Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to Train a Fearful or Insecure Dog

By Langley Cornwell

Some of you know about our rescue dog. We’ve learned so much from her that I can’t help but write about her in many of my articles. For those who don’t know, here’s a summary: we heard about a shy pup that urgently needed a home at a time when we were considering taking in another pet. We agreed to meet her. When describing the dog we met that day, the word ‘shy’ is an understatement. She wouldn’t stand up. She held her head down low and her tail tucked under. She nervously dribbled on the floor. When coaxed, she slowly belly-crawled over to where I was sitting on the floor and gave my ankle a timid lick. My husband took one look at me and knew immediately. She was coming home with us. 

Since that time, our insecure dog has blossomed into a happy, well-adjusted pet. Even now, however, there are times when she reverts back to her fearful ways. In researching the topic, I learned that shy or fearful behavior in canines usually stems from insecurity. According to dogproblems.com, a dog's insecurity can be a result of different influences including genetics, a traumatic experience, limited socialization or even mixed messages from the dog’s owner. Whatever the case, there are certain steps to follow when training a fearful or insecure dog. If you are consistent with these concepts, you’ll have the joy of watching your shy dog gain confidence.  

Make sure your dog considers you the pack leader, and be a pack leader she can trust. Work on basic obedience skills with your pup, either individually or in a group training class. Teaching a dog to successfully sit, down, come, heel, and stay will build her confidence. Basic training is always easier if you reinforce desired actions with treats your dog loves, like CANIDAE TidNips. When a shy dog has a clearly defined and trustworthy pack leader, she can relax in her surroundings.

Gently control your dog’s body language. I learned this concept early and was amazed at the results. When our dog tucks her tail under and scrunches over, I gently lift her tail up to the normal/confident position. When I do, she stands up taller. Therefore, don’t accept submissive body language from your dog, even during training sessions. When you tell your dog to sit, don’t let her hang her head down and act like she is unsure of the request. Instead, softly reach below her chin and lift her head up. Apparently, the mind follows the body and if the body is in a confidence position, the dog feels confident.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Lost Pet Alert Network Can Help Find a Lost Pet

By Linda Cole

There's nothing worse than suddenly discovering your pet is missing. I know from experience how hard it is to search for a lost pet when you have no idea which way they went or where on earth they could be. In the past, all you could do was hang posters, talk to neighbors, walk the area around your home, and worry. It may not take the worry away, but there is a newly launched network that may be able to help. The Lost Pet Alert Network may be your best hope if you're searching for a lost pet.

You can find animal shelters in every community across the country, in rural and city locations. Some are small and others are quite large. Over the last several years, pet populations in shelters have increased because of the slow economy. The Lost Pet Alert Network was launched on December 5, 2011 in an effort to help pet owners find lost pets that have made it into a shelter or rescue organization.

The best tool we have as pet owners that can assure a lost pet's return is the microchip. Other than a tattoo that can help you identify your pet, a microchip contains pertinent information someone scanning you pet needs in order to return him to you. It has become a practice for animal shelters and rescue organizations to scan pets entering their facilities to see if there is an implanted chip. After all, it's to their advantage if they can quickly return a pet to his family. Shelters depend on donations to operate and the slow economy has also slowed donations to many shelters across the country, leaving a lot of them struggling with their budgets.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Unexpected Benefits of Pets

By Julia Williams

When asked to name the benefits that pets provide, common answers include things like unconditional love and acceptance, companionship, laughter, happiness and fun. Pets offer numerous health benefits as well, including reducing stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure, encouraging us to get more exercise, and helping us cope with pain. Although most of us don’t adopt a dog or cat thinking they might save our life one day, many do just that! Stories abound of hero dogs and hero cats who alerted their owners to fires, gas leaks, venomous snakes, marauding bears, cancer and other dangers. I should think that for all of us, having our life saved by a pet would certainly qualify as an unexpected – but much appreciated – benefit.

A diabetic scientist discovered by accident that his dog was able to detect low blood sugar. The dog alerted him before he suffered a seizure, which led the scientist to form an organization that trains diabetic alert dogs. Another unexpected benefit many pets provide their owner is teaching important life lessons that we didn’t even know we needed to learn, such as how to be more tolerant, patient or trusting of others. Sometimes, pets teach us how to open our hearts just by providing a safe and loving presence. They show us how to slow down, live in the moment and savor even the smallest pleasures life has to offer. All great things to be sure, but not usually things we expect from our pets!

