes tissue damage around the bite and in extreme cases liver or kidney damage. While the bite of a tarantula may be painful and not usually fatal to humans, it may be lethal to small pets. When threatened, tarantulas have the ability to kick hairs from their abdomen which cause a burning sensation to mucous membranes or sensitive skin. Their range in the U.S. covers the southwest, central California, and they’ve been found in southern Illinois. Symptoms include the wound becoming red and feeling warm, skin rash, itching, swelling of throat and lips, and cardiovascular collapse in extreme cases.

There are between 1,500 and 2,000 scorpions worldwide; over 70 species are found in North America. Scorpions are nocturnal and possess a sting used to capture and overcome prey. Scorpions can be found under stones, bark on trees, leaf litter on the ground, in dark crevices and dry abandoned dirt roads. All scorpions are venomous though the most toxic in the U.S. is the Bark Scorpion (also known as the Sculptured Scorpion). Its range covers southern Nevada, southern and western Arizona and southern Utah. Its sting is acutely toxic and can be life-threatening to a pet. The Hentz’s Striped Scorpion range covers Florida, the Gulf States and as far west as Arizona and Mexico. The Giant Hairy Scorpion (H. arizonensis) is the largest species of nine species of Hadrurus scorpions in the U.S., and is found in the southwest. The range of these species goes as far north as Idaho and as far east as Colorado.

There are venomous snakes in every state except Alaska and Hawaii. Three species of toxic coral snakes (elapids) inhabit the U.S. The coral snake is a banded snake with bands of red, yellow and black. It’s sometimes confused with the king snake which has the same color bands, but is non-venomous. There is an easy way to remember the difference.  Just remember this: “red on black, friend to Jack” (describes king snake banding pattern); “red on yellow, can kill a fellow” (describes coral snake banding pattern).

The pit vipers include five species of copperheads, three species of cottonmouths (water moccasin), and thirty-one species of rattlesnakes including the Massasauga which is on the Endangered and Threatened Species List in several states. Some of these snakes may not be dangerous to humans, but they are to our pets. Hawaii doesn’t have a venomous terrestrial snake, but it does have the Yellow-bellied sea snake, a cobra family member. Its range encompasses the Pacific Ocean, from Africa to the western coast of the Americas, including many Pacific islands to Hawaii, and it’s found near the coasts of Costa Rica and Panama. They’re helpless if beached, but should be avoided. For more information see Linda Cole’s article What to Do If a Snake Bites Your Pet. If snakes are numerous where you live, consider snake aversion therapy.

Being a responsible pet owner means keeping your pet safe from venomous creatures. If you sight an animal on your property, your pet catches one, or one bites your animal here are two good websites for information. At Enature.com you can find species by identification and locate a species you’ve seen or find out what dangerous creatures are indigenous to your area of the country. Venombyte.com lists venomous species by state.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cat Shows Are Not Just for Pedigreed Felines!

By Julia Williams

I’ve only been to a handful of cat shows, but I found them interesting and a lot of fun. It never occurred to me to inquire about showing my own cats, for two reasons. First, I don’t have a purebred cat. More importantly, my cats are rather shy with strangers and would either try to run away from the judges or scratch them to bits. I can’t change their temperaments, but I recently learned that nearly every cat show has a Household Pet class. So owners of outgoing felines who are either non-purebred or without papers, can “prettify” them and let them strut their stuff at a cat show. Who knows, your beloved garden-variety housecat might even take home a title!

The Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA), The International Cat Association (TICA) and the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) are the main cat registries and hosts for cat shows. Although some of the rules and eligibility requirements vary between these organizations, all three have a Household Pet category for their cat shows.

The Household Pet cats compete in one group, without regard to age, sex, coat length or color. Unlike the Pedigree classes, there is no written standard for Household Pets, although most organizations require that cats over 8 months be spayed or neutered. The cats in the Household Pet class are judged instead on their condition, uniqueness, physical beauty, health, and show presence. Judges look for cats who have a pleasing appearance, unusual markings, a sweet disposition and a calm demeanor. However, since “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” the judging for this class tends to be more subjective.

Should you show your cat?

Entering your feline friend in a cat show could be fun and rewarding for both of you, but it’s definitely not for every cat. First and foremost, you must decide if your cat’s temperament is suitable to being in the cat show environment. Would they enjoy the experience, or would it frighten them and stress them out? A good “show cat” will have a friendly and unflappable disposition. This is especially important for the Household Pet class, since temperament is one of the main judging criteria.

For shy or nervous cats, being at a show would be more of an ordeal than something they would enjoy. Is your cat outgoing enough to tolerate the crowds, noise and being handled by strangers? A good show cat loves being on display and doesn’t mind being handled by lots of different people. If your cat is relatively friendly and well-adjusted, they might do well in the ring, although there is really no way to tell for certain aside from giving it a try.

Is your cat in good health? To be entered in a show, your cat must be fit and well, with no fleas, ear mites, bare patches of skin, runny eyes or sneezing, and vaccinations must be current.

How do you find a cat show to enter?

Cat shows are held all around the country every weekend. You can see the show listings for CFA here and for TICA, here.

If you see a show near you that you want to attend, contact the person listed for entry forms and information. Be sure to ask if the show you are interested in has a Household Pet division. Entries for cat shows close several weeks before the actual show date to allow time to create the catalog and judges' books, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get your forms in.

Once you’ve decided to take the leap into cat shows, you should start by doing some research. It’s much better to know the rules than to find out you’ve broken them and been disqualified. Catsinfo.com has a lot of information for beginners interested in showing their cat, whether pedigreed or not. The internet is a good place to do some research, but a far better idea is to go to a cat show as a spectator so you can see first-hand how they work and what’s involved. You can also chat with the other cat owners to get advice. You may even find one who lives near you who would be willing to be your mentor and help you learn the “cat show ropes.”

So you see, your furry friend need not possess a pedigree to become a cat show champion. If you think your feline has the good looks and calm demeanor to take the cat show world by storm, why not have a go at it?

Photos by Krzysiu "Jarzyna" Szymański

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Best Way to Help a Scared Dog or Cat

By Linda Cole

Fear can be paralyzing to any living thing. Most animals and people who have gone through a fearful situation will remember it and react accordingly the next time they encounter anything that reminds them of it. As much as you want to help your scared dog or cat, there is a right way and wrong way to go about it. The last thing you want to do is reinforce their fear. I'm not talking about a scared pet who has a severe reaction to thunderstorms, fireworks, a neighborhood dog or cat, other pets in the home, or other situations that cause them to overreact with fear. This article is concerning mild to moderate cases of fear with no aggression issues associated with it.

When a scared dog or cat can't tell us what scared them, we have to try to figure out where their fear came from. Sometimes the reason is easy to determine, but we may not always know why a dog or cat is showing signs of fear. As a responsible pet owner, you want to help a scared dog or cat by comforting them and reassuring them everything is alright. Your first reaction is to pick them up or sit beside them and gently stroke their coat and tell them, “It's alright,” but this only reinforces their fear. To your pet, you're saying it's OK for them to be fearful. The next time the fearful situation comes up, the cat or dog remembers how you reacted, and the positive feedback they received during the stressful situation can reinforce their fearful reaction to it.

