Sunday, January 31, 2010

What to Do if Your Dog is Bleeding


By Ruthie Bently

If you discover that your dog has an injury, try to stay as calm as you can. By staying calm you can keep your dog calm as well. They can sense your stress, and the most important thing is to keep them calm. The next thing to do is to determine where the blood is coming from. For example, a dog can cut their paw and it may bleed profusely, though it may not be a serious injury. Check them all over from nose to tail to find out where they are bleeding. By finding the source of the bleeding, you can determine how serious the wound is and proceed from there.

The color of the blood can help you determine if it comes from an artery or a vein. Venous blood will be a dark red color and may ooze from a wound, and arterial blood will be bright red because of its oxygen content. If there is a lot of blood and the wound has stopped bleeding and begun to clot, do not attempt to remove the clot, as this can make the wound begin to bleed again. Wrap the wound in a clean towel or several layers of gauze and tape the wound well but not too tightly, as this can cause swelling in the affected area. This is called a pressure bandage.

If the bleeding is severe and you can’t get the wound to stop bleeding or it is bleeding sluggishly, again apply a pressure bandage and get your dog to the vet or emergency clinic as soon as you can. This situation can be life threatening and time is of the essence. Another way to stop the bleeding is to use a tourniquet, but do not use this method unless advised by your veterinarian, because cutting off the blood flow completely can damage tissue in the surrounding area.

If it is a cut on your dog’s foot, it could be from a foreign object they stepped on outside. The capillaries in a dog’s foot are very close to the surface and they can bleed profusely even if the wound is minor. Carefully examine their foot to find the source of the bleeding. If you don’t see a foreign body lodged in their foot and the bleeding is minimal you can clean it with a mixture of 50% hydrogen peroxide and 50% water. If it is the webbed tissue between their pads, it may not stop on its own and may require stitches.

The most important things about a cut on your dog are to get the bleeding stopped and prevent infection. If the cut is a laceration of an inch or more and has any amount of depth to it, it may require stitches. Any cut may become infected, and you should contact your vet about using an antibiotic to keep infection at bay.

My AmStaff, Skye, had an accident that happened when she walked through a broken glass jar one of the cats had knocked off my kitchen shelf. She nicked her right leg, which required two stitches. Her left leg was a more serious injury. She cut the ulnar artery (one of the two in her leg) and cut through two tendons, and the blood was bright red. I don’t tell you this to scare you or gross you out; I just want you to be aware that no matter how careful you are in your own house, accidents can happen when you least expect them, and you need to be prepared.

Because of my quick action, the vet’s prognosis of her regaining the full use of her leg and foot are good. We have a first aid kit for our animals, as every responsible pet owner should. If you want to make one, read Linda Cole’s June article for a list of basic first aid supplies.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, January 30, 2010

How to Leash Train a Cat


By Julia Williams

I imagine that many people, upon reading my title, might wonder why anyone would want to leash train a cat. And yet, I recently discovered a website which claimed that “walking the cat is quickly becoming one of the hottest new trends.”

I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. There are valid reasons for leash training a cat, but I sincerely doubt that walking the cat is “the next big thing.” I’m fairly sure you won’t see hordes of cat owners out for their evening stroll with felines in tow. That being said, a few years ago I actually did leash train three cats in preparation for my 1,000+ mile move/road trip. I’m very glad I did too, or I might be minus one cat.

My original reason for leash training was to exercise them on the long trip, which I did. But I also used it when Rocky soiled his cat carrier and I had to clean up at a rest area that didn’t have a lock on the door. With the harness and leash on him, I was able to tie Rocky to the sink so he couldn’t escape while I washed out his carrier.

There are other reasons why you might want to leash train a cat too. For a trip to the vet, it’s safer to have cats (especially skittish ones) leashed whenever they need to be out of their carrier. It only takes a second for a loose cat to bolt out an open door. Leash training a cat can also give an indoor kitty a taste of the great outdoors, without putting their life in peril. They can get some fresh air, exercise and tactile playtime while in the safety of your backyard.

Leash training a cat is difficult, but not impossible. Like any training, it takes time and patience.

Step One: Buy a lightweight leash (approx. 6’ long) and a harness made specifically for cats. My harness is nylon, but I’ve seen others that are more like soft, fitted jackets. Just don’t use a collar, as it can cause choking.

Step Two: Put the new gear near kitty’s napping spot for a few days, and let them investigate it.

Step Three: Put the harness on your cat when they are relaxed. If they don’t freak out wearing it for a few minutes, give them some cat treats as a reward. The hardest part about this step is learning how to put the harness on correctly. It should fit snug but not too tight, nor so loose that your cat can wriggle out of it. (You should be able to fit two fingers between the harness and your cat’s body). Repeat this step a few times a day for a week, to get kitty used to the feel of the harness.

Step Four: With your cat in the harness, clip on the leash. Rather than try to hold onto the leash, allow your cat to walk around with it trailing behind them. As in step three, reward them with treats if they can calmly wear the harness and leash.

Tip: Do this in a closed-off, uncluttered room to prevent kitty from getting entangled in something if they panic while wearing the harness and leash.

Step Five: Once kitty seems relatively at ease wearing the harness, hold the leash loosely and walk with them as they explore the room.

Step Six: Walk your leashed cat around your home, and again, use treats. Alternatively, you could bring out their favorite toy and try engaging them in play while still wearing the harness/leash. Never allow them to wear the harness unsupervised though.

Step Seven: Take your leashed cat outside for 5 minutes, 2-3 times a day. If they’re comfortable outside in the harness and leash, gradually increase the amount of time, and reward them with treats when you go back inside. This is where it gets tricky, because some cats will be at ease from the start, while others take a lot longer. Watch your cat for signs of stress, and bring them inside if they’re frightened. You want this to be a pleasant experience for them, not something to be feared. Give them however much time they need to become acclimated to this strange new thing. It helps if you have a secluded backyard, and you can take them outdoors at a quiet time of day.

You may be surprised to learn that leash training your cat is far easier than you thought it would be. Or, if your kitty is anything like my three, it might be a long and challenging process. It all depends on your cat’s personality, which is something you can’t change. I would never leash-walk my cats outside my own yard, because their personalities aren’t suited for such an adventure. However, if you have a very outgoing and relaxed cat that seems to love walking on a leash, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try it.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Friday, January 29, 2010

How to Take a Great Photo of Your Pet


By Suzanne Alicie

Our pets are an important part of our lives, and we naturally want to include them in our photo albums. Taking a great picture of your pet requires some preparation, some skill, and a whole lot of luck. Occasionally a snapshot of your pet will turn out wonderfully, but more often than not you have lost the personality of the moment in the photo. Your gorgeous pet looks as if it’s in the middle of the road and caught in the high beams. Glowing green and red eyes ruin even the nicest photo of your pet. So unless you are a professional pet photographer, how can you take a great photo of your pet?

Avoid Glowing Eyes

The glowing eye problem, whether red or green, is caused by the same thing that causes this problem in human photos. The flash reflects off the back of the eye. To avoid the glowing eyes when you take a photo of your pet, the best thing to do is eliminate the flash entirely. Try shooting your pet outside or in an area with a lot of natural light.

Utilize Props

We all know how hard it can be to get a pet to sit still long enough for the shutter to close on the camera, but to create a really unique photo of your pet you will want to incorporate some aspect of his personality into the photo. This is where props come in handy. Prepare the props in the area you want to take the photo before you call your pet in. If your dog loves a certain chew toy, place it in a well lit area in preparation for the photo. Does your cat have an affinity for walking on your keyboard? Place an old keyboard where you want to take the photo. Clean up the background or use a solid colored blanket as a backdrop and you have the setting for a great pet photo.

Timing

When it comes to getting a great photo of your pet, a digital camera is your best option. Call the pet in, and play with it near the props you are using. Once your pet is relaxed and seems content to be in the area you have selected, offer a treat or wave a toy at the pet to get it to look at you, and snap as fast as your finger will move. Often times the photo that you thought would look great will be one of those you will discard, and a random shot will turn out to capture your pet’s personality perfectly.

Much the same as taking photos of children, you have to work around their quick loss of interest and easy distraction, using those very qualities to get them to look at you and stay where they are. Having a second person on hand to help play with the animal or get it to move to a certain area while you snap photos is a sure way to get a great photo.