Years ago I experienced an unexpected benefit from a pet that I’ll never forget. It wasn’t even my pet, but it was a great help to me nonetheless. I was renting a country cottage that sat on several acres in Northern California. As a longtime gardener, it was the perfect place for me. I created my own private paradise with a large vegetable patch, a beautiful rose garden and several flower gardens. I built raised beds because the gophers who called this field “home” had no respect for my garden (imagine that!).

The landlord’s house was also on the property, and they had two dogs. The dogs viewed the field as an extension of their territory, and quite often I’d see them patrolling it. I’d also see the small dog furiously digging holes out in the field. Terriers are known to be fond of digging, and Pepper was true to her breed. She never dug holes near my garden though, so her digging didn’t really bother me.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Dogs Helping Humans with Invisible Disabilities

By Linda Cole

For those of us who are writers, comments from our readers are special. We write because it's something we love to do, and having an opportunity to write about the pets we love makes it even better. Sometimes a reader will ask a question or make a suggestion that sends us on a quest to find more information. My topic today, dogs that help humans with invisible disabilities, was suggested by a reader. After doing some research on it, I discovered another wonderful example of how important dogs are to us.

My mom developed Rheumatoid arthritis when she was pregnant with me. In the early stages, she didn't really show any outward signs of the disease. She worked outside the home, took care of three kids, was active in our church, and appeared to be perfectly healthy. As I grew, her pain increased and the crippling effects of the disease began to take hold. By the time I was in grade school, she was spending more and more time in and out of the hospital for operations to repair damaged joints and continuous monitoring of new arthritis drugs she was taking. Mom was a fighter and refused to let her arthritis get the better of her, but I saw how hard it was for her on her worst days. As an adult, she told me on many occasions how important her dogs were to her. Without them, there would have been a lot of mornings she never would have gotten out of bed. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the invisible disabilities.

One important lesson I learned growing up is that just because someone looks fine on the outside, inside they may be dealing with crippling and life changing disabilities. Diabetes, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, lupus, sleep disorders, Lyme disease, food allergies, PTSD, epilepsy, lactose intolerance, chronic pain, autism, and ADHD are just a few of the invisible disabilities people live with every day. An invisible disability is any disease or disability that affects normal everyday life and hinders a person's ability to perform daily activities, and it isn't obvious to people who don't know you.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to Help Your Cat Adjust to Change

By Langley Cornwell

Most of us have heard the old adage “the only thing constant is change” and we all know how true that is. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the type of person who embraces change and looks towards different circumstances as a new adventure, or you’re the type that dreads change because you thrive in familiar conditions; change happens.

If you have the privilege of sharing your life with cats, change happens to them too. While you can intelligently process the reasons for the change, your cat(s) cannot. All they know is that things are different and they are not sure how to deal with the newness, whatever it may be. They need help managing the stress that comes with change. There are steps you can take to help your cat successfully adjust to new circumstances.

New Home

If your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat, when you move plan to keep him indoors for approximately a month so he can become familiar with his new surroundings. For an extremely sensitive cat, it may be wise to establish a single room as ‘his’ and confine him to that room until he becomes more comfortable with the new home. Make sure the cat has access to a clean litter box and fresh water at all times. Whether your cat has the run of the house or is limited to one room, keep all the doors and windows closed and locked. Additionally, make sure your cat wears an I.D. tag at all times. A fearful cat can easily slip out of an open door or window and run away.

Keep distractions to a minimum; restrict the access of other animals and children to the cat as he is settling into his new territory. When cats are transitioning, they need assurance that their sources of love, shelter and food are still available. Therefore, spend more quality time with your cat than you used to, as he is adjusting to his new home. Talk quietly and reassuringly to him, and be patient. Your cat may display behavior problems during the first few weeks after a move but these issues usually clear up over time.   

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Using Body Language to Train Your Dog

By Linda Cole

Dogs know how we feel by our body language, tone of voice and expression on our face. They read us much better than most dog owners understand how to read them. It's not difficult to understand what a dog is saying, and we can use their knowledge of body language to help us interact with them better. We can also use it when we are training a dog.

In the dog's world, every movement, growl and gesture has a meaning. It can cause negative or positive reactions and be subtle or plain to see. They watch us like a hawk and interpret what we want by paying attention to us. The way we approach a dog, react to an aggressive dog, or interact with them while training can be better accomplished using their method of communication. When you send the appropriate message using body language, it can help you when meeting an unfamiliar dog and help you control your own dog.