When you attempt to comfort a scared dog or cat, you're teaching the pet to be dependent on you, but pets need to be able to work through occasional periods of fear themselves. No pet owner wants their dog or cat to be upset or frightened, but they need to be given an opportunity to learn how to be confident and brave during scary situations, because you can't always be around to reassure them.

The best thing to do when your dog or cat reacts to something they believe as threatening is to ignore their reaction completely, unless it was warranted and your pet reacted to a potentially dangerous situation. Dogs and cats look to us to help them understand things that happen in their world. When they see you reacting as if there's nothing to worry about and the situation poses no threat, they will adopt your lead. Once a frightened pet learns nothing bad happens during their episodes of being scared, they begin to relax and calm down on their own. The next time they encounter the scary moment, they will remember how you reacted to it and their fear will gradually be forgotten.

Keep in mind, however, that not all pets can get over their fears this easily. Ignoring more severe cases can put other pets or people at risk. When a pet, especially a dog, reacts aggressively to a scary situation each time they're scared, then it's time to talk to a vet or animal behaviorist who can help your pet deal with their fear. Some scared dogs or cats have phobias that are a mystery to us, especially an adopted pet from a shelter or one you may have found wandering lost on the street. There are times when ignoring their fears could cause them more harm. Responsible pet owners need to be able to distinguish between a severe phobia that may require help from a professional animal behaviorist, over a scared reaction from a one-time event or even a mild case of fear that can be dealt with by ignoring the reaction and showing them there's no reason to be scared.

Most owners think of their pets as members of their family. You want to protect them and help them be as confident as they can be. Watching a scared dog or cat can be heartbreaking and our first reaction is to coddle them. I know from experience how difficult it is to ignore them when all you want to do is comfort them by reassuring them it's alright. But I know the best way to help is to ignore their fear, as long as it's not a serious or aggressive overreaction that could escalate, harming others or themselves. Be patient and stay consistent and over time, their fear will subside once they learn nothing bad happened when they were scared. A self confident dog or cat is a happy and well balanced pet.

If you have a dog who has a fear of water, Ruthie Bently recently wrote an article on how to help them overcome their fear of water.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Venomous Creatures That Can Endanger Pets

By Ruthie Bently

There are many creatures in the United States (both native and non-native) that are venomous to our family pets. They can be found at the beach, in the woods, on a hike, even in your own backyard. This article will help to give you a head’s up on the creatures that are toxic to your pets, and where you might encounter them.

The only U.S. state with poisonous frogs is Hawaii. The Green and Black Poison Dart Frog was introduced in 1932 in an effort to control mosquitoes. While most frogs are nocturnal, poison dart frogs are active during the day and their bright colors are a warning of danger. Their poison is used by rainforest Indians to tip their hunting arrows and blowgun darts. A small number contain toxins that can poison by contact, enter the skin through a cut, or orally. The poison can cause hallucinations, and can affect the heart. If your pet comes in contact with one of these frogs, take them to your vet immediately.

Every toad in the U.S. has toxins in their system in varying degrees. The largest native toad in the U.S. is the Colorado River Toad (Bufo alvarius). All toads have paratoid glands behind each eye on either side of their neck. When a dog or cat catches a toad, these glands release a poison that enters the mouth and throat of the pet causing inflammation. The most toxic, non-native toad in the United States is the Cane Toad (Bufo marinus), introduced to control sugarcane beetles. Its paratoid glands extend down the sides of its body. It was introduced to south Florida and its range is now southern Texas into Mexico.

If ingested, toad toxin can cause nausea, heart arrhythmias, seizures, signs of collapse, weakness and death. A pet does not need to eat a toad or swallow their toxin to be affected. The toxins can be absorbed through the mucous linings of a pet’s mouth. After mouthing a toad, a pet immediately begins drooling and the drool has an oily sheen to it. Pets may begin pawing at their mouth, shaking their head or have problems breathing. Try diluting the effects of the poison by completely washing out your pet’s mouth with water, and call your vet immediately. For more information about this venomous creature, read Dogs and Toads Don't Make a Good Duo.

The only venomous lizard in the U.S. is the Gila Monster, and there are two species: (Banded and Reticulated).The Banded is also known as the Northern Gila Monster, and its range covers four states: California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada. The Reticulated Gila Monster is also known as the Southern Gila Monster, and its range covers western Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Both species can grow to a length of two feet and weigh three pounds. Gila Monsters are diurnal; this means they are active during the daytime, though they are slow moving. They do not usually attack unless cornered, however they do not let go once they have bitten something.

The Gila Monster has grooved teeth in its lower jaw and when it bites a victim the venom, which is a neurotoxin, is secreted from glands in the lower jaw that flows through the teeth into the wound created. As the Gila Monster keeps biting the venom keeps flowing; it is as toxic as the western diamondback rattlesnake’s venom. A bite causes swelling around the wound and considerable pain followed by nausea, thirst, faintness and weakness. While their bite is not fatal to humans, it may be to small pets, especially if there is arterial bleeding. One site suggests detaching the lizard by inserting a stick between its jaw and bite, and prying its mouth open; using a lighter or matches to apply heat under the lizard’s jaw until it lets go; or by dipping the lizard into water until it unfastens. Stop any bleeding if possible and flush the wound with a large quantity of clean, fresh water. Contact your vet before attempting these methods to make sure they would suggest this.

Newts are Salamindridae family members and when bothered secrete a sticky mucous from glands on their heads, bodies and tails that can be irritating to humans and pets. The Rough-Skinned Newt (Taricha granulosa) and other newts of the Taricha genus secrete a toxin similar to pufferfish liver toxin. Caution should be taken at all times to avoid these with your pets. Other newts in this genus include: Red-Bellied Newt, California Newt and the Coast Range Newt.

In my next article, I’ll cover more creatures that are venomous to pets, including spiders, scorpions and snakes.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dancing with the Dogs: Musical Canine Freestyle

By Julia Williams

Now that the internet is firmly entrenched in my life, the saying, “You learn something new every day” seems true for me. I am amazed at the things I discover by wasting time on Facebook and other sites. One of those recent discoveries was that there is such a thing as “dancing with the dogs,” aka Musical Canine Freestyle competitions. Not only that, they are very popular with dogs, pet owners and audiences alike. Who knew? I mean, I’ve watched dancing dogs perform on television shows like Pet Star and America’s Got Talent, but I had no idea this fast growing dog sport was so prevalent in America, Canada, Japan and many other countries. I spent more time than I care to admit watching dancing canines and their “handlers” strut their stuff on Youtube, and I have to say it really looks like fun. I love my kitties dearly, but now I really wish I had a dog!

What Is Musical Canine Freestyle?

Put simply, Musical Canine Freestyle (or just Canine Freestyle) is choreographed dancing with dogs to music. The objective is to bond with your dog while teaching them to perform a routine that’s enjoyable for all concerned. Wikipedia defines Canine Freestyle as “a modern dog sport that is a mixture of obedience, tricks and dance which allows for creative interaction between dogs and their owners.” According to the Musical Dog Sport Association, “training, teamwork, music and movement combine to create an artistic, choreographed performance that celebrates the unique qualities of each individual dog.”