It may take a few tries, and you may find yourself discarding many more photos than you keep, but eventually you will get a shot of your pet that you can’t wait to share with everyone.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Story of Balto is a Tribute to All Dogs


By Linda Cole

Every now and then an exceptional dog rises above expectations. Balto was such a dog, who despite difficult odds guided a life saving dog sled team into Nome, Alaska in 1925 after a diphtheria epidemic threatened to wipe out the entire town of 1,400 residents. What kind of dog was Balto, and how was he able to complete his journey?

Central Park in New York City is a long way from Alaska, but it's where you can find a life size statue of Balto. His nose, paws and face are worn and shiny from children touching the statue, and it's the most visited and admired statue in the park. He stands as a tribute to a heroic group of dogs and mushers who braved an Alaskan winter storm in a relay race against time.

There is some confusion as to Balto's breed. Some say he was an Alaskan Malamute, others claim he was a Siberian Husky. However, he was owned by Leonhard Seppala who raised and raced Siberian Huskies and there's no mention of him ever owning Alaskan Malamutes. Balto was born in the Chukchi Inuit tribe and came from their stock of Siberian dogs. Described as a jet black Siberian Husky with a white bib and white socks, he was born in 1919 and died in 1933.

Seppala didn't believe Balto was good breeding stock or a good lead dog, so the dog was neutered when he was 6 months old and delegated to pulling heavy freight sleds for the Pioneer Gold Mining Company Seppala worked for. Looks can be deceiving, and this was definitely the case with Balto. Seppala knew dogs, but he misread Balto's potential. Not a perfect specimen of a Siberian Husky, he was barrel chested with a boxy looking body that made his front legs look bowed, and he didn't look like a racing dog. However, he turned out to be an able, strong and intelligent dog. He proved his worth by safely delivering the serum and saving the lives of the rest of the dog team and his musher, Gunnar Kaasen, who used Balto as his lead dog during the 1925 serum run to Nome.

Heading his dogs into a wicked, cold night with a -70 wind chill, Kaasen began his portion of the run which was to end at a town named Solomon. The howling blizzard was so fierce, he couldn't see the dogs harnessed closest to his sled, and he was 2 miles past the town when he realized he had missed it. Kaasen pressed on to the next stop where a fresh team of dogs and musher would be waiting to take the hand off of the precious serum to its final destination. When he arrived, the musher was sleeping and the dogs weren't ready to go, so Kaasen decided to continue on instead of losing time that Nome residents were running out of.

Dead tired and cold with frostbite on his hands, the musher and dogs pulled into Nome at 5:30 in the morning, five and a half days after the serum run began. The only words he was able to muster were about Balto, “Damn fine dog,” he said as he fell beside the dog at the front of the team. They had run 57 miles in bone chilling cold, barely able to see through blinding snow and completed a 674 mile rescue mission along the only route possible—the mail route. Because the weather was so bad, sled dogs were the town's only hope.

Balto knew nothing of his important mission; he ran because that was his job. He was part of a team of dogs and one man who drove through the night, depending on each other in weather that wasn't fit for man or beast. Balto proved that he had the fortitude, intelligence and courage to guide six other dogs and the sled.

A Siberian Husky can tolerate extreme cold (minus 50 to minus 75) as well as warmer weather because their double layered coat helps keep them warm and cool. They are an intelligent, tenacious, independent, strong and fast breed capable of picking safe paths over snowy trails and frozen streams. Balto was able to stay on the trail despite whiteout conditions because he knew the trail and he used his instincts. At one point, he stopped shy of a not completely frozen lake, saving the entire team and serum from disaster.

Balto was never used as a lead dog after the run. Even though he proved himself a strong, determined and capable lead dog, the attention he and Kaasen received from the press made the other mushers, including Seppala, jealous. A taxidermist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History stuffed and mounted Balto after his death where he is still today. His original lead is laid across his back.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Basic Supplies Needed for a New Dog


By Ruthie Bently

Bringing home a new dog, whether it’s a puppy or an adult, is like bringing home a new baby – you need to be prepared, and you need supplies. You should have a collar with an identification tag on it in case your dog gets lost. Even if you have a fenced yard for your dog to play in, you should have a leash for those trips to the vet or walks around the neighborhood. I suggest a six foot nylon leash unless your dog is an adult and not chewing anymore. Nylon is a sturdy material and stands up to most things except a determined chewer. Six feet is a good length, as it gives your dog enough room to step away from you to go potty and still gives you enough control. It will also keep your dog from tripping you up by accident.

You will need a supply of dog food of course (I use the CANIDAE Grain Free, four meat meal formula) and you will probably want dog treats too (I use both CANIDAE Snap-Biscuit® and Snap-Bits™ treats). You’ll want to get a set of bowls for their food and water; I prefer stainless steel because they are easy to keep clean and resist rusting. I’ve had the same set of bowls for over twenty years now and have never had an issue with rust. When I got my first puppy I bought bowls for the adult size dog that I knew my puppy would be when full grown. This way you only have to make the purchase once. I have a set of three quart bowls, which are a good size for any medium to large sized breed.

When you need to confine your new puppy or dog, such as when they need a time out or you just need a break, a dog crate is nice to have on hand. Dogs, like their wolf cousins, have an instinct to “den” and a crate is a good place they can call their own. If you have an aversion to crating your dog but aren’t quite ready to give them the run of the house, a pair of dog gates is a good way to confine them to a specific room. A washable fleece pad is a perfect choice for a teething puppy, and if your dog is past the chewing stage you can get them a regular bed so they have their own place to sleep.

Don’t forget to buy some toys to keep your new dog occupied. I like to have an assortment of chewing and interactive toys, and Skye also has a flying disc and a 10” ball she can chase in the yard, as well as sterilized and nylon bones for when she is on her own. She also has a cotton rope tug but isn’t allowed to play with that herself. If you choose a stuffed toy for your dog, don’t leave them alone with it and keep an eye on them when they are playing with it to prevent them from tearing it to shreds.

Dog shampoo is good to have on hand for a bath or spot cleaning if your dog rolls in something. I have an oatmeal based shampoo and a dry shampoo for Skye because I like the ease of giving her a spot bath if she gets her feet dirty after a walk in the mud. Make sure you get a shampoo made specifically for dogs though. The ph of a dog’s hair is different than ours, and you could harm their skin and coat by using shampoo made for people. You can also find tearless dog shampoos that won’t burn their eyes.

If you plan to groom your dog yourself, you will need a brush and comb suitable for your dog’s coat. You’ll also need a set of nail clippers and styptic powder for when their toenails need clipping. Grooming your dog is a great way to bond with them. Other items you may want to consider are a scooper for the yard and biodegradable poop bags for walks. Natural cleaners and deodorizers are handy to have for those unforeseen accidents, and an anti-chew product is a good idea for a new puppy.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How to Choose the Right Vet


By Julia Williams

Vet visits are not overly pleasant for any animal or owner, but they are an essential aspect of responsible pet ownership. Like us, our pets can get sick or have an accident, and they also need routine care such as yearly “checkups,” teeth cleanings and immunizations. As such, it’s very important to find a veterinarian that you and your pet are comfortable with. You’ll want to feel confident that the vet and their support staff are knowledgeable, capable and dependable. You’ll want to trust that whenever your pet needs medical care, they will be in good hands. In doing so, you’ll minimize the stress of a vet visit for both you and your pet.

How to Find a Vet

For obvious reasons, the ideal time to find a good vet is before your pet needs one. If you’re moving to a new city, or you’re unhappy with your current vet, it’s important to spend some time researching the possibilities. Begin by asking friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors with pets who their vet is. But don’t stop there. Ask them what they specifically like about their vet and why they would recommend them. Be wary if they chose their vet mainly because they were close by, or from a yellow page ad. While this doesn’t necessarily mean the clinic isn’t a good one, you should do more research before entrusting them with the care of your beloved pet.

Before you commit to a new vet, it’s a good idea to schedule a short visit with them. In addition to speaking with the vet and their support staff, you should assess things like cleanliness, procedures, prices and demeanor. If your pet has existing health concerns, discussing them during this visit will help you determine whether this clinic will be able to treat them. Vet clinics are busy places and may not have a lot of time to spend with you on a “meet and greet,” but if they are open to having you as a new client they should be willing to see you briefly.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Vet

Before you visit a vet clinic, think about your pet’s needs, as well as your own. If your pet has health issues or special needs, it’s critical to find a vet who can adequately treat them. Do you need a vet who specializes in (or has extensive experience with) such things like dermatology or geriatrics? Do you prefer a vet whose practice is strictly traditional, or one who integrates holistic care with conventional treatments? What services does the facility offer? For example, if your pet needs an x-ray, surgery, dental work or lab tests, can these be done there, or will you need to go elsewhere?