Leaning forward into a submissive dog and moving your hand down towards the head will likely trigger a negative reaction that causes the dog to urinate. He reads your body language as dominant and is intimidated by you. But if you approach the same dog, crouch down next to him and bring your hand from his chest up to the head, you'll get a much different reaction. When you crouch down next to a submissive dog, your body language is positive and nonthreatening. We naturally want to pet a dog on the head, but it's better to stroke the chest of a dog showing submissive or dominant body language to avoid intimidating them.

One of the hardest commands to teach a dog is to come (recall). I've had dogs that refused to come, even for a treat. Instead of begging and yelling at your dog to come, turn your back and crouch down. You've shown him with your body language you're not a threat and he's not in trouble. He sees you as being calm and nonthreatening. You've given him an invitation to join you and most dogs will respond to your gesture. When he comes to you, give him a treat he loves, such as CANIDAE TidNips.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pet Fun Facts

By Langley Cornwell

Cats and dogs are a source of unending discovery. The more time I spend with my pets, the more questions I have about certain behaviors – like why my cat purrs or why my dog wags her tail. We all have a general idea but I wonder, specifically, why animals do what they do. I’ve read loads of books about animal behavior and I’ve just added a few more to my list of ‘must reads.’ One thing I’ve noticed is that a few common theories about basic pet behaviors are being reexamined. Some of these findings may surprise you, and some you may already know.   

Cats Purring - Most of us believe purring indicates that a cat is happy. That’s part of the story. Purring by domestic cats is not just a sign of contentment; it’s also used as a method of self-calming. Our cat Margaret was a loud, enthusiastic purrer. Once when she was injured and we took her to the vet, they had a hard time checking her heartbeat because she was purring so loudly. In general, purring is a way for cats to communicate.    

Dogs Wagging Their Tails - Like a cat’s purring, a wagging tail is believed to indicate a happy dog. When a dog wags his tail, it can actually mean a range of emotions from approachability and excitement, to anxiety and aggression. A dog’s tail is an important communication tool. To fully understand what a dog is trying to convey, the tail needs to be considered along with the rest of the dog’s body language.

Cats Rubbing Against People (and other animals) - Yes, getting a nice rub from a cat signifies affection, but it also serves another significant cat function: scent-marking. Our cat always greets our dog by rubbing his face all over hers. Cats have scent glands in various places on their bodies and they use them to ‘mark their territory.’ Leaving their scent on things they come in contact with helps cats become familiar with the smells around them, which helps them claim a particular person, animal or object as ‘theirs.’

Friday, January 20, 2012

Facing the Fear of Being a Bad Dog Owner

By Julia Williams

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I am a cat lady through and through. What you may not know is that I’ve also thought about getting a dog. I know cats better because I’ve shared my home with them for decades but have only had one dog. I “get” cats, but dogs remain largely a mystery to me. Perhaps it is precisely this unknown territory that intrigues me. I adore my cats more than anything, yet as an animal lover I want to experience the unique joy of having a dog. Actually, I could say the same thing about horses, rabbits, hamsters and birds – I’ve wanted to have all of these as a pet at one time or another.

The desire to adopt a dog is more intense, though. I think it’s because there are so many fun things you can do with a dog that you can’t do with a cat. You can go places with them, and there are umpteen dog sports you can enjoy together. My cats loathe the car, and the only sport that interests them is competitive eating….as in, let’s see who can finish their food first to “help” the others with theirs. I don’t think having a dog would be better than having cats, just different.

So why don’t I get a dog then? Oh, I’ve asked myself that question a thousand times, and there are so many reasons. The biggest is fear. Not fear of the unknown, but fear of being a bad dog owner. Dogs are complex creatures, and there is a lot involved in raising a happy, social, well mannered dog. I’m afraid that I would screw it up, and end up with a problem dog I didn’t know what to do with. I’m afraid that I don’t know enough about dogs to do it right. And if I’m going to adopt a dog, I want – no, need – to do it right.

