Friday, July 30, 2010

Watch New Canidae TV Commercials

Canidae TV Commercials
Exclusive Sneak Peek

We are excited to share with you our new CANIDAE television commercials starring some of our own Special Achiever sponsored dogs and a few of our friends.

We hope you enjoy watching them as much as we did making them!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Training Dogs to Respond to a Silent Whistle

By Linda Cole

Whistle training is usually only done by hunters or herders to control their dog while out in the field. But using a silent whistle to give your dog commands has its advantages. I started using a silent dog whistle years ago when I learned that my Siberian Husky was an escape artist. Instead of having to walk the neighborhood yelling, I could simply blow on the whistle and she could hear it better than my voice. Training your dog to respond to a silent dog whistle is just like teaching them to come to you when you call them using a voice command. It's easy to do, as long as you are consistent, patient and have plenty of treats and praise for your dog.

A silent dog whistle makes little to no sound that humans can hear, but dogs and even cats hear it loud and clear. The only thing we hear is our breath as it goes through the whistle. You may hear a whistle depending on how you have the pitch set. But it isn't very loud to us because the sound the dog whistle emits is up in the higher range we can't pick up.

If you have an outside cat you would like to train to come to the dog whistle or would like to train your inside cat to respond when you blow the whistle, the same training techniques used for a dog would be applied. Cats don't always come when called, but they may surprise you if they think there's something in it for them, like food. A sharp blast gets their attention almost as good as a can opener, and all cats understand what that sound means.

Depending on where you buy your dog whistle, the price can be anywhere from $1.50 up to $50.00. You don't need an expensive whistle, and the ones under $10.00 are just fine. You can buy them with or without a lanyard, but I've found having a cord attached to the whistle makes it easier to find because you can hang it in a convenient spot and hang it around your neck when using it.

Training your dog to respond to a silent whistle

The first thing you need to do is decide which commands you want your dog to learn. The dog whistle works well for calling your dog if you're hiking and he's off leash, if he's a country dog that's wandered down to the back forty or if he has become lost. You can use the whistle inside the home as well and train your dog to come, sit or stay by using long and short whistles. There is no wrong way to do it. Start by getting your dog accustomed to the sound of the silent dog whistle. If your dog is out of the room when you blow it and responds to the sound, give him a treat and praise.

Once you have his attention, pick one series of whistles for the command you want him to respond to. For instance, I use two short whistles for “come.” If you want your dog to sit or stay, you will need different whistles for those basic commands. Each time your dog does what the whistle asks, give him a treat and lots of praise.

Using a silent dog whistle is just like using your voice. Be patient and only use the series of whistles meant for each command. When your dog is in the same room with you, it's best not to use the whistle and a voice command is more appropriate.

If you are blowing the dog whistle and your dog pays no attention to it, adjust the pitch on the whistle and keep testing it until you see your dog's ears move. That's an indication he does hear it. It's very important to keep the whistle tuned to that particular pitch and frequency, because just like the sound of your voice when you speak a command, your dog will learn what that sound means and respond accordingly. Like any training session, make it a game and have plenty of CANIDAE Snap-Biscuit® or Snap-Bits™ treats around to reward him.

One of the worst feelings I ever had was the first time my Husky pulled out of her collar and took off. That was when I began checking into silent dog whistles and started using it around the dogs to get them use to the sound. The only command I've taught the dogs is to come when I blow the dog whistle. Hopefully, if one decides to roam, the silent dog whistle can help them find their way home without me yelling and disturbing the neighbors.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

CANIDAE Sponsors Surf Dog & Donates to Pet Food Drive

By Julia Williams

Mere moments after I finished writing my last article on Teaching Your Dog to Surf, I learned that the most famous of all surfing canines has joined the ranks of the CANIDAE Special Achievers. I’m talking about Surf Dog Ricochet of course, the amazing canine who uses her remarkable surfing talent to raise money for charity. Surf Dog Ricochet is a perfect fit for the CANIDAE dog sponsorship program, which began in 2006 as a way to support extraordinary canines and their devoted owners.