Is the vet clinic in a convenient location, and are their hours agreeable? Does the place look inviting, inside and out? Is the reception room tidy, and is the receptionist well groomed and friendly? If there is more than one vet at the clinic, will you be able to see the same one each time you visit? If not, does it matter to you? What are the clinic’s procedures for emergencies on nights and weekends?

Will they allow you to make payments should you incur a large bill, or will they demand payment immediately? This can be an important consideration, because life sometimes hands us more than we can handle financially. Many years ago, I had a wonderful vet who let me pay off my balance one month at a time, without any guilt trips. Conversely, I once had to visit an emergency vet clinic that wouldn’t let me leave with my cat until I figured out a way to pay their $800 bill on the spot (needless to say, I never went back there).

Does your vet have good communication skills, and are they personable? Your vet needs to be able to clearly explain treatment options, test results and other important things related to your pet’s care. They also need to be willing to listen to you and answer any questions you may have. Just as with human doctors, a vet’s “bedside manner” should make you feel at ease.

Pay attention to how the vet and their support staff interact with your pet. It’s equally important to watch how your pet responds to the staff, because animals are incredibly intuitive. Speaking of intuition, if anything makes you uncomfortable about a particular vet or their place of business, trust your gut, because in my experience it is never wrong.

Choosing the right vet takes time and effort. You may need to visit several vet clinics before you find the one that best fits your needs. But considering all the love and joy your pet gives you, don’t they deserve the best possible care in return?

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Courage of Dogs: Iditarod Serum Run of 1925


By Linda Cole

The Iditarod serum run of 1925 put man and dog smack dab into the middle of nature's fury. Both mushers and dogs had to stay on their toes and keep their wits about them to survive their mission. Without hesitation for their safety, these men made what was thought by some to be a foolish and impossible run on the only trail that linked Nome to the lower part of Alaska. But because of their compassion, grit, trust and knowledge in the ability of their dogs to persist through difficult and at times dangerous conditions, a handful of men were able to save many lives that could have been lost.

Twenty men and 150 dogs took turns inching their way along the mail route as each man handed their precious cargo off to the next musher and team of dogs. They ran 674 miles in five and a half days and safely delivered serum to Nome, Alaska. This small town had been hit with a diphtheria epidemic that threatened the entire town which is only 130 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Most of the relay was done in the dark which makes the Iditarod serum run even more amazing.

Because a major winter storm had developed, the only feasible mode of transportation was by dog sled. Racing along the one established trail, the mail route, the first team headed into the storm. Anyone who lives in an area where wind chills can drop to -50 to -90 can appreciate the determination and grit it took for the men and their dogs to set out on their mission of mercy in one of Alaska's mighty storms.

The names of the 20 mushers who ran the Iditarod serum run have been recorded, but only some of the names of the dogs are known. Balto, Togo and Fritz have been recorded for posterity and are considered the most famous, but each dog had a name and a role in the success of the run. Twenty lead dogs persisted through howling winds, which at times were gale force, frigid temperatures and blinding snow. Each dog had earned their musher's trust in their ability and confidence in their instincts to lead.

The lead dog steers the sled and sets an example for all the other dogs to follow. It's his responsibility to keep the other team members safe. A good lead dog is strong, confident, intelligent and capable of following commands. Good instincts and being familiar with the trail they ran on enabled the dogs to stay on track and avoid any serious accidents that could have spelled disaster if the serum had been lost or any of the vials broken.

Leonhard Seppala was in Nome as the serum run began. He was considered to be the premier dog musher of his time with the best dogs. Togo was his lead dog and Fritz is believed to have run either beside Togo or directly behind him. Seppala planned on taking a risky shortcut across the unpredictable ice packs off shore on Norton Sound as he headed south to meet up with the relay team heading north to Nome. Because of Togo's experience and the trust Leonhard had in his dog, Togo skillfully lead the team of 20 dogs safely over the shifting and breaking ice pack twice—once heading south to meet the others and then on his return trip with the medicine.

Togo was 12 years old at the time of the serum run which is a testament to his stamina and desire. On top of that, Seppala's team ran farther than any of the other teams in the relay. He and his dogs began their trip in Nome, the very place where the serum was heading. Norton Sound was considered to be the most dangerous part of the entire run because the ice pack was breaking up and only the best driver and dogs would be able to navigate around the cracking ice. Seppala, Togo and the rest of his team ran a total of 260 miles. They covered 84 miles in one day running at 8 mph, in the dark.

Balto and his team ran the last leg of the relay and is the dog most people remember. Every dog and man pulled their own weight in bone chilling weather conditions that threatened the success of the run at every mile. The story of the Iditarod serum run of 1925 chronicles how man and dogs trusted in the abilities and instincts of each other to survive in the wilds of Alaska. It’s a story that is important to remember and one that needs to be retold from time to time because it's a story about the courage of dogs and men.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Must-See Classic Movies for Cat Lovers


By Julia Williams

Although I can recall dozens of good movies about dogs off the top of my head, it’s not nearly so easy when it comes to good movies for cat lovers. The number of “felines in film” is quite limited, most likely due to a cat’s independent nature and their dislike of performing on command. Generally, felines don’t seek to please their master because they consider themselves to be the master, i.e., “top cat.” Cats certainly can be trained to do things, but not without a great deal of patience and time (cat treats help too). Dogs are far easier to train, and easier for directors, actors and film crews to work with. Nevertheless, here are a few classic cat movies that I think are worth watching.

That Darn Cat (1965)

This family-friendly cat movie from Walt Disney Productions features a wily Siamese cat named D.C. (Darn Cat) who inadvertently becomes an undercover cop for the FBI. It is laugh-out-loud funny, and good clean fun for all ages.

Synopsis: Robbers holding a bank employee hostage let D.C. into their hideout. Left alone with the cat, the hostage scratches “help” into a watch wristband and places it around his neck. D.C. returns home, whereupon the FBI decides to track the cat’s every move, in the hopes that he might lead them back to the crook’s hideout and help them crack the case.

Dean Jones stars as the good-hearted (but highly allergic to cats) FBI agent assigned to the case, and Hayley Mills plays D.C.'s doting owner and wannabe sleuth. After much sneezing, slapstick comedy and funny feline antics, the robbers are caught, the hostage is rescued, and all ends well. The feline star of That Darn Cat got rave reviews for his performance. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, "The feline that plays the informant, as the F.B.I. puts it, is superb. Clark Gable at the peak of his performing never played a tom cat more winningly.”

There was a 1997 remake of this Disney classic, also titled That Darn Cat, starring Cristina Ricci and Doug E. Doug, with a cameo appearance by Dean Jones.

Rhubarb (1951)

This baseball comedy is an okay film that’s amusing and pleasant enough to watch. But what makes it a good movie for cat lovers in my opinion, is its outstanding feline star. Orangey was, as you might expect, an orange tabby cat. He was also a fine “actor,” garnering his first of two Patsy Awards, (Picture Animal Top Star of the Year, the animal equivalent of the Oscar).

Synopsis: an eccentric millionaire dies and leaves his fortune - and his pro baseball team - to his feisty cat. This sets in motion a comedic plot involving baseball, romance, court battles with disgruntled relatives who aim to prove that the cat is mentally unfit to control the old man’s money, and crooked gamblers who become “catnappers.”

Orangey, sometimes billed as Rhubarb the Cat and later named Minerva, was trained by the famous animal handler Frank Inn. Orangey won his second Patsy Award ten years after his breakout role in Rhubarb, for his portrayal of "Cat" in the classic 1961 Audrey Hepburn film, Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Harry and T0nto (1974)

Art Carney won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Harry in this great movie. Harry and Tonto was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture.

Synopsis: Harry, a retired teacher and widower in his 70s, lives in New York City with his best friend, an orange tabby cat named Tonto. When the building is condemned, Harry and Tonto begin an adventuresome journey across the United States. They visit his children, make new friends, and meet all sorts of bizarre characters from all walks of life.

Harry and Tonto is a wonderful film that children and adults, cat lovers, and fans of thoughtful, heartfelt movies will all enjoy. Incidentally, the other Oscar nominees for Best Actor that year included Jack Nicholson (Chinatown), Al Pacino (Godfather Part II), and Dustin Hoffman (Lenny). Many people, including Art Carney himself, were astonished that he won.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Friday, January 22, 2010

How Well Do Dogs and Cats Hear?