The Canine Freestyle Federation says the sport is “an excellent discipline to illustrate the conformation and movement of the dog. The reach, drive and beauty of an athletic, trained dog moving to music can take one’s breath away.” And finally, the World Canine Freestyle Organization (WCFO) says that the goal of this sport is to “display the dog and handler in a creative, innovative and original dance, using music and intricate movements to showcase teamwork, artistry, costuming, athleticism and style.”

Freestyle doggie dance got its start in the late 80s as “heel work to music,” which used traditional heeling exercises set to music and added some variations to make it more interesting and challenging. Musical Canine Freestyle takes the concept even further by adding moves that do not maintain the traditional heel position. Several different people claim to have invented this fun new dog sport, including obedience trainers, dressage trainers, choreographers and show biz entertainers.

Canine Freestyle Competitions and Clubs

Musical Canine Freestyle events and competitions take place all over the world. Currently, there are several organizations in the United States that regulate competitive canine freestyle events, including the aforementioned WCFO, Canine Freestyle Federation and Musical Dog Sport Association. Canada and Japan also have Canine Freestyle organizations that sanction competitions.

Competition rules vary from group to group, but are usually based on a variety of technical and artistic merit points. The routines are done without training aids or leashes, except for some beginner categories. Competitions typically involve just one dog and their handler, but sometimes can involve teams of two, three or more dogs.

In addition to organizations that sanction Canine Freestyle events, there are a multitude of canine dance clubs around the world. These friendly groups welcome handlers and dogs of all ages and levels of experience. Their purpose is to develop and promote the sport through workshops, demonstrations, fun matches, discussion groups, fundraisers and sanctioned canine freestyle events. 

Teaching Your Dog to Dance

The first thing you need to do is choose the music you would like to dance to. You can use just one song or edit several together to create your own unique composition. The second step is to choreograph a routine to your music. You will need to design steps and movements for both yourself and your dog that relate to your music. This might be basic obedience steps or variations of them, dressage movements, tricks, and any new and/or unusual moves you can dream up. The third step is selecting costumes for you and your doggie dance partner that coordinate with the theme of your music. If you want to enter a competition, there is a fourth step to the process. You need to make sure your routine follows the rules and guidelines set forth by the musical canine freestyle organization for the event.

The great thing about Canine Freestyle competitions is that any breed of dog can do it, from itty-bitty Chihuahuas to medium-sized Shelties, to Labs, Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs. Even if you think your dog has “two left feet,” you can both still have fun with freestyle dance, because the most important thing is spending quality time together. Dance on!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Teaching Kids How to Approach an Unfamiliar Dog

By Linda Cole

When I was a kid, old enough to know better, I saw a dog chained to a parking meter. The owner was nowhere in sight. Kids raised with dogs have a tendency to view all dogs like their pet at home. That's exactly what I did. As I approached the dog, it lunged at me and I had to jump back to avoid getting bit. It was a good lesson to learn. Kids can learn how to look at a dog and understand what the dog is telling them before they approach it. A child is more at risk for dog encounters because of their small size. A more aggressive dog isn't as intimidated by a child as they are with adults.

It's just as important to teach your children what to do when meeting an unfamiliar or stray dog as it is to teach them what to do if a stranger approaches them. Dogs are everywhere and sooner or later, kids will find themselves face to face with an unfamiliar or stray dog. The dog could be a family or friend's pet, a dog in the back of a truck or a stray dog who's trying to find his way back home.

Teaching kids how to read a dog's body language is their best defense. Most dogs mean us no harm and they are experts at reading our body language. If a child shows fear or aggression towards the dog, it can lead to an unwanted and unnecessary confrontation, even if the dog and kid know each other.

Avoid direct eye contact with an unfamiliar or stray dog. Teaching kids how to look at a dog is as important as understanding the dog's body language. To a dog, direct eye contact is perceived as a challenge. It's alright to keep an eye on it, but don't stare. If a stray dog starts to walk towards you, walk away from the dog, but do keep an eye on him to see what he's doing. Even a friendly dog can bite if we give wrong signals.

Never run away from a dog, because running will activate his prey drive. A friendly stray may give chase because he wants to play, but it can be frightening to a child or adult when a dog is chasing them. Don't kick at them or try to push them away with your hands. Teach kids to stand completely still with their arms held straight down next to their body if a stray dog approaches them outside. Stay calm and try not to tighten up because the dog can tell if we're frightened. Most dogs will give a few sniffs and then be on their way if they're completely ignored.

If knocked down by a stray dog, curl up in a ball with your hands over your head and remain still and quiet. Excitement from us will create excitement in the dog. The best way to keep a situation under control is by staying in control and remaining calm.

Enter a home with a dog as if there is no dog. Even if there's a comfortable and safe relationship between kid and dog, the dog should be ignored until the greetings are over and everyone has calmed down. Dogs get excited when company arrives and the best time to give them attention is when everyone's in a relaxed state of mind. Encounters with dogs happen because we don't always understand them. They have days when they aren't feeling up to par, just like we do.

When meeting someone's dog who is unfamiliar to them, kids should be taught to always ask before approaching the dog. It's only natural for kids to want to pet and play with a dog. However, even laid back, friendly dogs don't always like having a child pull on their ears. Injuries can be avoided with one simple rule. Never try to pet a dog you don't know. Dogs react the only way they can and will use a growl and bite, if necessary, as a warning to us to leave them alone.

Teaching kids how to approach an unfamiliar or stray dog, even if it looks friendly and is wagging its tail, can help protect them from negative dog encounters. As long as they aren't threatened by us, most dogs will leave us alone. A stray dog doesn't know we want to help them and we don't know what they may have been through while living on the streets. A stray dog can be defensive, fearful or friendly depending on how it's been treated by people it has met along the way. Teaching kids how to look at a dog and understand the dog's body language is your child's best defense when meeting an unfamiliar or stray dog.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Monday, August 23, 2010

How to Get Puppies Off to a Great Start

By Suzanne Alicie

I was toying with the idea of titling this “What to Expect When Your Dog is Expecting,” but because I’m going beyond simple dog pregnancy and into caring for your puppies successfully in order to give them a great start in life, the chosen title is more appropriate. 

Confirm Your Dog’s Pregnancy

A visit to the vet will confirm or deny your suspicion that your dog is pregnant. If the result is positive, the vet will advise you as to what stage your dog is in and what care you need to provide. The length of time a dog gestates is around 9 weeks. Much shorter than a human, this gives you only a little time to prepare. Depending upon the stage of pregnancy when you determine your dog is expecting, your vet may vaccinate her to help protect the new puppies after birth until they are able to be vaccinated.

Care During Pregnancy

The stress level of your expecting dog should be kept to a minimum to avoid problems. A proper diet of a good nutritional dog food and plenty of water is all that your female dog requires to keep her healthy through her pregnancy. When your dog is about 4 weeks from whelping the puppies, increase the food intake a little each day. Puppies this close to birth are quite demanding on the mother and can take the nutrition from her body leaving her underweight and on the verge of being ill. At this time it is also a good idea to worm your dog. Never worm your dog before the midway point of pregnancy, and consult your vet to ensure the timing. Worming helps make sure that the mother does not pass round worms to the new puppies through her milk.