The dogs selected for sponsorship must be good ambassadors in their chosen “vocation,” be it dog sports, search and rescue, service and therapy work, police work, or conformation. These dogs all eat CANIDAE food, naturally, and their good health and ability to excel at their jobs helps promote the many benefits of a premium-quality holistic pet food.

Surf Dog Ricochet was slated to be service dog but was released from the program because her interest in chasing birds could be a risk to a person with disabilities. Undaunted by this change in her life plan, Ricochet perfected her surfing techniques and discovered another way to help people. Ricochet’s inspirational story of how she went “From Service Dog to SURFice Dog” has touched millions of lives worldwide, and to date she’s raised over $30,000 for her charitable causes!

Surf Dog Ricochet eats the CANIDAE Grain Free All Life Stages formula which helps her stay healthy and strong. Previously, Ricochet was plagued by chronic ear infections, but since switching to CANIDAE she has been free of that problem. Because she is an extremely active canine, she needs a high quality food to maintain her energy, stamina, and performance.

Surf Dog Ricochet embodies all of the qualities CANIDAE looks for when choosing canines to sponsor. Ricochet and her human companion, Judy, live a lifestyle of helping others by “pawing it forward,” while raising awareness and funds for both human and animal causes.

Speaking of good causes, Judy recently asked CANIDAE if they’d be willing to help out the “Dog Days of Summer,” a drive to collect food and supplies for shelters all around the world. The Dog Days drive was organized by Ricochet’s friends at BlogPaws, an online resource for pet bloggers. BlogPaws was founded by three passionate pet lovers/bloggers who are dedicated to supporting rescues, shelters, and the people who work so hard to help homeless, abandoned and abused pets.

As many of you know, CANIDAE All Natural Pet Foods is a very generous company with a long history of charitable giving. They were happy to lend their support to this great cause for shelters, and donated 350 pounds of premium-quality CANIDAE dog food and FELIDAE cat food to the drive. Ricochet split her food donation between two shelters, the San Diego Humane Society and the Rancho Coastal Humane Society.

You can help BlogPaws and the Dogs Days food drive too, but only if you act quickly, as it ends on July 31st! For information on how to contribute to this worthwhile cause and help the homeless animals in your community, click here.

CANIDAE is proud to welcome the extraordinary Surf Dog Ricochet (aka Rip Curl Ricki) as the newest member of their Special Achievers team. If you haven’t seen the Surf Dog Ricochet video yet, you really should – because the touching story of how this beautiful young golden retriever found her true calling and is changing countless lives as a result is one that every pet lover should see.

Photos courtesy of Diane Edmonds and Judy Fridono

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How to Create a Fun “Pet Theme” Garden

By Tamara L. Waters

Do you love gardening and pets? Creating a garden in your yard is a great way to add organic and natural elements, and if you are an animal lover, a fun garden idea is to create a critter garden – or a garden with an animal theme. There are a number of plants that have animal names, and this is a good project to get the kids on board with. The end result can be whimsical and will delight visitors.

Choose Animal Plants

Plants that feature animal names are the plants of choice for an animal theme garden. There are a number of plants that include the words “cat” or “dog” as well as plants that have other animal words in the name. You can choose to create a garden that is focused on a specific animal (either dog or cat), several animals, or go with a theme of specific types of animals (ocean animals, farm animals, zoo animals, mythical animals and more).

Specialty Animal Garden Plants

Check with local garden centers and nurseries for suggestions of plants that will work in your area. Search online for seed and plant catalog retailers for availability of plants.

A zoo animal garden could feature Zebra Grass, Zebra Plant, Zebra Vine, Cowardly Lion Begonia, Tiger Brocade Begonia, Tiger Cub Begonia, Bengal Tiger Canna, Panda Bear, Elephant Ear and other plants.

Other potential garden themes would be a flying creatures garden (Butterfly Weed, Batface Heather, Bird of Paradise, Parrot Flower, Partridge-breast, Crowsfoot, Batwing, Japanese Birdsnest Fern and Cardinal Flower, to name a few); a forest animal garden (Pet Me Porcupine, Foxtail Fern, White Rabbit Foot) or a farm animal garden (Donkey Ears, Chicken Gizzard Plant, Goatsbeard, Horsetail, Cowstail).