By Linda Cole

Dogs and cats and are in a special category when it comes to hearing, or not hearing, their human companions. They can be nowhere in sight, yet never miss the careful opening of a bag of potato chips or cookies. But just try and get their attention when they are in the same room with us – it's like talking to the wall! Cats definitely have selective hearing when it comes to us, but a quiet mouse sneaking up on a missed piece of cat food on the kitchen floor can be heard loud and clear. Their sense of hearing is phenomenal; so it would seem that most dogs and cats only hear us when they want to.

Cat ears are amazing little radar antennas that have the ability to focus in on two different sounds inches apart from each other three feet away. They can distinguish these sounds so precisely and hone in on where the exact sound is coming from that a cat can tell if you are getting into a cupboard that has no food in it versus the one where you keep her favorite treats. They can detect the size of prey and the distance of a sound in just six one hundredth of a second, and can hear five times farther than we can hear.

Cats hear higher frequencies than dogs or humans. Because of that, a woman's voice can be more soothing to a cat, especially if it's upset. Our sense of hearing is in a range of 20 hertz up to 20 kilohertz, but dogs hear up to 40 kilohertz and a cat's hearing jumps into the higher pitched range of 60 kilohertz. However, a cat's range starts at 30 hertz which means they probably don't hear lower tones as well as we do, and that could be why cats don't always respond to a man with a deep voice. Since mice have a tiny high pitched squeak, it's bad news for any wayward mouse in a cat's domain.

Because of the upright and erect shape of their ears, cats can hear with amazing accuracy. Thirty different muscles allow them to rotate their ears 180 degrees independently of each other which helps them focus in on any interesting sounds they hear. These sounds are then funneled down through their ears and picked up by extremely sensitive hairs located in the base of the ear. From there, the sound is transmitted to the cat's brain via the auditory nerve. Even though they are experts at selective hearing, a cat does hear extremely well and knows exactly what is going on in his world.

Dogs can hear with the same kind of accuracy as cats, and their ears also rotate to pinpoint the exact location of where a sound is coming from in less than a second. They can quickly decipher pertinent information to determine if they need to be on alert. If it's a sound coming from another animal, the dog can even determine the height of the animal and know if it's prey or predator.

A dog with floppy ears can't hear as well as those with ears standing erect. Like cats, dogs hear and pick up on our tone of voice as well as the pitch in our voice much better than we realize. As they listen to what we say, they are able to distinguish what we mean by our pitch and tone more than by our words. If we are trying to train a dog, his response is determined by how well we convey a command to him. A sharper tone will get his attention and if you are training a puppy, using a whistle or an abrupt noise will tell him to pay attention to you.

Dogs can move their ears independently too, and have 15 muscles that help them locate and pick up sounds. We can pick up a sound 100 yards away, but a dog can hear a sound that's a quarter of a mile away. Dogs have a unique ability to actually close off their inner ear so they can weed out distracting noises and focus only on the sound they are interested in. I guess that's what they must be doing when they ignore us. And the next time they refuse to go outside in the rain, it might not be because they don't want to get wet, but because the falling rain may actually be hurting their sensitive ears.

Since dogs and cats can hear so well, sirens, loud music and raised voices are annoying to them. We will get their attention better with a softer voice. It's also important to pay close attention to their ears to make sure they are not infected with ear mites or other bacterial or yeast infections that can cause permanent hearing loss if left untreated.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Best Dog Breeds for Runners


By Suzanne Alicie

We’ve all seen those movies and television shows where the faithful dog keeps pace with his owner as they run through the park or on the beach. Luckily I am not a runner because my dogs would be dragging me all over the place. While any dog can be trained to run with you properly, there are some breeds that have a runner’s temperament and stamina.

If you are a runner who is looking for canine companionship, you may want to check out the following breeds to insure that you get a running partner who can keep up with you.

Vizsla

The Vizsla breed has shown an above average ability to be trained. As a natural hunter with a strong sense of smell, the Vizsla can be easily distracted if not well trained. But when it comes to keeping up with you and being a good companion runner, the Vizsla is affectionate and lively as well as having high energy and endurance. A Vizsla should be able to run for miles with you without tiring, as long as you can keep him focused.

Weimaraner

This friendly and obedient dog breed has the added benefit of being very intelligent and easy to train. Possessing great stamina and balance, the Weimaraner is a perfect running partner for long runs. They will excel at a steady pace, and are also a wonderful companion for hikers. Like the Vizsla, the Weimaraner has been bred for centuries to be a hunter; that sense of smell can lead to distraction, but this breed is easy to get re-focused if he picks up a scent. Simple words of encouragement will bring him right to your side.

Rhodesian Ridgeback

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a strong athletic breed that was originally bred as a hunter – a lion hunter to be exact. This breed has wonderful endurance at a steady pace, and is a quick partner for sprinters as well. A Rhodesian Ridgeback is loyal and makes a good companion dog for its owner, but may have some socialization issues unless he is introduced to and becomes accustomed to people and other dogs being around.

Border Collie

Energetic and intelligent, Border Collies will love running with you to work off some of their excess energy. The Border Collie is a herding dog, and will attempt to group the people around it; this can be dealt with through training. A Border Collie is, simply put, an athletic dog who will strive to please and keep up with their beloved owner.

Dalmatian

While many of us think of a Dalmatian as a fire truck dog more suited to riding than running, this breed was originally bred to run alongside a horse drawn carriage. This high energy breed is ideal for runners, as they are fast, intelligent and active. Running is a great way to keep your Dalmatian from becoming bored and using all that energy in a destructive manner.

While all dogs need to be walked and exercised, for a dedicated runner it is important to choose a breed that has the characteristics needed to be a good running partner. Training is an essential step in turning your pet into a running partner, however. Don’t expect to choose one of these high energy breeds, and have him immediately know to stay by your side. Dogs that aren’t used to being with runners are more likely to walk and run in short bursts as they do with children or other family members while on a leash. Be patient and teach the dog to be your running partner. Within a few weeks, your dog will be looking forward to long runs at your side.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Trade-Offs of Having Pets


By Julia Williams

I’ve heard it said many times that “when you have children, your life changes forever.” Having a child does significantly alter the way people live, on a daily basis as well as long term. To a lesser extent, the same can be said for having pets. Bringing a companion animal into our home requires that we make lifestyle changes. There are things we have to choose between, and sacrifices we may need to make for the sake of our pet’s wellbeing, and sometimes our own. So what are some of the trade-offs of having pets?

Freedom

Responsible pet owners give up the ability to leave town on a whim. If our animals are staying behind, then before we hit the highway or hop a plane to Cancun, we need to make arrangements for their care. In my opinion, that goes for cats too. I was once called sanctimonious for saying that cats shouldn’t be left to fend for themselves while their owners go away on vacation, but I stand by my belief. Dogs and cats are not capable of calling 911 or seeking emergency care in the event of an accident; as such, our duty as primary caregiver is to make sure they are looked after in our absence. I trade the freedom to take off at a moment’s notice, with the good feeling that comes from knowing my cats are well cared for while I’m away.

Time

Having pets requires that we give up a lot of this precious commodity. Our animals rely on us to feed them, shop for their food, clean up after them, play with them and groom them. Dogs also need regular exercise in the form of walks, runs, or trips to the dog park. Very often, our lives can be so busy that these things feel more like a “chore” instead of a labor of love. Be that as it may, they aren’t optional. Responsible pet owners willingly trade their time in order to properly care for their animal companions.

Money

There is no denying that pets are expensive. Some cost more than others, but all require that we trade money for the privilege of having them in our life. When adopting a pet, many people fail to consider just how much money it takes to care for them, and they are caught unawares. Add in unexpected expenses like accidents, illness or an aging pet, and you can quickly see that pet ownership does not come cheap.

A monetary trade-off I recently made involved my pet door. Because it’s drafty, I close it off in the winter, and my cats stay inside 24/7. However, Mickey gets rather irritated with that arrangement and he scuffles with Rocky, particularly late at night. One night while I was in bed, a cat fight took place on my face, so after examining my scratched cheek I made a decision: I opened the drafty pet door so I could have two cordial cats. This seems like a pretty good trade-off to me.