Watch for Laboring

Signs that indicate your dog is preparing to give birth include:

• A hollowing of the hip area which indicates that the puppies have moved and are getting in place for birth.
• A temperature of less than 100. 
• Nesting behavior, including digging at covers, hiding or being determined to stay in a certain area. This is your dog deciding where she will have her puppies and means that the hormones which trigger labor are working.
• Shivering is actually a sign of contractions, if the dog is calm, or possibly eclampsia.
• Irritability is common in laboring dogs; try to keep her calm and relaxed just as you would a human giving birth.

Giving Birth

You dog will move into the second stage of labor known as hard labor, which will expel the puppies. Puppies are born enclosed in a membrane that must be removed for the puppy to breathe. After the first puppy appears, give the mother a few moments to chew and lick the membrane from the pup. If she doesn’t, you will have to do this for her by removing the membrane and rubbing the puppy with a warm towel. The umbilical cord can be tied and cut about an inch from the puppy. Because it is natural for mother dogs to eat the placenta and often later vomit, it’s best if you clean the placenta up and dispose of it. Generally you can expect one puppy every hour until she is finished. With several puppies the mother may take a break and not push or strain for up to 4 hours before birthing another puppy.

Watch for Illness after Giving Birth

Consult your vet if your new mom has any of the following symptoms, which could be signs of a serious condition like metritis or eclampsia during the days after whelping her puppies.

• Fever
• Loss of appetite
• No interest in puppies
• Vaginal discharge with foul odor
• Not enough milk production
• Stiff painful walking
• Nervousness or restlessness
• Muscle spasms or seizures
• Hard painful mammary glands

The area where the mom and new pups will live temporarily should be in a warm (no less than 70 degrees F) and dry area where the puppies can be enclosed while the mom can come and go. Puppies and mom will enjoy newspapers or disposable diapers to shred and make a soft absorbent nest.

Caring for New Puppies

Nature equips the new mother dog to do most of the work when it comes to caring for her puppies. Nursing and learning from the mother during the first weeks of their lives give puppies the necessary nutrition and basic survival skills they will need. A vet should examine the puppies within a few days of their birth and if any tail docking is to be done it should be taken care of before the puppies are 5 days old.

Puppies’ nails can be clipped when they get sharp. The eyes will open around 2 weeks after birth. To assist your mother dog with weaning, starting at about 4 weeks provide a mixture of puppy food and water or milk. As weaning progresses, establish a regular feeding and toilet training schedule. Encourage socialization by cuddling each puppy for a few minutes twice a day.

At 6-8 weeks of age, puppies should be checked for internal parasites and receive their vaccinations for distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis and parvovirus. The rabies vaccination should not be given before the puppies are 3 months old.

Begin separating the puppies from their mother for a length of time each day when they are around 6 weeks old. This will help the mother stop producing milk, and allow the puppies to learn to spend more time away from mom until they are only together at night. For some excellent advice that goes into more detail on specifically caring for newborn puppies, read this article by Julia Williams.

While much of this may seem to be a natural occurrence, any help you provide as a responsible pet owner will make the whole process easier on your dog and her babies.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Treating Canine Arthritis in a Multi-Modal Fashion

By Ruthie Bently

Canine arthritis (Degenerative Joint Disease) generally affects our senior canine companions, though younger dogs can be affected also. Nowadays with the advances of veterinary medicine there are several treatment options: allopathic, homeopathic, alternative medicine and herbal remedies can help alleviate their symptoms and pain. Treating canine arthritis in a multi-modal fashion works well for many dogs, and you may find that more than one treatment will suit your dog’s needs the best.

If you go to a holistic veterinarian, some of the alternative therapies they might suggest include: acupuncture, animal chiropractic, Reiki, laser therapy, massage therapy and natural remedies. See my articles on alternative therapies and laser therapy for more information. Natural remedies work well with most dogs, though you should consult with your vet if you have a special needs dog before proceeding with treatment. Your vet may suggest a combination of natural remedies for better results. You can purchase natural remedies at your local herb, health food store or online herb store.

Perna and Greenlip mussels have been shown to assist in the restoration of connective tissues that have been damaged by canine arthritis. Several herbs have been found to be effective against the effects of canine arthritis. Comfrey given daily has been shown to be effective against arthritis. Many vets and dog owners recommend yucca to ease the pain of arthritis. It contains natural steroids that can relieve arthritis inflammation.

Stinging nettle cleans your dog’s blood and removes toxins that may exacerbate the symptoms of arthritis. It can also be made into a tea for your dog. If you don’t want to go through collecting and processing stinging nettle yourself you can get nettle extract instead. Alfalfa is good for soothing joint swelling too. Your dog’s weight and build will determine the daily dose, which will be between one teaspoon and three tablespoons.

Massage therapy is a wonderful way to bond with your dog while helping them deal with the vagaries of canine arthritis. Get an herbal oil suitable for your dog, and if you can’t find one locally then olive or sunflower oil will work too. Rubbing the oil into your dog’s joints can relieve the stiffness and relax their muscles.

A newer drug used in the treatment of canine arthritis is a joint fluid modifier. This is a long term treatment for arthritis and you may want to evaluate all your alternatives before deciding on this. Depending on the severity of the pain, your vet may suggest a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). These reduce inflammation, provide pain relief and while not curing it can slow down the disease. Dosage should be determined by your vet and monitored by you for possible side effects. You should also observe your pet closely when on these medications to make sure they don’t overdo any exercise. By reducing the inflammation your pet will feel better, though not healed, and they may want to play or exercise more than they should.

Preventative medicine is the best course, and regular exercise can help your dog’s joints, as activity delivers lubricating fluid to the joints. You don’t want to run a marathon or go too far, and should discuss the safe amount of daily exercise your dog can have with your vet. If your dog is overweight this compounds the problem and makes the situation worse. An overweight dog will suffer more pain and have more strain and pressure on their joints.

If your dog is used to jumping up on furniture, consider providing them with a set of stairs to make their ascent easier. A bed that keeps your dog off the floor or is cushioned with four or more inches of foam will help them rest their joints more comfortably. Ask your vet if adding a heating pad will help your dog’s situation.

If you suspect your dog may be suffering from canine arthritis you should have them evaluated by your veterinarian to make certain this is what the issue is. After your dog has been diagnosed, your vet will probably have several suggestions for you. Being a responsible pet owner means evaluating all the options available and choosing the ones that will best serve your dog.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Egyptian Mau Cats: the Oldest Spotted Breed

By Julia Williams

The Egyptian word for cat is Mau (rhymes with wow). A translation from the Egyptian Book of the Dead (240 B.C.) states that “The male cat is Ra himself, and he is called by reason of the speech of the god Sa, who said concerning him, He is like unto that which he hath made, thus his name became Mau.” 

You probably already know that cats were worshipped as deities by the ancient Egyptians. Large numbers of sacred cats were mummified and placed in underground galleries. Numerous bronze votive statuettes have also survived, such as the Gayer-Anderson cat now housed in the British Museum. Cats were also cherished as pets, and mourned upon their death. Tombs of the kings revealed not only mummified cats but toys and food as well. It’s been alleged that very often, a family would shave off their eyebrows to mourn the passing of their beloved cat.

Spotted cats were depicted on the walls of the pharaoh’s chambers, and were said to be the kings’ most sacred and revered companions. Many historical experts believe that artwork of the ancient Egyptians clearly identifies the Egyptian Mau. It’s hypothesized that the Egyptian Mau was domesticated from a spotted subspecies of the small African Wildcat.   