I know that a lot of my fear comes from the painful memory of the time I did it wrong. When I was 18, I succumbed to those “sad puppy eyes” and adopted a dog from the shelter where I’d been volunteering. Never mind that I knew nothing about dogs, how to raise one, or how to deal with little problem behaviors before they became gigantic, insurmountable issues. I didn’t stop to consider what breed of dog might be best suited for me, or what they required beyond food and water. I was young and dumb, but that’s really no excuse for doing it wrong. I’ve never forgotten, and probably never forgiven myself, for being a bad dog owner.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What Eye Contact Means to a Dog

By Linda Cole

I love to sit back and watch my dogs interacting with each other. When I watch them playing and wrestling with each other, I'm reminded of a wrestling match between humans. It's fascinating to see how dogs jockey into position with similar moves that humans use. What's most interesting, however, is how they use their eyes to communicate with each other, just like human wrestlers. Eye contact is important to a dog, and we need to learn how to be respectful with our gaze and not stare.

Watching a dog's eyes gives you an idea what they are thinking and how they are feeling. It can also signal that a potential dog fight could be brewing between two dogs. A dominant dog may feel challenged by direct stare and a submissive dog can be intimidated with the eyes. But when you stop and think about it, eye contact between dogs isn't that much different than it is between people.

People who are shy or intimidated by someone direct their eyes away from a more dominant personality. The idea of confronting someone is distasteful and something they will avoid at all costs. Unless they are challenged or forced to stand up for themselves in some way, they are happier if no one notices them. The confident and dominant person isn't afraid to make eye contact. Their eyes are generally relaxed, open to the world and friendly looking. They aren't looking for trouble, but they won't back down from it if they find it. A more aggressive person has a hard stare and his eyes are narrowed. They may be angry or looking for a fight and their stare is meant to be intimidating. Someone who is fearful is wide eyed and their pupils are dilated. Dogs that are timid, fearful, dominant, friendly or aggressive view eye contact in the same way, and react to the eyes like we do.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Debunking Common Pet Health Misconceptions

By Langley Cornwell

Statistics point to an alarming trend in pet health care: even though the population of pet owners has increased, the number of dogs and cats that are getting formal veterinary care has sharply decreased. The study, commissioned by Bayer HealthCare LLC, Animal Health Division and conducted by Brakke Consulting in collaboration with the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, was comprehensive and well documented. It included two phases, answers from pet owners and consultations from veterinarians. The study indicates that the decline in veterinary visits may be due to misconceptions people have about their pet’s health. These misconceptions can stem from a combination of factors including the glut of information – some accurate and some not—available on the internet, and economic drivers enticing people to independently diagnose their pet’s health problem and explore home remedies.

While it’s not necessary to run to the vet every time your dog has hiccups, there are times when proper veterinary care is the right choice. Here are some common pet health myths and accompanying facts to help you determine the best course of action for your animal companion:

Are annual wellness exams really necessary? Nothing is ever wrong with my pet.
95 percent of veterinarian involved in the study strongly suggested that both dogs and cats need at least one veterinary wellness exam annually. Conversely, a lot of pet owners believe the only time their pet needs to go to the vet is for shots or vaccinations. Routine checkups are important because that’s when the vet examines your pet’s eyes, ears, heart and lungs. Additionally, the vet may take x-rays and do a blood workup. These examinations require specialized tools and techniques. If your pet is examined on a yearly basis, the veterinarian can catch problems or conditions before they become serious and costly.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What My Pets Mean to Me

By Linda Cole

There's never been a time in my life when I didn't have a pet in my home. As a kid, I loved being around any animal. Living in the country where we had cows, pigs, chickens and outside cats and dogs, was great. One of my favorite things to do was get up at dawn and head out with my dad to do morning chores, especially in the winter when there was snow on the ground. That's when it was the easiest to see deer in the cornfields digging through the snow looking for corn left over after the harvest. Sometimes, a red fox, coon or possum would pass by. Our dog, Trixie, was always by my side. Together, she and I explored every nook and cranny we could find looking for “treasures.” My brother and sister weren't as adventurous as I was, so Trixie was my friend, my playmate and my protector.

I didn't understand how important Trixie was to me until my folks decided to move into town and give Trixie away. My best friend was given to an older couple in another town who wouldn't take her out running in the fields. I was assured, “She'll be fine and we still have another dog and cats.” But to me, it wasn't fine nor was it fair. I was 12 years old, and my heart was broken.

It's what we learn as kids about life and ourselves that shapes us as we grow. I'm sure my parents had a good reason for giving Trixie away, but I never knew what it was. The lesson I learned was to love each pet every day and never take them for granted.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Behavioral Problems: Is it the Dog or the Owner?