A spotlessly clean house

Dogs and cats shed, and they make messes. They track in mud, dirt, plant debris and other unsavory things that muck up our floors and soil our carpets and furniture. Choosing a short haired breed lessens the shedding problem somewhat, but not entirely. You can religiously vacuum, scrub and dust, but the reality is that a home with pets is not going to be spotlessly clean all of the time. Sometimes this can be embarrassing, such as the time a delivery person sat in a chair my cat had slept in. When he turned to leave, I saw that the seat of his pants was entirely covered in cat hair! (And no, I didn’t brush it off, nor did I say a word).

Many pet owners also choose to forego expensive furnishings and/or fragile items that can’t be placed where they won’t get knocked off by a wagging tail or a climbing cat. I don’t put a cover on my couch and I let my cats sleep on my bedspread, because I choose not to buy overly pricey things. This way, it’s not a big deal to me if they get wrecked by cat claws or gastric “accidents.”

Certainly, pet ownership is not without trials and tribulations. But then, isn’t that the very nature of our existence? My own life so far has been a series of happy times entwined with sad and challenging times. Having pets, or not having them, wouldn’t change this. It’s true that over the years, I’ve made many trade-offs in order to have pets. I’m sure you have too. But when I think of all the things I’ve given up or had to forego, there isn’t a single one I would choose over the love and companionship of my feline friends.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How to Choose the Right Dog Collar


By Ruthie Bently

Dogs should always wear a collar, whether it is for identification or training purposes. Not only that, most dogs wear collars from the time they are puppies until they leave us and cross the “rainbow bridge.” Choosing the right collar for your dog is very important; it needs to be comfortable, as well as being the right size and weight for them. There are other things to consider when purchasing a dog collar too. Is it for a new puppy or an adult dog? Is it for training, and if so what kind: obedience, confirmation or Schutzhund?

If you are choosing a collar for a puppy, just remember that they are teething and your beautiful leather collar may end up on the bottom of their crate if they get to it. When I was still in pet retail and sold a collar, our only alternatives were nylon or leather; now there are more choices. You can choose nylon, which is durable and easy to clean. Or you can choose cotton or hemp, both of which come from renewable sources. I like the renewable idea because I am a recycler, but do what fits your budget the best.

If you are choosing a collar for an adult dog, they are past the teething stage (though they may still be chewers) and a fancier collar is fine. I dressed Nimber in a collar made from saddle leather after he was an adult, and he looked great. Skye on the other hand, is a rough-and-tumble dog; she wears a decorated nylon collar that is easy to wash. When an everyday collar is fitted properly, you should be able to fit two fingers side by side between your dog’s collar and their body, and should not be able to pull the collar off over their head.

Are you looking for a training collar for your dog? Different trainers may require different collars for training; if it is a beginning obedience class most trainers prefer a choke collar. However, you should only have a choke collar on your dog when training, and it should be taken off as soon as training is finished. There are several link sizes, so make sure you get the appropriate link size. Don’t use a collar on a puppy that would be more suited to a two year old dog, choose a choke collar with smaller links.

A choke collar that fits well should not fall off over your dog’s head; however, it should be loose enough that it doesn’t choke your dog on its own. To fit a choke on your dog, face your dog, form the choke collar into the shape of the letter “P” and put it over their head. When fitted correctly you should have about four fingers worth of draw when making your correction. Too much or too little draw and your correction will have no effect on your dog.

The “pinch” collar is another training collar, so called because it pinches the dog’s neck much like a mother dog does with her teeth when she is disciplining a puppy. The pinch collar also has different link sizes, and links can be added and removed as needed. This collar does not go over the dog’s head, and when fitted properly should have about two inches on each side of the center ring that lies on your dog’s body. I prefer the pinch collar, as it does not cut off a dog’s wind, and I can give a firm, but gentle correction to get the results I desire.

You should check your dog’s regular collar every day to make sure that the stitching, buckle and any rhinestones or additions are not loose or coming apart. Your training collar should be checked daily as well for rust and elongated end rings. If the plating is beginning to come off, cease using it, as you can get metal slivers from the burrs that the wear of the plating can create. If this happens you should replace the collar with a new one.

Whichever collar you choose, whether it is for training, everyday wear or fancy dress, it should fit your dog properly and wear well. After all, you wouldn’t go to work wearing a tie with a hole in it or a pair of pantyhose that is three sizes too small.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Monday, January 18, 2010

What Does Your Dog Breed Say About You?


By Linda Cole

We each have our own unique personality that reflects who we are and how we view life. As dog owners, our choice in breeds is a reflection of our personality. With all the different breeds available, why do we choose one breed over another? And what does your preference in a particular dog breed say about you?

Every dog owner has their reasons for adopting a certain breed. Your choice in a specific dog breed may depend on if you are partial to lap dogs, family friendly dogs or working dogs to help out with livestock or guard possessions. The breed of dog you end up with does reveal aspects of your personality, and can say a lot about you and your lifestyle. I've had the pleasure of being a human parent to three purebred dogs over the years. One was an American Eskimo, and two were Siberian Huskies, which says I like sports and winter activities.

People who are fun loving, social and easygoing have a tendency to pick a dog breed like a Golden Retriever or a Lab. This breed says you have a focus on family and have an active lifestyle. People who choose a Cocker Spaniel, English Springer Spaniel or Labradoodle usually love being outside and may spend their free time volunteering and donating to causes they are passionate about. Owners of these breeds tend to be low keyed, even tempered, honest, and like being around others.

People who favor Pointers, Weimaraners, Griffons or Setters are passionate with a motivated energy behind everything they do. They like the good things in life and enjoy spending a day out on a trail with their best friend by their side. There's no dog more determined and focused than a bloodhound hot on a trail. A Beagle is relentless and can be extremely intense as she yaps at a small bug or earthworm she found on the ground. Those who love the scent hound group are fun loving people who are much like this breed of dog – they’re go-getters who won't let any obstacle slow them down. They are curious and loyal, with a bit of a stubborn streak.

The Greyhound, Whippet, Saluki and Basenji are just a few of the breeds that belong to the sight hound group. This breed finds and keeps their prey intently in their line of sight. People who share their home with any of the sight hounds are organized, and typically quieter than other dog owners. They are relaxed and love having a small gathering of close friends and family around them.

Terriers were named aptly as a breed. They are terrors when it comes to digging out rodents underground. A terrier owner tends to be fun loving and energetic like their dog. Funny, flexible and focused on the task at hand, an owner of this dog breed can easily carry on a conversation with a friend or a stranger. They aren't afraid to jump in feet first and can have a competitive tenacity.

People who own the dog breeds in the toy group like Chihuahuas and Poodles are fun loving, sincere, compassionate and loyal. They are usually very neat and will do anything for their favorite people. Owners of dogs like the Maltese or Shih Tzu tend to be more sophisticated and love a good leisurely lunch with friends. Spending a day at the mall in search of the perfect outfit makes for a day well spent for them. This person is friendly and would be the perfect person to tell a secret to.

Your choice of a specific dog breed says more about you than you may realize, even if the dog isn't a purebred. We pick a dog based on our lifestyle and even a mixed breed can reflect our personality when we choose a lab mix that will go hiking with us or a smaller lap dog mix that would be happy residing on the couch beside us.

It’s important to remember that regardless of which breeds interest you, the process of picking out a puppy should be done carefully. You need to consider what you are looking for in a dog, the unique qualities in a specific pup, and how he will fit into your home. You might be surprised to discover just how much your preference in a specific dog breed matches your lifestyle and personality, and what your dog breed says about you.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Skijoring: A Fun Sport for You and Your Dog


By Suzanne Alicie

They say curiosity killed the cat. In my case, curiosity only bruised my hind parts. Thanks to the recent snowfall on the East Coast I had a chance to try out skijoring with my dog. A Samoyed breed, she loves the snow and cold. I on the other hand, would rather be in the warm house. Having read up a little bit on skijoring, I decided I had to give it a try.

For those who haven’t heard of skijoring, it is a sport for a person and a dog. The person straps on skis and has their ski poles while the dog is placed in a harness which is attached to the person’s waist. I didn’t go out and get any special equipment just to test this. I used our walking harness and attached the leash to my belt with a clip.

So I wrapped up and got us both all hitched together, then let her pull me along the driveway. Everything went well, as long as we were moving. Once she stopped I kept right on going, ending up in a pile of snow with my big white dog looking at me like I had lost my mind. I am blaming that on the icy surface of the snow, not myself or the dog.