The Egyptian Mau is the oldest and the only naturally occurring breed of spotted domestic cats, a group that includes Ocicats, Bengals, Savannahs and Safari cats. The Mau’s history in North America began in 1956, when they were imported by an exiled Russian princess named Nathalie Troubetskoy. The Egyptian Mau was recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA) for championship competition in 1977.

The Egyptian Mau is a fascinating cat with a stunning “wild” look and a delightful demeanor. First-time Mau owners are said to become so enchanted with this spotted breed that they almost always want more than one.

Temperament of the Mau

As a rule, the Egyptian Mau is an intelligent and active cat. They are fiercely loyal and devoted to their human companions, and are known to form very strong bonds with their owners. Mau kittens adapt easily to new situations, but an adult Mau cat who has already bonded with a family may experience a challenging adjustment period when going to a new home.

The Egyptian Mau has a soft, melodious voice and is known to use it to express happiness. Another way they demonstrate their contentment is by vigorously wiggling their tails (the equivalent of a dog’s wagging tail, perhaps?) while kneading a person with their front paws.

Physical Attributes of the Mau

The beautiful Egyptian Mau is a medium size cat with well developed muscles and athletic grace. The large, slightly almond-shaped eyes are in a distinctive gooseberry green shade. The Mau has alert, medium-to-large ears that are broad at the base, moderately pointed and sometimes tufted.

The coat is medium long and silky, with a glossy sheen. Three colors can be shown in championship status: Silver, Bronze and Smoke, with Silver being the most popular color by far. In the Egyptian Mau standard, much importance is allocated to pattern and contrast. Spots may be any shape or size, but they must be clearly visible and should not run together.

Cats in Egypt Today

Like most American cat owners, Egyptians typically have just one or two felines in their household. However, cat-keeping is largely confined to members of the upper middle class, which is a tiny minority. Although the Egyptian peoples’ feelings toward cats are conditioned by tradition, many are not fully aware of the sacred history cats have in their country.

Photo courtesy of Lil Shepherd.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Friday, August 20, 2010

Back to School for Kids and Pets

By Linda Cole

Once again, summer vacation is coming to an end for millions of kids around the country. Hopefully, pets were able to spend quality time with their little humans, but like all good things, summer vacation is over and children are off to another year of school. Suddenly, pets are left with nothing to do and boredom can set in. When kids go back to school, what's a bored pet to do with all the extra time they now have?

Parents are usually the only ones happy to see summer vacation end as kids prepare for their first day of class, a year older and hopefully wiser. Pets, on the other hand, have no idea what's going on. The first day of school is a flurry of activity as parents pry kids out of bed, which is way too early after a summer of sleeping in. Parents and kids rush out the door so everyone can get where they need to go on time. The house is quiet and the poor pet is still sitting in the middle of the kitchen, alone and confused. Where did everyone go?

Pets don't do well with sudden changes in their routine, and that's exactly what back to school means for them. Routines make them feel safe and comfortable. This is the time of year when pets can become confused, depressed or exhibit signs of separation anxiety when the routine they grew accustomed to all summer suddenly changes. Pets get used to certain things happening at a certain time, or close to it, each day. Once school starts, watch your pet for signs of boredom or separation anxiety. This can become a problem when a dog or cat who is used to having someone around most of the day is left on their own to figure out how to entertain themselves.

Sit down with your kids and talk to them about responsible pet ownership. This is a good time to remind them their four legged friends need attention from them after school. Pets don't require a lot of our time, and spending an extra fifteen minutes in the morning before school exercising the dog will help him get through the day until everyone is back home in the afternoon. A walk or playtime in the backyard after school will reassure a pet they haven't been forgotten.

Cats don't usually tear up furniture or leave claw marks on the front door, but even they can experience separation anxiety when it's time for kids to go back to school. Pets don't understand why the summer routine they grew accustomed to has suddenly changed, and bored pets can be destructive. Separation anxiety can turn into a serious behavioral problem if it's not dealt with. Establishing a new routine that includes all members of the family will help kids learn more responsibility in the care of their dog or cat, and help pets deal with their time home alone once they know what to expect before and after school.

Since a pet's routine will change when the kids head back to school, now is the perfect time to help ease them into a new schedule before they're left on their own. Start by having your kids give the dog or cat extra attention in the morning. Go for a walk, play tug a war or wiggle a toy for the cat. Once a pet realizes someone will return home to give them attention at a certain time, they have something to look forward to that can help them pass the hours. They may still be bored, but once a pet learns the new schedule, they're willing to wait for the kids get home from school.

Ask your kids to think of games or activities they can do with their pet to help them adjust to a new routine. Have the kids help put out toys for pets to entertain themselves with while everyone's gone. Hide treats around the house to give a bored pet something stimulating to do. Fill treat toys for dogs to chew on. If your dog stays in a crate when everyone's gone, start now and give him time to gradually adjust to spending more time in his crate.

Back to school means a new routine for the entire household and everyone needs to adjust, but it doesn't have to be upsetting for pets. With a plan in place and your kids help after school, pets can adjust to a new schedule knowing they haven't been forgotten. They can still spend time with the ones they love. It's just at a different time of the day.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Dangers of Treated Wood for Pets

By Ruthie Bently

Pressure treated wood was used for over 68 years in both residential and commercial applications. While it is no longer supposed to be used in residential applications, it’s been used to build decks, walkways, fences, picnic tables, raised garden beds, dog houses, and  other structures where a wood that’s resistant to the elements is needed. However, pressure treated wood poses many dangers to our pets (as well as our families) that you may not be aware of. 

The process for pressure-treating lumber was invented by Dr. Karl Wolman, and he was issued a U.S. patent for it on September, 29, 1942. The wood product created won’t decay or rot for over 20 years. The wood used was most prevalently preserved with chromate copper arsenate (CCA) and its use began to cease in 2004 due to safety concerns. However, it is still in use in several industrial applications and in some countries around the world. Arsenate is a salt or ester of arsenic acid, in short arsenic which is an exceedingly toxic chemical, as well as a known carcinogen. CCA toxicity can be caused by inhalation of gas created by burning CCA treated wood in a fire. It can also be caused by a dog eating the wood or ashes from a CCA wood fire. One tablespoon of ash from CCA wood contains a fatal dose of arsenic.

Splinters under the skin can cause an infection, and skin coming in contact with the treated wood or lumber can cause dermal irritation or a rash. One Wisconsin man reported his 85 pound Labrador began to show signs of lethargy, no energy and stiffness. It was thought that the dog was poisoned through inhalation of vapors inside his cage (made from CCA treated wood) or through skin contact or even ingesting the wood of the cage. A Pennsylvania man reported that he had been sawing CCA treated wood for about three months, and a few months into the project his dog died of unknown causes. Under certain conditions the chemicals used to preserve the wood can leach out. Arsenic is water soluble and can mix with rainwater puddling on a deck.

How do you protect your pet if there is CCA treated wood on your property? Make sure there are no puddles on your deck after a rainstorm; watering the grass with a sprinkler or power washing windows might also cause the deck to get wet. Never feed, water or give treats to your pet on the deck, and keep their toys off the deck. Limit their access to the deck; if limiting access is not possible, consider a rug for them to lie on. When laundering any rug from the deck wash it by itself to keep from cross contaminating any other items you launder.