By Langley Cornwell

When we adopted our dog, she was shy and insecure. She wouldn’t even stand up straight. Her tail was tucked, her head hung low and she cowered any time a person or dog approached her. We knew we had our work cut out for us, but were ready and entirely willing. We immediately enrolled in puppy kindergarten, and it helped her tremendously. One thing that’s abundantly clear, however, is that the class was more about training the humans than training the puppies.  

So here we are, 3 years later, and I’ve fallen short. I have not held up my end of the bargain. To be specific, our dog now walks tall, is well socialized and she’s gaining confidence every day. Where I got off track was with the basic dog training skills. Additionally, we’re inconsistent with correcting behavioral problems, and we’ve allowed a few bad manners to continue. Regarding the basics, she’s pretty good at ‘come’ but I’d like her to be better. In an emergency, I’m not sure she would drop everything and come running under all circumstances. She will ‘sit’ but only for high-value treats like CANIDAE TidNips™.

Thankfully, she seems to have outgrown her destructive chewing habit. Her ‘leave it’ is okay, she doesn’t bark excessively and she’s never been one to jump up on people. But forget about ‘down,’ ‘wait,’ ‘stay,’ ‘heel,’ or ‘look.’ Even though we learned these commands in puppy kindergarten, nothing stuck (and yeah, I know that’s my fault). Additionally, she’s an excessive digger and a leash puller. She begs from my husband but not from me. I think we all know why, although he denies it… but that’s a different topic altogether. The point is – we need to get back to work.

Professional dog trainer Adam Katz at dogproblems.com has an online newsletter I subscribe to. His recent message caught my attention. He asserts that 98% of a dog's bad behavior is a direct result of what dog owners do, and that when it comes to behavior problems, dogs only respond to the conditions and stimulus they receive from the outside world. Many of us already know this, but knowing it and doing something about it are two different things.

Friday, January 13, 2012

“Simon’s Cat” Animated Cartoons are Simply Meowvalous

By Julia Williams

I love cats, and I love cartoons. So today I decided to share some information about my all-time favorite cat cartoon called Simon’s Cat. Now, I’m sure some of you know about this animated series and have watched the hilarious films on YouTube or Facebook. If you’re a cat lover, you can’t help but love the Simon’s Cat cartoons! I may have a lot of “favorite things involving cats,” but Simon’s Cat cartoons are at the top of that long list. They always make me laugh…and laugh… and laugh. The cartoons are such an incredible mood lifter, but I learned the hard way that I must put down any drink or snack before clicking the play button on my computer screen.

About the Simon’s Cat Cartoons

Simon’s Cat was created by Simon Tofield, an award-winning English illustrator, animator and director at Tandem Films in London. Simon is a “cat guy” who not only clearly loves and understands felines, but brilliantly translates that into the funniest animated cat cartoons I’ve ever seen! The Simon’s Cat cartoons center around the relationship between a man and his mischievous cat, who is always getting into some kind of trouble. If you’ve ever shared your home with a cat, you’ll recognize many of this cartoon cat’s antics, which Simon illustrates so hilariously. This “foodie cat” will do just about anything to get noms, including stealing a giant turkey off the table and leaving a small can of cat food in its place. The cat’s signature move is pointing to his mouth and making an amusing “feed me” meow that cracks me up no matter how many times I see it.

Simon’s Cat made his first appearance in March of 2008, in a film called “Cat Man Do,” described as “A hungry cat resorts to increasingly desperate measures to wake its sleeping owner.” Simon’s Cat has a huge fan base on Facebook and on YouTube, where that first cartoon has more than 29 million views! All of the Simon’s Cat films (there are 16 to date!) can be watched for free on their website and YouTube, and there’s talk of making a special DVD compilation of the films with added extras. I think that’s a splendid idea, but I’m not sure my body could survive all that laughing; I’d have to pace myself and only watch 5 minutes at a time.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Kooikerhondje - A Beautiful and Rare Dog Breed

By Linda Cole

The Kooikerhondje is a rare dog breed that originated in Holland around the 1500's. Nicknamed Kooiker, they're also called Dutch Decoy Dog. The name is pronounced coy-ker-hund-che, although sometimes it's pronounced koy-ker-hund. According to historians, it's thought the Kooiker and the Nova Scotia Duck-Tolling Retriever share origins because of a similar working style. Both dogs were bred to hunt ducks in a rather unique way.