Skijoring is not an experience I will be repeating; however, many people spend hours every day honing their skill and forming a bond with their skijoring partner. Skijoring requires a great deal of skill, training and trust between the person and the dog.

Skijoring is a very popular sport for dog owners in the colder climates, where it is a competitive sport including slalom, obstacles and both sprint and long runs. Of course, skijoring is aimed at cross country skiing, and not downhill! There are several companies that specialize in skijoring equipment, dog training and tournaments. Skijoring is also done with horses, and motor vehicles such as snowmobiles. The name skijoring is from a Norwegian word that means ski driving. Some variations of skijoring include snowboarding with a dog to pull you, and even skijoring on grassy fields instead of snow.

The most common dogs for skijoring are athletic and herding breeds such as pointers and setters. All the northern breeds such as Samoyeds, Huskies and Malamutes are naturally inclined and enjoy this sport. But if you are interested in skijoring, pretty much any mid to large sized energetic breed will be capable of pulling you. The dogs that compete in skijoring competitions are trained with the person on foot initially. To be a successful skijoring dog, the animals must learn to pass another dog without stopping to greet them.

If you are in a cold climate and enjoy cross country skiing, you may appreciate the sport of skijoring as a way to spend more time with your dog and to form a closer bond with him as well. Skijoring is excellent exercise for your dog as well as a way to expend excess energy and advance your dog's trained behavior. The training learned for skijoring will carry over in your dog’s everyday living, much the same as the military bearing of a soldier is noticeable even when he isn’t in uniform.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

Friday, January 15, 2010

What Does Responsible Pet Ownership Really Mean?


By Julia Williams

When you think about the term “responsible pet ownership,” what things come to mind? For some people, it might be something general, such as just taking good care of their pet. For others, it might mean something more specific, like making sure their dog is well trained, or taking their cat in for yearly vet checkups. Although there is no single “right way” to define responsible pet ownership, I do think there are several key components to it.

Are you capable of meeting their needs?

Adopting a pet is not all that dissimilar to adopting a baby. You are taking in a living being that will depend upon you for every single thing. One major difference between a baby and a pet is that a child usually becomes self sufficient in adulthood, whereas a pet requires you to take care of it forever. Thus, pet ownership is a serious commitment that should never be entered into on a whim. If your children are begging you to get a dog or a cat, consider whether your family is ready to accept the responsibilities this brings. If not, perhaps you could ease them into pet ownership with a fish or a hamster. These pets still require care and feeding, but the responsibilities are less involved.

Do Your Homework!

The time to ponder what responsible pet ownership entails is not after you’ve succumbed to those cute “puppy dog eyes” and adopted a dog, only to discover that the challenges of raising it are beyond your emotional, physical or financial capabilities. Those dogs often end up in animal shelters or worse, living in a home where they are neglected or unwanted.

Before adopting any potential pet, you need to understand what it takes to keep the animal safe, healthy and happy. You need to know what its habits, tendencies and social behaviors are, and whether or not they will mesh with your everyday life. If you’re ready to adopt a dog, you need to research the different breeds to make sure you select one that’s a good fit for your family and your lifestyle.

Can you afford a pet?

Food is only one small part of the financial responsibility of having a pet. If you adopt a puppy or kitten, they will need to be spayed/neutered, and immunized to protect them from diseases. Beyond routine vet care such as annual “checkups,” there may be emergencies and accidents that require extensive care and quite often, considerable expense. Will you be able to pay these unexpected vet bills? The additional expense of caring for a senior pet is one that most people don’t think about when adopting a puppy or kitten, but they grow old just like the rest of us, and may require special care.

Do you have time to spend with your pet?

It breaks my heart to see a pet living with people who rarely pay it any attention. Animals need interaction, companionship and love every bit as much, if not more, than food and water. These are the things that feed its soul, and although they may not be as obvious as a lack of food, going without these emotional needs does a pet just as much harm.

Responsible pet ownership means never adopting an animal during times of major stress or life changes. It also means that when these things invariably occur, we need to find ways to help our pets have stability. Depending on the circumstances, that might mean enlisting the aid of family or friends, dog walkers, pet sitters or a doggie daycare facility.

Exercise, socialization and obedience training

These are three essential components of responsible dog ownership that no canine companion should ever go without. To a lesser extent, felines need exercise and socialization too – and I’m sure many people would enroll their counter-surfing cats in obedience school, if only it existed.

Feed them a high-quality pet food

Good food is the cornerstone of good health, for humans and pets alike. This may be the easiest of all aspects of responsible pet ownership to provide for our animal companions. Because of caring companies like CANIDAE, we can feed our dogs and cats high quality pet food that we trust, food that provides the essential nutrients and ingredients they need to stay healthy.

Commit to your pet for life

“You become responsible forever, for what you have tamed,” said the fox in The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Very often, when a couple starts a family they decide to “get rid of the pet.” I’ve heard people say that their pet was only filling in until they could have a “real” child, and once the baby arrived they had no need for a pet. I’ve never understood this mindset, nor how anyone could bring a pet into their home only to dispose of it when something they considered better came along.

Before getting a pet, people who don’t yet have children need to consider their future plans. If having kids is a part of those plans, they need to decide if they’ll be able to care for, train and interact with a pet once they start a family. If the answer is no or even maybe/maybe not, then it would be extremely irresponsible to adopt a pet.

Every pet deserves to have a responsible owner. If we choose to adopt a pet, then it is our duty to properly care for them and to make sure they have everything they need to be healthy, happy and safe. I consider it an honor and a privilege to be a responsible pet owner, because the joy that my beloved cats add to my life is immeasurable... and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Winter Fun With Your Dog


By Linda Cole

Winter is one of my favorite times of the year. The air has a fresh crispness, and the beauty of a new snow dressing bare trees in a coat of white is awesome. In the cold night sky, stars twinkle brighter than at any other time of the year. It may be cold, but that doesn't mean you and your canine buddy can't enjoy the outdoors. Bundle up and have some winter fun with your dog. Here are some winter activities to help keep you both from putting on extra pounds.

Play fetch in the snow

Just remember to pick a color of ball other than white! One winter, I tossed a white ball (the only one that still had air in it) into a clump of snow and we didn't find it until spring. Most dogs love to run and hop through snow. Playing fetch with a ball or Frisbee is great exercise for dogs any time of the year, but there's just something about a good game of fetch in the snow that makes this winter activity special.

Go for a walk

Snow provides plenty of winter fun for your dog, even during a simple walk around the block. Walking in deeper snow provides a great workout for you and your dog. A soft fluffy snow is best because it's usually a drier snow, and your dog won't get as wet. The merriment can end quickly if hypothermia sets in however, so it's important to make sure he doesn't get too wet. A waterproof dog coat can help keep him drier, and booties will keep salt, sand, chemicals or ice from collecting on his paws.

Hiking

For those who want something more stimulating than a walk, hiking is a great winter activity as long as you and your dog are in good shape. However, winter hikes require extra cautions and preparations. If the ground is covered with snow, even your favorite trail can be confusing to a dog with few familiar smells he can pick up through the snow. It's best to keep your dog on a leash to prevent any rabbit chasing that could cause him to become lost or disorientated. A length of sturdy rope firmly attached to his leash will allow your dog to romp through the snow while staying safely tethered to you.

When hiking in winter, make sure to carry a backpack with emergency supplies that include a first aid kit, wooden matches, hunting knife, extra clothes, compass, flashlight and extra batteries, and extra food and water for both you and your dog, just to be on the safe side. Don't forget a waterproof/windproof coat and boots for your dog. It's best to stick to trails used regularly by other people and always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return. Check for up-to-date weather conditions before you leave. With proper precautions, hiking on a snowy trail provides a great workout and plenty of winter fun for your dog.

Indoor activities for dogs and owners

For those who prefer the great indoors during winter, try scheduling play dates with other owners. It's a nice way to pass away an afternoon over coffee (or tea) and cookies for you, and gives your dog a chance to romp with familiar friends.

Work on basic commands

Winter fun with your dog can include teaching him basic commands every canine companion should know. Our dogs are eager to please us, and spending time working on commands like sit, stay, lie down, heel, and come helps you bond with your dog.

Of course the ultimate indoor winter activity that may suit you and your dog perfectly is sitting by a warm cozy fire with a good book or a favorite movie on TV, with your dog sleeping peacefully beside you.