Check the deck to see if it needs to be resanded to prevent paw splinters. Wash your pet’s paws and fur after their contact with the deck. Don’t let your pet play in wood chips or soil under or around CCA treated wood unless they test negative for arsenic.

If you’re building or buying a dog house, make sure it is not made with pressure-treated wood. To protect the wood, use paint, stain or oil that is non-toxic. If you have an outdoor project, consider vinyl alternatives or naturally resistant woods like cedar or redwood. Use reclaimed cedar or redwood. Use regular wood and treat with linseed oil or non-toxic stain or paint, and replace it more often.

As the use of CCA as a wood preservative is being discontinued, other preservatives that use the same process are taking its place: Amine Copper Quat (ACQ-D), Copper Azole (CA), Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ) or Quat for short, and Amoniacal Copper Zinc Arsenate (ACZA). There are pros and cons on both sides of the issue, and if you’re a pet owner I would suggest caution when using any pressure-treated wood.

If you believe that your dog or cat may have been exposed to CCA, you can contact the following poison hotlines for information on symptoms and treatment, as well as prevention of a future incident.

Pet Poison Helpline website, (800) 213-6680. Calls from the United States are answered 24 hours a day.
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. Available 24 hours a day for emergencies at: (888) 426-4435.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

International Homeless Animals Day

By Julia Williams

In 1992, the International Society for Animal Rights (ISAR) introduced National Homeless Animals Day and Candlelight Vigils, created as an innovative educational tool for informing the public about pet overpopulation. Since then, ISAR has commemorated the day annually to promote new campaigns, programs, ideas and solutions to the pet overpopulation epidemic. Now, because of the ever-growing support by animal lovers worldwide, they've rechristened it International Homeless Animals Day.

On the third Saturday in August, organizations and individuals around the globe rally together to raise awareness about pet overpopulation. International Homeless Animals Day activities include candlelight vigils, adoption fairs, microchip clinics, blessings of the animals, and heartfelt speeches given by council members, veterinarians, humane officers and shelter personnel. Other activities include slideshows, rallies, dog walks, open houses, award ceremonies, live music, raffles, and games.

Eight Ways to Observe International Homeless Animals Day

1. Download a free candlelight vigil packet from ISAR.  It includes guidelines for organizing a successful vigil event, with tips on site selection, reaching target audiences, poems, songs, sample press releases and more.

2. Check out ISAR's Event Schedule to find an International Homeless Animals Day Candlelight Vigil Observance in your area.

3. Participate in ISAR's 9th Annual Virtual Vigil and light an online candle for homeless animals.

4. Adopt a homeless animal. If you have room in your home and heart, one of the best ways to celebrate International Homeless Animals Day is to give an animal the blessing of a better life. No, this won't fix the pet overpopulation problem overnight, but it will give one beautiful animal a family to love and a place to call home.

5. Help your local animal shelter by volunteering your time or donating supplies. Shelters run on shoestring budgets, and they’re in dire need of volunteers to help with feeding, walking, socializing and simply loving the homeless animals in their facilities. You can also support your local shelter in honor of International Homeless Animals Day by donating pet food, blankets, dishes, grooming tools, toys and other things they need.

6. Have your family pet spayed or neutered. Sadly, millions of healthy, adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters every year. Not every city has the ability or the funds to run a no-kill shelter, and euthanasia is the tragic result of an imbalance in supply and demand. Responsible pet owners recognize the importance of having their family pet “fixed,” which helps to decrease the supply of animals in need of a home.

7. Become a foster parent for homeless pets. For various reasons, animal shelters often need to place puppies and kittens, as well as adult dogs and cats, in temporary foster homes. Thanks to fosters, countless homeless animals can be in safe, loving environments until they’re ready to be adopted.

8. Help feed the homeless animals by donating to wonderful pet-related charities such as The Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank. CANIDAE is proud to support this fine organization with donations of their premium quality pet food, which is used to help feed homeless animals. 

Please join me in observing and supporting International Homeless Animals Day on August 21, 2010.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dog Training with Consistency and Patience

By Linda Cole

Most of us are not professional dog trainers, but our canine companions still need basic training to help keep them safe. As long as you stay consistent and patient with your dog, he will learn what you're trying to teach him. As responsible pet owners, we understand why a dog needs to learn basic commands like sit, stay, down and no. And of course, every dog should know to come as soon as they're called. The hard part, especially with a more head strong dog, is how to do it without a professional dog trainer. If you don't have access to one or can't afford a professional trainer, don't worry about it. Get yourself lots of CANIDAE dog treats and a good leash, and stay calm. Training your dog might take a little longer when you aren't sure what you're doing, but rest assured you can do it.

Understand your dog's breed characteristics to help you know what you can expect from him, even if you have a mixed breed. Some dogs learn faster, but all dogs are capable of learning basic commands as long as you're willing to commit to dog training. Some breeds have a stubborn streak and others are laid back and eager to please. Some dogs respond well with only praise and some need more incentive with a tasty treat. Either way works, but make sure to include lots of praise with or without treats.

Exercise your dog before starting. Begin with a walk or some play time, just enough to get rid of pent up energy so he's ready to concentrate on learning. It helps him focus on your commands once you begin training your dog. A walk is also the perfect time to work on heel and sit.

Make dog training a game, and keep it simple. When you're ready to train your dog, the more fun he has learning, the more willing he'll be to learn. Don't get stressed out if he's not paying attention, and never hit him or yell at him. You don’t want to give your dog negative feelings. An anxious dog can act out if he's frustrated and doesn't understand what he's doing wrong or why you're yelling at him. Keep it fun so he'll look forward to the next dog training session.

Stay calm, and be patient. You can't force a dog to learn. You may be ready to train your dog, but he may not be ready. It doesn't mean “now” isn't the right time. He just may need a little encouragement to get into the game. Staying calm will transfer to your dog. He understands your moods by your body language and tone of voice.

Stay consistent with your commands. If you're teaching your dog to sit, use the same command every time. Don't confuse him by using different words for the same command and expect him to learn each one. “Sit” should be sit or sit down, but not both.

It's not necessary to use your dog's name before each command. He knows you're speaking to him. If you're training more than one dog, don't try to train them together. It's much easier when you don't have to divide your attention, and they won't feel like they have to compete with each other.

Don't let your dog intimidate you. When you're trying to train your dog and he doesn't want to have anything to do with learning, don't give up. Few dogs can resist their favorite treat. To keep your dog from running back to his spot on the couch or racing around the backyard, put him on a leash. You're now in control of the dog training session. Start with easy commands like sit and lay down. With lots of praise and good treats, he'll be eager for his next lesson.

Stop when he gets bored. Sooner or later, learning turns into boredom. You don't have to spend a long time teaching him commands. Once he understands what you want, practice each command every day to reinforce it. When he knows the basics, then you can start teaching him some tricks.

Don't get mad if he isn't paying attention. Dog training requires your dog's full attention. If he isn't hungry, a treat won't work. If there are other activities going on around him, it's hard for him to concentrate if he'd rather be playing or keeping an eye on the neighborhood squirrels. Try again later.