Generations of Dutch hunters devised a foolproof method of trapping ducks, and they used the Kooikerhondje as bait, so to speak. The men constructed a pipe of sorts beside a pond used by ducks. It consisted of netting spread out over a long archway with a trap at the end of a tunnel. The trap was called a “Kooi” and that's most likely where the Kooikerhondje name came from. The dog was trained to get the attention of the ducks and lure them down the tunnel far enough that by the time they lost interest in the dog, it was too late to get back out the opening because the hunters would stand in the entry way and block it. This forced the ducks to continue down the tunnel, into the trap.

This trapping method was and still is a very effective use of the Kooikerhondje's unique characteristics. Once the trap is set up and ready, hunters toss a stick into the pond. The dog jumps into the pond in a game of fetch and then plays with the stick; tossing it up in the air and trying to catch it. For some reason, this attracts ducks. When the hunters think the dog has the ducks attention, they instruct the dog to start to lure them into the trap. A long, bushy white tipped tail keeps the ducks curious enough to follow him. An entire flock of ducks can be trapped using just one dog. This method is still used today for conservation efforts to study, tag and inspect flocks for research and to monitor the health of duck populations.

This 20-40 pound sporting dog was on the verge of becoming extinct during WW II, but because of the efforts of Baroness Van Hartenbroek van Ammerstol, the breed was saved. With only 25 Kooikers to be found in Holland, the Baroness made a commitment in 1939 and began a dedicated breeding program. She is also credited with helping allied pilots in WWII escape from the Germans by using her dogs to lead soldiers through the woods to the safety of the Belgian border.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why I Feed My Cats FELIDAE

By Julia Williams

Many years ago, long before CANIDAE started this blog, I became a fan of their FELIDAE cat food. And nearly a decade later, I’m still a fan. I mention FELIDAE in some of my posts because it is, after all, the food my three cats eat. I realized some people might think, “Well of course she recommends this food since she writes for their blog!” It’s actually the opposite – I became a contributor for the Responsible Pet Ownership blog in 2009 because I already had a positive experience with the FELIDAE brand, and I had published an unsolicited review of the food on another website. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. I want to share the tale of how and why this food became the only one I feed to my cats.

I’ve loved cats forever, and I'd never knowingly do anything that would harm them. From my very first cat to my current three, I have promised to not only love and cherish them, but to do my best to keep them healthy. To that end, my cats always get regular vet checkups and also go in whenever there’s even a whiff of trouble.

I thought I was a responsible pet owner and was doing everything I could to keep them healthy. But here’s the thing – I was feeding them sub-par supermarket cat food because I didn’t know any better. I bought the cheapest food too, usually whatever was on sale that week. I bought my own food at the supermarket, so why wouldn’t I buy my cat food there too? It’s safe to say I didn’t know a thing about what might make one cat food better than another. Mind you, this was also before many, if any, premium quality foods like FELIDAE even existed. Still, cat food was just something I didn’t give a lot of thought to, other than buying more when I was running low.

The turning point for me as a cat food consumer came in the late 90s, when I read a book called Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Richard Pitcairn, a noted holistic veterinarian from Oregon. I bought this book primarily for its holistic approach to cat care and its comprehensive section on pet ailments and treatments. Little did I know, Dr. Pitcairn also addressed nutritional issues I had never even thought about before, and it forever changed the way I looked at pet food.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Remembering Stubby, the Most Decorated Dog in History

By Langley Cornwell

The U.S. Military has been using Working Dogs since World War I. At that time, selfless American families donated their pets to the wartime efforts. These days, military dogs and their volunteer handlers are trained as sentry, trackers, scouts, mine/booby-trap/tunnel and water detection of enemy forces. These amazing animals were used in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. War Dogs website estimates that these courageous canine heroes saved more than 10,000 lives during the Vietnam conflict.

The website goes on to say that today, all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces are using Military Patrol Dogs who specialize in drug and bomb/explosive detection. At this time, there are roughly 600-700 military dogs in the Middle East in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. These valiant canines are patrolling air bases, ammunition depots, military compounds and military check points.

And it all started with a stray, mixed breed mutt named Stubby. Where he came from is a mystery; one day in 1917 Stubby just showed up at Yale Field in New Haven, Connecticut. At the time, soldiers were running drills and the pup playfully joined the ranks. All the soldiers were happy for the company but one soldier in particular, Corporal Robert Conroy, formed a swift and strong bond with the dog.