Before engaging in strenuous activity, it's always a good idea to schedule a vet checkup for your dog. When outdoors, make sure they stay dry and watch them for any signs of hypothermia or frostbite. Dogs get cold too – consider proper coats or sweaters and boots for them whether they are outside for an afternoon or just for a short time.

Outside winter activities aren't for everyone or every dog, but if you and your canine companion enjoy getting outdoors, there are lots of things you can do together. If you take extra precautions and prepare for the unexpected, playing outdoors with your dog can help you both beat the cold weather blues.

(Photo by Seigo Nohara)

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Trucking “Tails” From the Open Road


By Julia Williams

When Bill Taylor tells you that his German Shepherd dog, Hannah, goes everywhere with him, he isn’t exaggerating. That’s because Bill and his wife Robyn are long-haul truck drivers, and Hannah accompanies them on all of their cross-country travels. I recently had a chance to chat with Bill and Robyn (while they were on the road, naturally) and thought our readers might enjoy getting to know them too. Bill had many interesting stories to tell about Hannah, who he says enjoys the nomadic life very much. Hannah also loves meeting new people everywhere they go, and strangers (especially children) get a kick out of seeing a dog riding in the front seat of the truck cab.

Five-year-old Hannah was just eight weeks old when the Taylors added her to their family and began taking her on road trips. Although this inseparable trio is away from home for several months at a time now, they were doing local deliveries when they adopted Hannah, which made it easier to get her adjusted to life on the road. Still, Bill says Hannah did just fine from the start, and travels well. Even more impressive, Hannah has not had a single “accident” in the truck, unless you count the time she upchucked. Bill is quick to point out, however, that even this minor transgression was not on the carpeted section of their cab. Smart dog indeed!

Many people think of their pets as more human than cat or dog, and the Taylors would agree. “It wouldn’t surprise me if Hannah said ‘Hello’ sometime,” says Bill. Hannah knows many words, among them cookie, squirrel, food, leash, walk, rabbit and cow. It doesn’t take more than a minute or two of talking with Bill to see that he loves his dog very much, and that he and his wife both really enjoy having her with them on their trips.

It’s also quite clear that Hannah, whose nickname is “Pupkus,” rules the roost… or the cab, I should say. According to Bill, Hannah doesn’t have her own dog bed in the cab because she prefers to sleep on their bed. Moreover, she carves out her space on the bed first, and he and his wife squeeze into the space that’s left. Bill says Hannah likes to curl up on her blanket and snooze away while the miles tick by, but she’s more than happy to get out and get some exercise when they pull into a rest stop. After her walk, Hannah heads straight to the cupboard where her cookies are kept, and waits to receive her treat.

Like any canine, Hannah has her share of quirks that make her all the more endearing. For instance, Hannah won’t drink water out of a dog dish – instead, she prefers to drink the melted ice-water out of a cooler Bill and Robyn keep in the cab. They know when she’s thirsty, Bill says, because she scratches on the side of the cooler until they open it for her. Another of Hannah’s idiosyncrasies is the uncanny ability to smell cows well before she can see them. The Taylors always know when they are about to drive past a herd of cows, because Hanna sticks her nose into the truck’s vents.

Of course, life on the road with a canine companion is not without challenges. For one thing, Hannah sheds profusely. Or as Bill puts it, “We just about build a new dog every day with the amount of hair she sheds.” Another issue is the amount of dog food they need to carry with them. Hannah eats CANIDAE dog food (the grain-free kibble is her favorite) and as anyone who feeds this premium pet food knows, it’s not available at the local supermarket or pet superstore. This means that the Taylors always bring along a large supply of dog food – Bill jokes that “Hannah has more food in the truck than we do”—and they also know which feed stores and independent pet stores along their route carry CANIDAE pet food so they can buy more if need be. (If you need to find CANIDAE pet food while traveling, be sure to check out the easy-to-use CANIDAE Store Locator designed for mobile phones.)

But Bill says without a doubt the worst experience he and Robyn have endured thanks to Hannah was the time she got sprayed by a skunk at a rest stop. Hannah was on a 30-foot leash so she could run around and burn off some excess energy, when she encountered the skunk. Luckily, Bill called a trucker friend, who knew of a place down the road that had a pet wash facility located next to a truckstop. They were able to get the truck and the dog washed at the same time, and Bill says the place did such a good job of removing the skunk odor that they now make a point to stop there whenever it’s on their route. Still, Bill says “That was the longest hundred miles I have ever driven.” Knowing all too well how sickening the smell of skunk is, I can only imagine!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Are Prosthetics for Dogs a Good Idea?


By Ruthie Bently

Most of us have heard about or seen dogs with physical impairments. Some happen through accidents, some through a birth defect, and some happen as the dog ages. Some dogs do perfectly fine after the loss of a limb, while others need assistance of some kind. My first dog Nimber had an accident and lost his right front foot, but after he healed he never had a problem getting around. Some dogs even do well after losing two legs. But what about dogs that might need some help?

Did you know there are now companies that make prosthetics for dogs? I remember seeing carts in the 1970s that were made for pets who had lost the use of their back legs, and now there are companies that make prosthetics for dogs who have had other injuries. Several of them began making prosthetics for people and because of the owner’s love of animals either amended their business to include prosthetics for animals or changed their focus and began making prosthetics for animals exclusively.

A dog that may need a prosthesis is first evaluated to determine what kind of device is best. The dog is appraised using information about any deformity they may have, and the aspects specific to the injury if they received one. Their physical activities and living environment are also taken into consideration. After the evaluation, a cast is made of the part of the body the prosthesis will be used for. The time it takes to manufacture a prosthetic device is typically about five to ten business days. The time can vary depending on which joints of the dog’s body need to be considered, as well as the type of prosthetic and the chosen material it will be manufactured from. As each dog is different, so is the device made for them.

Prosthetics are not intended to be worn 24/7; the dog will need a break from time to time. Because of the materials they’re made from, a prosthetic device will not change its shape or break down over time. To ensure a good fit, the dog needs to use the prosthesis for several weeks. Owners need to watch the prominent bone involved and the dog’s hair and skin for any signs of wear, which will help to determine how well the prosthesis is fitting the dog. By watching the dog use the prosthetic device on a daily basis during regular activities, owners can also determine if it is the proper device for their dog. Adjustments and repairs may need to be made from time to time to make sure the prosthesis keeps doing what it was constructed to do in the proper manner.

Do you think your dog needs a prosthetic device? Have you considered the pros and cons of such a decision? While researching this article I read about a dog that, after being fitted with a device, was miserable when they were forced to wear it. The dog’s owner, while trying to do what they felt was best for the dog (in my opinion) may have made the wrong decision. The dog in question ran away when the device was brought out and once the device was on would chew on it to try and remove it.

There are several things to consider when looking into a prosthetic device for a dog (or a pet of any kind). First and foremost is whether or not the pet would benefit from it both physically and emotionally, and is it in their best interest, or is it to assuage feelings of guilt you may have? Will it add fulfillment and quality to their daily life? The cost of the device and subsequent fittings should also be considered, and whether or not you can afford it.

When Nimber lost his foot I suppose I could have gotten him some kind of prosthesis but never honestly considered it. He didn’t have any physical or emotional issues after his accident; he got on with living and enjoyed his life even with his handicap. I did, however, gain valuable insight from Nimber’s accident. I had many handicapped clients who owned pets and while I always treated them with respect and consideration when helping them find things for their pets, I realized there was something lacking in myself. They dealt with their handicaps in the best way they could, just as Nimber did with his, and I gained even more respect for their handicaps because I lived with a handicapped dog.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Challenges of Raising Litter Mate Puppies


By Linda Cole

It's hard picking out just one puppy. They're all so cute and adorable. People with room in their home and heart for two pups may not think twice about buying or adopting sibling puppies, but there could be potential harm to one or both of the pups. Raising litter mate puppies is more complicated than it sounds, and it can be a challenge.

A new puppy needs to have a chance to bond with the human who will become his pack leader. In fact, it's essential that bonding take place. Pups are ready to leave the nest when they are 8 weeks old, and their development will continue in their new home. Litter mate puppies are comfortable with each other, and can keep each other company while you are gone. The situation can change, however, once they grow up. Just because they get along as pups doesn't guarantee they will get along as adults, especially if they are both male, or both female. As full grown dogs, siblings will fight and jockey for dominance in their pack just like any other dogs would do. Female pups will also fight for their place in the pack, especially if there's a male dog in the home. Aggression and rivalries could turn into double trouble for their human parents.