Most dogs learn basic commands quickly. Don't give up! Dog training isn't difficult or time consuming, but it does require staying calm, consistent and patient.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Monday, August 16, 2010

You'll LOL at These Funny Cat and Dog Sites

By Tamara L. Waters

Aww, what a sweet little kitty! Such a cute puppy! We hear the oohs and ahhs at pet stores and of course, now online. Websites featuring adorable pictures and videos of dogs and cats doing the darnedest things make us laugh out loud. Yep, I'm talking about LOLcats and LOLdogs, and their cohorts among funny and cute pet websites. Here's a rundown of my personal favorites.

I Can Has Cheezburger is a favorite in my house. These silly "kittehz" and their antics never fail to entertain and make us laugh, giggle and snort. As a cat lover who has a house and yard full of my own LOLcats, I know how much fun kitty cats can create. Anyone who has visited I Can Has Cheezburger knows all about LOLspeak - a misspelled, phonetic method of speech that is used with the captions on the cat photos. Around my house, it's not unusual to hear someone asking "Mom, I can has pizza?" or "U wan know where teh Oreos are? I eated dem."

I Has a Hot Dog is LOLcats in doggy form. The LOLdogs are as funny and cute as their kitteh counterparts and really, when it comes to LOLing, a preference for canine funny or feline funny just doesn't matter - it all makes you laugh. The I Has a Hot Dog site has plenty to offer in the way of giggles and guffaws.

Cute Overload is a fun website that doesn't just focus on cats or dogs, but pretty much any animal. You'll get to see animals from every walk (and hoof) of life doing their thing and making you 'awww' and 'ooohhh' and of course laugh out loud. What's not to love about a herd of deer resting beneath a trampoline or a precocious polar bear cub? Cute Overload shows the silly side of hamsters, bunnies, cats, dogs, gorillas and more. The difference you might notice with Cute Overload is the amount of written narrative and detail about the pictures. There is usually an explanation about the photo or video and for the most part, there is no LOLspeak and proper English grammar and spelling is usually in use.

The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee website exists for a great cause - finding homes for homeless kitties. This website features such awww-inducing kitty pics that you can't help but love it. Knowing that the founder, Laurie Cinotto, started the site as a way to raise money and help these kitties makes it even more special. The IBKC isn't just about being entertained by pets, but it is more about helping them. Responsible Pet Ownership writer Julia Williams has a great article about the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee, and you can read it here.

Animal Planet Funny Pet has a variety of cute and funny video clips from the popular "Planet's Funniest Animals." The clips are usually set to music and have a narrator giving some play-by-play but they will peg your cuteness radar and make you laugh. If you're familiar with the Animal Planet series then you know it's the same as the long-lived "America's Funniest Home Videos" except that it is focused on animals and features all the crazy, funny and amazing antics the animal world has to offer.

When I have some down time and need a quick pick-me-up, I have found that animals are the perfect choice. They make me laugh. They make me smile. They bring out my sentimental and protective nature, and these websites are great choices for getting a quick jolt of digital pet fun.

Read more articles by Tamara L. Waters

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dog Breed Profile: Newfoundland

By Ruthie Bently

The Newfoundland is a member of the American Kennel Club’s Working Group, and they live up to the reputation of a working dog. They are used as draft animals, for search and rescue, for water rescue, as guardians of property and families, as therapy dogs and for landing fishing nets. In their native Newfoundland they were used to haul harvested wood, carry boat lines to shore, carry lifelines to boats, rescue children, fetch items that fell overboard, supply power for the blacksmith, as a pack animal and cart puller. They are equally at home in the water or on land, and their history for water rescues are renowned worldwide. Due to their versatility in many fields, they are used in carting, agility, obedience, confirmation, drafting and water tests, and tracking competitions.

While it is thought that the breed originated in Newfoundland, from stock brought across the ocean by European fishermen, their ancestry is a bit muddy. There are many different opinions on who their antecedents were. Theories are: that they are a cross between local dogs and Tibetan Mastiffs; a descendent of a nomadic Indian dog or a Viking Karelian (a spitz type dog); or a descendent of a French Boarhound, Great Pyrenees, even a cross with a Labrador.

During World War II during blizzards in the Aleutian Islands and Alaska, Newfoundlands were used for hauling ammunition and supplies. In 1919, a Newfoundland that pulled a lifeboat with twenty shipwreck survivors to safety received a gold medal. Another Newfie is noted for rescuing 53 people from a shipwreck. They are used in Europe to patrol beaches. The Coast Guard and Navy Seals are using Newfies trained to jump from helicopters for water rescues. A woman in Janesville, Wisconsin even stated that her Newfoundland towed her stepfather’s car out of a snow drift.

Last but not least, there is mention of a Newfoundland named Rigel who may have swum in the icy waters of the North Atlantic for three hours before barking to alert a rescue ship. There is a mention of him in the book The Sinking of Titanic and Great Sea Disasters and an article in the New York Herald the day the Carpathia docked with survivors, but no other concrete evidence seems to be available. His legend is immortalized in The Legend of Rigel: Hero Dog of the Titanic, by Christine Jamesson.

There are several famous Newfies in history; even the White House was not adverse to their charms. Faithful was owned by Jesse Grant, the son of Ulysses S. Grant. Hector was owned by Rutherford B. Hayes, and James Buchanan had a female named Lara, who reportedly kept an eye on her owner by lying with one eye closed and one open for hours at a time. In the original version of Peter Pan, Nana the dog was a Newfoundland. Lewis and Clark took a Newfoundland named Seaman on their expedition. The Landseer was made famous by artist Sir Edwin Landseer, who painted many pictures of this black and white variety. Other colors allowed are black, brown and gray.

Newfoundlands have a life expectancy of between nine and fifteen years. Adult females weigh between 100 to 120 pounds and stand between 25 and 27 inches at the shoulder. Males weigh between 130 and 150 pounds and stand between 27 and 29 inches at the shoulder. They are prone to hip dysplasia and sub-aortic stenosis, a hereditary heart disease. The Newfoundland was recognized by the AKC in 1886.

A Newfoundland does best in cooler climates, as they don’t do well in hot weather. They need daily exercise, but are content to hang out at home. They do well with a job and are equally as good on land as they are in the water. They have an affinity for water and getting them a kiddie pool is a good idea if you can’t make regular trips to the beach or a lake. They can clean off a low table with one swipe of their tail and drool quite a bit. They shed profusely during shedding season, and they require regular brushing to maintain their coat quality. Due to their sweet disposition, they are good with most other animals, love children and are devoted to their family. Proper socialization and obedience training is a must. As with many other large breeds, a Newfie’s owner must be the alpha dog.

If you are interested in a remarkable, gentle giant that works well in many situations, check out the Newfoundland. If you would like to adopt a rescued Newfie see the Newfoundland Club of America’s website. You can also find information on the AKC’s website.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Famous Fictional Felines

By Julia Williams

Cats have been a part of our culture for ages. Long before felines were persecuted alongside witches in the Middle Ages, they were worshipped as Gods in ancient Egypt. Today, more than 93 million domestic cats are kept as pets in the United States alone, according to a recent survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. Cats have been featured in countless movies, books and ad campaigns, and depicted on postage stamps and famous paintings. Here are some of my favorite fictional felines.