Conroy quickly noted Stubby’s intelligence. Without much effort, he taught Stubby to shake hands. Once Stubby mastered that trick, Conroy decided to teach him to raise his paw a little higher when he was given the order to ‘salute’.

Monday, January 9, 2012

How to Get Your Dog to Stop Barking

By Linda Cole

My beagle/terrier mix loves to bark, especially when she's outside. If it moves, Alex barks and once she starts, there's apparently no “off” button. Some breeds bark more than others, and beagles are among them. You can yell at a barking dog until you're blue in the face and they may stop briefly – but usually start in again. This problem behavior isn't entirely their fault, however. We have to accept our role in their unacceptable barking if we don't teach them what we want them to learn. It's not that difficult to do, but you have to commit to teaching them, and it can take some time to get your dog to stop barking.

One thing dogs do well is vocalize. They alert us to intruders or danger by using their voice. Happy yaps say your dog is having fun playing. Some dogs bark to let us know when they see something interesting, and barking lets other animals know they have been seen. Dogs bark when they're lonely, bored, feel threatened or stressed, for attention, or when they don’t get enough mental or physical exercise.

A barking dog is annoying, especially to neighbors. Most people understand if a dog has a reason to bark, but yapping constantly is likely to get you a visit from the local police if your neighbors complain. In some cases, you may be asked to leave an apartment or rental home if you can't contain your dog's barking.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Can You Imagine Living in a World Without Animals?

By Julia Williams

I read a thought-provoking post recently on one of my favorite pet blogs, 24 Paws of Love. She wrote of having a day where things were going from bad to worse and just as she was about to “lose it,” the sight of two dogs instantly calmed her down. Mind you, these were not her own dogs, who were at home while she was out and about. She wrote, “I didn't need to touch them or have any major connection with them, their presence was enough to settle those frayed emotions. All it takes sometimes is a glimpse of an animal, whether it be wild or domesticated, to feel back in touch with myself.” She went on to ask if others felt this same connection with the animal world, where just seeing them could elicit comfort and a sense of belonging.

Oh yes, I thought to myself…all the time. I understood this feeling completely, having had similar experiences time and again, for as long as I can remember. But what surprised me is that several others said they felt the same. I’d always thought it was somewhat uncommon to feel so innately and intensely connected to animals, even (and especially) those that are not your own. I now realize I may have been wrong about that. There are others like me, who would not really know how to live in a world without animals. 

In the presence of animals, I feel more grounded and more comfortable than I do with people. I empathize more with animals than I do with humans, and feel as though they are somehow more like me than any human I know. Developing a deep bond with an animal is second nature to me, but to feel a meaningful connection with another human takes a lot of effort. It can be done, but it doesn’t happen nearly as naturally for me.

I’ve long held the belief that you are either born an animal lover, or not. Further, that this sense of connection to animals is not hereditary or a product of our environment. I really think it’s either there at birth, or it isn’t. Now, sometimes we can suppress this love just as we can also amplify it by our life choices. In other words, if our parents were not animal lovers and did not want a pet, it may take being out on our own before we realize that we don’t feel the same way. Conversely, we might know that we love animals and love having a pet, but it takes a certain pet coming into our lives to make us realize how vitally important they are to us and our sense of well-being.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Science Behind Why We Love Our Pets

By Linda Cole

What is it about pets that can get a macho, muscular guy to melt as he cuddles a kitten? Or the simple smile that appears on our face as we watch a puppy's first steps? According to researchers, we are hardwired to love and respond to pets, even those who say they don't like pets!

Studies on the human brain, done at the California Institute of Technology and the University of California at Los Angeles, indicated that we have a part of the brain that's considered to be very old. It's called the amygdala (uh-mig-duh-luh) and when pictures of animals were shown to 41 people who volunteered for this study, the scientists found that neurons in this part of the brain became quite active. Researchers believe we have been hardwired to respond to animals as far back as hundreds of millions of years ago in the early years of human evolution.

Scientists were surprised to discover it didn't make any difference if the test subjects were shown Cobras and big hairy spiders or kittens and puppies; the same result took place in the brain. This response was totally unexpected, because the amygdala is where fear and anger responses are controlled as well as where emotional memories are found. It triggers our flight or fight response, and is part of the process in storing information for long-term memory. When they started the experiment, it was believed the dangerous and not-so-cuddly animals would give a stronger emotional response, but they found out it didn't matter. Cuddly and cute or dangerous and ugly, the response in the brain waves was the same.