When you raise pups from the same litter, you risk creating insecure dogs with behavior problems that can be with them their entire lives. There's a good chance they can be so dependent on each other that separation anxiety could become a severe problem anytime they are not together. You want them to play with each other, but they need time apart in order to learn about life away from their sibling.

Raising litter mate puppies can be a challenge, but it's not impossible as long as you are aware of what you’re getting into, and you learn how to teach each pup according to their personality and individual needs. You will need to keep litter mates separated as much as possible for the first year. Treat each puppy as an individual dog and not as an extension of its sibling.

Keep them apart from each other during housebreaking and training activities, at feeding time, and when you are giving each one attention and playing with them. This gives each pup a chance to develop their own personality, find their own identity and understand their social order in the pack. It also gives them both a chance to bond with you equally, which will help them learn how to maintain a balanced and stable relationship where they both feel secure within the home. If you crate them while you are gone, they need to be in different rooms. Take only one at a time for walks or to the vet for checkups and vaccinations. Even though they live in the same home, each one should be treated as if you have just one dog.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to raising litter mate puppies. Some breeders won't sell siblings because they are afraid they could turn out to be more than the owner bargained for and one or both pups could suffer the consequences if the new owner can't handle two pups. Other breeders feel it's up to the buyer to decide. Responsible breeders will work with you and are happy to help out any way they can. A breeder's concern is for the pups, and they want to make sure the puppies are going to a good home.

A prospective owner who understands what they are getting into and has the time and energy to properly socialize and train both pups should do fine. If you really want two dogs, a better solution might be to take one, then go back in about 6 months to pick another puppy from a different litter. If you want to take litter mates home, it will work out better to take a male and a female. Make sure to have them neutered and spayed as soon as they are old enough to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Two puppies will require double work and expense when it comes to housebreaking, veterinarian bills, food and time for bonding, development and training. But if you do your homework and invest in the hard work and commitment needed to raise litter mate puppies, you will also be rewarded with double the love and fun of two well-adjusted individual pets.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Saturday, January 9, 2010

How to Read the Body Language of Cats


By Julia Williams

We’ve discussed the body language of dogs many times on this blog, and it’s a popular topic on other websites and in print. Responsible dog owners know how important it is to learn to “read” the various signals of their canine companion, and to act accordingly. Not much is said about the body language of cats, but understanding a feline’s nonverbal communication is equally important – especially if you don’t want to be bitten or scratched. A cat’s body language can also tell you things about their health and how they feel.

I’ve heard people say that their cat “just attacked them without warning.” While this may be true in some cases, I’m convinced that most of the time the cat gave ample warning it wanted to be left alone. However, if you aren’t familiar with the body language of cats, you can easily misread their nonverbal signals, which might make it seem like your normally friendly cat suddenly went psycho on you.

Although a cat may hiss and growl when it wants you to stop petting them and leave them alone, they may also use tail twitching. This can be confusing to those who think a cat’s swishing tail is similar to the wagging tail of a happy dog. It is the exact opposite; moreover, you can use the speed of the twitching tail to gauge just how ticked off the cat is with your behavior. If they are only mildly annoyed, their tail will swish slowly back and forth, like a pendulum. As they get more irritated with you, the speed and ferocity of their tail movement increases until it is eventually thrashing like an out-of-control whip. If it has progressed to this “whip” stage, a wise human will immediately leave the cat alone, because a bite or scratch is imminent.

To further complicate matters, a cat will sometimes use slow tail twitching to signal that they’re feeling playful. Thus, it can be difficult for even the most astute cat whisperer to distinguish between the annoyed slow twitch and the playful slow twitch. One difference worth noting is that the “I’m ready to play” tail twitch typically occurs when the cat is not in contact with you, such as when they are lying on their side or sitting on the floor, away from you.

Cats also use their tail to communicate other emotions. When a cat’s tail is standing straight up, it means they are happy to see you, they feel safe, and all is well in their world. When their tail is upright and quivering, they are ecstatic. A puffed up tail that resembles a bottle brush indicates a fearful, defensive and emotionally charged cat. It’s usually accompanied by an arched back and fur that’s standing up – the message here is “I want to appear much bigger than I actually am.” Cats will also assume this posture when preparing to “play fight” with another cat. They will face each other and “puff up” before one launches himself sideways onto the other, signaling the start of their roughhousing.

Cats show possessiveness with flattened ears, laid-back whiskers, a lowered tail and slightly crouched body position. You’ll see this posture when your cat or kitten has a toy (especially one with feathers or fur, which resembles prey) and you try to take it away from them. Cats display interest in something by tilting their ears forward to hear better, directing their whiskers forward, and widening their eyes.

Staring directly at a cat is interpreted as aggression. And if they stare straight at you or another cat, this is meant as a challenge. A cat who exhibits a “bug eyed” look is frightened. Cats also communicate with their eyes by blinking, which is said to be a form of greeting and an indication that they like you. There is a “blinking experiment” you can try with your cat, wherein you sit with them when they are relaxed and then slowly open and close your eyes. Many times, the cat will do it along with you. When I heard about this my initial reaction was “Yeah, right.” But I tried it with my cats and was surprised to learn that they actually will blink back at me. Of course, felines being the independent creatures they are, they don’t do it all of the time.

A confident and content cat will hold their head high and assume an upright posture. A cat who lowers her head and turns it sideways to avoid eye contact indicates lack of interest or passiveness. When a cat feels relaxed in her surroundings, she will lie on her side or back and show you her belly. Unless the cat trusts you completely, they won’t assume this posture in your presence.

Learning how to read the body language of your cat can tell you a great deal about how they are feeling. Their tail, ears, eyes, whiskers and legs are all trying to communicate with you – don’t you want to know what they are saying?

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Friday, January 8, 2010

AKC Recognizes Three New Dog Breeds


By Ruthie Bently

The American Kennel Club recently added three new dog breeds to its roster of recognized dog breeds, which brings the number of recognized breeds to 164. They are the Boykin Spaniel, the Bluetick Coonhound and the Redbone Coonhound. The Bluetick and the Redbone Coonhounds will join the Hound Group and the Boykin Spaniel will join the Sporting Group. All three breeds will be able to compete at conformation shows in their respective groups and are eligible for full registration in the AKC.

The Boykin Spaniel was developed in South Carolina where it is the official state dog. Mr. L. Whitaker Boykin is responsible for developing the breed in the early 1900s for hunting wild turkeys after he found that the dog had a natural talent for it. Boykin was introduced to the original dog that was the forerunner of the breed by his hunting partner Alexander White. White found the dog wandering near his church in Spartanburg, South Carolina, took him home and named him Dumpy. After spending considerable time with Dumpy and feeling that he would make a good hunting dog, White introduced him to Boykin who undertook his formal hunting training. Nowadays this breed is primarily used for hunting ducks and other waterfowl. The Boykin Spaniel has an energetic, cheerful personality and is a medium-sized breed. Because they have the stamina to do a full day’s worth of work, they do well with a family that is active. They love human companionship and do well with other dogs and children. Their coat is a chocolate brown color.

The Bluetick Coonhound, like most coonhounds, is so named because of its coat color, which is dark blue in color and has a mottled or ticking pattern. It is thought that the Bluetick is descended from the English Foxhound and French Staghound as well as the English Coonhound, a fast working dog that excels at following fresh game trails. In 1945, the Bluetick breeders broke away to create a dog that was a slower worker and able to follow older scent trails. They were very proud of this larger, slower, determined hound and maintained the hunting style that the breed is famous for today. Active sporting families prize the Bluetick for their determination, steadiness for staying on a very intricate track, endurance and working ability. They have the typical coonhound “bawling” bark and are skilled in trailing and treeing raccoons and other small animals. The mascot for the University of Tennessee is a Bluetick Coonhound named Smokey.

The last dog of this new group to be recognized by the AKC is the Redbone Coonhound. This breed is descended from red foxhounds brought from Scotland by immigrants in the late 1700s and also imported from Ireland before the start of the Civil War. Redbones are known for their bright red coat, which is how they got their name. Like the Bluetick they are known for their instinctive ability to tree game and are versatile enough to have been used to hunt game from the size of raccoons to cougars. They are good at swimming and hunting over varied terrains and are able to maintain their agility and speed while doing so. The Redbone lives for pleasing their owner and is trainable in a household situation as well as being an even-tempered dog. The author Wilson Rawls featured a Redbone Coonhound in his book Where the Red Fern Grows.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...