Puss in Boots

Thanks to the Shrek movies, most children today are quite familiar with this smartly dressed cat with an attitude to match. But eons before Shrek, 300+ years ago, French author Charles Perrault brought this crafty cat to life in his collection of classic folk tales. Puss in Boots tells of a poor miller who dies and leaves his son with only a cat. But what a cat! Wearing tall boots and a hat, this dapper cat helps his young master attain wealth and in the end, endears himself to readers of all ages.

The Cheshire Cat

This classic fictional cat is a mischievous character in Lewis Carroll's Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The cat wears a permanent grin and can disappear and reappear whenever it likes, which Alice finds quite disconcerting. When Alice asks the cat to stop doing that, it vanishes slowly, with its grin remaining some time after the rest of it has gone. This prompts Alice to remark, “Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin, but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw!”

The Cat in the Hat

This plucky feline was the creation of Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka, “Dr. Seuss.” The Cat in the Hat book was published in 1957 and is a must for every child’s library, even today. The Cat in the Hat is not only fun and entertaining, it was written to help kids learn to read. The 1,629-word tale uses only 236 different words in all – 221 have one syllable, 14 have two and just one word (another) has three syllables! The Cat in the Hat is about a mischief-making cat who transforms a dull afternoon into a magical and amusing adventure for two children. The gaily dressed cat also appears in four subsequent books, and his popularity was boosted further by the 2003 movie starring Mike Meyers as the cat.

The Three Little Kittens

When I was a child, this was paws-down my favorite Little Golden Book. The Mother Goose nursery rhyme features three naughty kittens that get into trouble when they lose their mittens. (Why kittens needed mittens wasn’t something I questioned, but I suppose I should have.) The kittens begin to cry, fearing their mother won’t let them have pie. But the kittens find their mittens which prompts mom to say, “Put on your mittens you silly kittens, and you shall have some pie.” “Meow, meow, meow…” they get to have some pie.


This adorable tuxedo cat was created by The Walt Disney Company and made his debut in the 1940 animated film Pinocchio as Geppetto's pet. Figaro the Cat is the only character from a Disney feature to be spun off into his own series of theatrical shorts. He first appeared in All Together, a film promoting war bonds, and then in the 1943 cartoon Figaro & Cleo (Gepetto’s goldfish). Figaro the Cat was later tapped to be Minnie Mouse’s pet as well as an adversary for Mickey’s dog Pluto. Figaro was supposedly the inspiration behind a short-lived brand of cat food produced by Bumblebee Tuna, aptly named Figaro Cat.

Felix the Cat

Conceived by New Jersey cartoonist Otto Messmer, Felix the Cat made his debut in the 1919 film Feline Follies. The mischievous cat (I’m sensing a recurring theme here) rocketed to fame and was the most popular cartoon character until Mickey Mouse came along. It’s been said that in 1920, Felix the Cat was even more popular than Charlie Chaplin. Felix “starred” in 80 films, and soon after made his transition to print, specifically comic books and strips. Felix was syndicated in over 250 newspapers in many different languages, making him a household name. Felix’s fame led to him being chosen as Charles Lindbergh’s lucky mascot on his historic transatlantic flight. Felix’s appeal is still going strong today, and he’s loved by all ages.

Cats in Advertising

Cats have been featured in countless advertising campaigns for both print and broadcast media. Cats are often used to elicit feelings of warmth, softness, tenderness and happiness. Morris the Cat is, of course, the most famous advertising cat. I wrote about Morris in Famous Felines Worth Remembering, so I won’t repeat myself here.

There’s a trio of cute ad cats that made the news recently though – the Quiznos “Singimals.” In television commercials that began airing in July, two white kittens and an orange kitten sing the features of Quiznos new $5, $4 and $3 menu offerings. The commercial was created by marketing agency WONGWOODY, reportedly inspired by popular internet videos featuring pets. You can watch the commercial here. I found the Quiznos Singimals commercial to be quite funny, but some people think it’s irritating (and worse), so consider yourself forewarned.

Who are YOUR favorite fictional felines?

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Friday, August 13, 2010

How to Tell Which Breeds are in Your Mutt

By Linda Cole

It can be hard trying to determine the pedigree of some mixed breed dogs. Even dog experts have a hard time identifying some “Heinz 57” pups. A lot of times, it comes down to guesswork. But knowing which combination of dog breeds they might be can make a difference when you're trying to decide if a mixed breed is one that would be suitable for your family.

Because mixed breed dogs have a variety of breeds in their lineage, it's difficult to know all the dog breeds making up their DNA. Which breed temperament will be the strongest may be noticeable when they're pups, but it can change as they grow.

Until 2007, there were no tests to determine the heritage of mixed breeds. Scientists have developed a DNA test for about 100 or so specific dogs breeds and have recently been testing mixed breeds for an average cost to dog owners of around $100. Since it doesn't cover all known dog breeds, a complete evaluation for most mutts is still in the future. Each year, more breeds are added to the list, but until a complete list is compiled, that leaves most of us wondering which breeds are in our mixed breed dog.

A cross breed mixed dog comes from two different purebred dogs. A Labrador and Poodle bred together produce a Labradoodle. It's considered a mixed breed dog, but there's a difference between a dog with first generation parents and one whose mixed breed lineage goes back three or more generations.

Trying to figure out specific dog breeds in some mixed breeds becomes more difficult, if not impossible, because specific breeds become more jumbled with each generation that's born. Even with DNA testing it can be a complicated question to answer the more mixed a dog's lineage is.

True mixed breed dogs are more run of the mill types with a medium build and light or medium brown or black coats with white on their chest and possibly in other places on their coat. They're usually of medium weight around 40 pounds. These are dogs with so many generations of mixed breed ancestry that any resemblance of specific dog breeds has been lost.

Not all mixed breed dogs are true Heinz 57's. You can determine specific breeds in many mixed dogs. My Beagle/Terrier mix, Alex, looks like a Beagle in her face, with ears that resemble that part of her heritage, but the ears are shorter and not as wide as a purebred Beagle. She has a Terrier body, except in the chest which is more like a Beagle. Her disposition is more Beagle like, and she loves to bark. She's stubborn and likes to do things when she's ready, but she's more laid back than a typical Terrier and not as snappy.

Check the shape of their head and muzzle. Does the dog have floppy ears or do they stand erect? Is their tail short or stubby, long and thin or bushy? You can get an idea of how big your puppy will be by looking at his feet. If he has small feet, he'll remain small. If his feet seem to be oversized for his body, watch out if you aren't looking for a big dog.

Coat color can give you some indications as well. A black and tan colored coat with a saddle type of pattern may tell you he has German Shepherd in him, especially if he shows other characteristics of a Shepherd like a long wedge-shaped nose and erect ears. If he has webbed feet, then you can assume he probably has some type of water dog in his DNA, like a Spaniel or even a Newfoundland.

If the structure of the dog's face, ears, eyes and muzzle point toward a specific breed, you know at least one breed. If it looks like a Lab, that means it has Lab in its DNA. The body may be smaller or larger which then becomes another guessing game for other possible dog breeds.

Having a general idea what the genetic makeup of a mixed breed dog is helps you decide if it's a dog that would fit in with your lifestyle. If you're looking for an active dog but end up with a couch potato, you may not be happy with the dog. Being able to determine the main breeds in a mixed breed dog can give you an idea what temperament that dog might have. You can take some of the mystery out of adopting a mixed breed dog by doing a few careful, but simple observations before you adopt.

Read more articles by Linda Cole
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