Scientific studies on how and why we interact the way we do with animals are interesting, and that's how we know the health benefits we get from sharing our home with our pets. I would have to say, my pets have helped me grow into the person I am today. And I know I'm not alone in giving my pets credit for emotional growth.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Guide Horses for the Blind?

By Julia Williams

Most of us are familiar with seeing eye dogs. These extraordinary working canines have long been used to help the blind regain their mobility and independence. But a seeing eye horse? Why yes…of course!

In 2009 there were just a handful of miniature horses being used as Guide Horses for the blind. Although the number of Guide Horses used today is still small, the demand is growing as more people begin to see the advantages of a miniature horse versus the traditional seeing eye dog. There’s even a nonprofit organization that was created specifically to provide a safe, cost-effective and reliable mobility option for visually impaired people. Founded in 1999, the Guide Horse Foundation relies on volunteers to donate, train and deliver trained Guide Horses free of charge to visually impaired individuals.

Why Use a Miniature Horse as a Blind Guide?

Guide Horses are not for everyone, but are particularly appealing to blind people who are allergic to dogs, as well as blind horse lovers, people who have Cynophobia (fear of dogs) and those who want a guide animal with a longer lifespan. Guide Horses are also a good option for individuals with physical disabilities because of their docile nature, and because they are strong enough to provide support and help the handler get up from their chair.

Guide Horses have shown promise as a viable mobility option, and people who have them say that the miniature horses have performed very well and have done a remarkable job of keeping them safe. Guide horses are also said to demonstrate excellent judgment, and are not easily distracted by crowds and people.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Books on How to Deal with Jealous Dogs

By Langley Cornwell

Personal experience drove me to research the topic of jealousy and dogs. There was a time when I had three rescue dogs. A black Labrador was the first to come along. She needed extra care due to her very young age and the neglect she had suffered. Once I got her healthy and housetrained, a yellow Lab mix needed a home urgently and I stepped up. Even though both dogs were female, they worked the hierarchy out with no problems. Casual observers had a hard time identifying which was the alpha dog. The black Lab was, but she was a kind and benevolent alpha so it was hard to determine. Nonetheless, we enjoyed complete harmony. A year later, a female German Shepherd was in a dire situation and I agreed that I could add another dog to our pack. This may have been naive, but someone needed to act fast so I did. That’s when things started to unravel. 

Searching for a solution to the chaos of a three dog household, I consulted dog behaviorists, veterinarians, trainers and anybody that would listen to me. I read books and more books. Turns out, there are a variety of opinions about jealousy in dogs.

Some animal experts say that jealousy is a human emotion and dogs are not capable of such complex feelings. Still, many of us have dogs that seem to exhibit jealousy-related behavior. If a new dog, roommate, girlfriend or boyfriend, baby, cat, toy, etc. joins the household, a dog may react to the change in circumstances, perhaps feel neglected, and show signs of jealousy. The most important thing I learned was that understanding your dog’s behavior and responding appropriately to the specific situation is the key to restoring harmony.  These three books helped me do that:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Why Do Some Dogs Snore?

By Linda Cole

Some dog breeds, both purebred and mixed breeds, that have shorter, pushed in noses have a tendency to snore. Most of us don't pay a lot of attention to our dog when he’s lying at our feet snoring up a storm. In fact, we've probably gotten so used to hearing them snore that we don't even notice it. However, if your dog does snore, it may be an indication there's a problem that needs to be addressed.

A sight that always brings a smile to the face of a dog or cat owner is watching their pet while they're sleeping. The jury is still out as to whether or not pets dream, but watching your dog's legs move as if he's running or a cat's twitching whiskers would make a case that they do. Some of my dogs let out cute little yaps every now and then in their sleep, and I had one dog that would howl in her sleep.

Dogs are more apt to snore than cats, and share a similar sleep pattern with humans. They also go into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep just like we do. The fact that dogs can fall into a deep sleep shows how much they trust their owner. When they are relaxed and feel comfortable around the ones they love, they don't feel threatened and are more likely to fall into a deep peaceful sleep at your feet, by your side on the couch or snuggled next to you in bed.

Cats, on the other hand, are always on guard even during deep sleep. Their senses are always paying attention to what's going on around them and unlike a dog, can be awakened from a deep sleep and be fully alert in seconds to everything that's happening around them. A dog in deep sleep wakes up confused and disorientated just like we do. It takes them a minute to get their bearings.

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