Dog and Cat Garden

For pet lovers, creating a garden that features dog or cat themed plants is fun and offers a beautiful variety of plants and flowers. You can create a garden that shows your love of canine or feline friends – or both.

Dog Plants

For dog plants, you can choose Wet Dog Plant (Illicium floridanum), Dog Rose (Rosa canina), Dog Violets, Dog Grass, Dogbane, Dogtail Cactus, Golden Red Twig Dogwood, Snoopy Begonia and Marmaduke Begonia for starters.

Cat Plants

A cat and dog garden isn't complete without feline friends. Mixing plants with cat names along with dog name plants creates a fun landscape feature. For cat plants, try a few of these: Cat's Whiskers (Orthosiphon), Scaredy Cat (Coleus Caninus), Cat's Claw Vine, Cattails and Catmint.

Accessories and Decorations

Creating an animal theme garden means adding more than just plants. Accessories and garden decorations help complete the effect. Check with your local dollar stores and garden centers for decorations and resin or ceramic statues of animals that can be strategically placed in the garden area.

Adding statues and decorative items of all sizes can turn your animal garden into a delight for young and old as they meander through the area looking for hidden treasures. Choose some small decorations that can be placed in out of the way places which require visitors to search to see them. Kids will find this to be an especially fun aspect of your garden. Continue adding items so that each time a visitor drops by, the garden will be different and full of new surprises.

Be sure to verify the toxicity of the plants you choose if your pets will have access to the garden area. For more information about toxic plants, read Grass, Weeds and Plants Pet Should Not Eat and Plants That Can Poison Your Pet.

Read more articles by Tamara L. Waters

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tips for Teaching Your Dog to Surf

By Julia Williams

A few months ago I told you about a wonderful dog named Ricochet who not only surfs, but uses her extraordinary ability to “hang twenty” as a way to raise money for charity. Before I wrote that article, I didn’t even know dogs could surf. As it turns out, Ricochet might be the most famous surfing dog in the world but there are many other canines who also love to shred the waves. CANIDAE staffer Diane Matsuura’s young Lab Hailey, pictured here, is one of them. She recently competed in the Loews Coronado Resort 5th Annual Surf Dog Competition in Imperial Beach, California with 65 other four-legged surfers!

Surfing with a dog sounds like a lot of fun and makes me wish I had a canine companion. I’m positive my cats would not enjoy surfing. I did find a video of a surfing cat in Peru whose owner claims she loves being out on the surfboard. However, to me (and many others) it looks more like a terrified cat hanging on for dear life lest she fall off into the ocean. Yes, some cats actually do like water, but I’d bet the farm that none would enjoy surfing in the ocean. Most dogs love water and swimming though, and this guy obviously adopted the wrong pet.

Never mind. I’ll get down from my soap box now and get on with giving you some tips for teaching your dog to surf. I won’t provide a full-on canine surfing lesson because that’s better left to the pros, like Surf Dog Ricochet. She’s written an excellent beginner’s guide to doggie surfing with tons of helpful information, which you can read here. Surf Dog Ricochet’s website also has links to qualified instructors, surf dog clinics and upcoming competitions.

You don’t need a lot of expensive equipment to teach your dog to surf. You just need a surfboard, a doggie life vest, and a pool. Most people recommend a foam surfboard for dogs because it’s easier for them to grip. Small dogs should use a 6-foot board while larger breeds can handle 7 or 8-feet boards. Look for a dog’s life jacket with a handle on top, which will help you lift your pooch out of the water or back onto the board after the inevitable wipeout. If you don’t have access to a full-size pool, a small portable backyard pool will suffice, and small breeds can even use a kiddie pool.

Like any other canine sport, teaching a dog to surf requires time, patience and practice. The pre-water part of your surf dog training can be done indoors or out – basically any place you can set the board down. You want your dog to do three things: 1) form positive associations with the surfboard; 2) learn to get on the board themselves and be in the correct position, and 3) work on balance techniques.

For positive associations, some surf dog trainers feed the dog and give them belly rubs while on the board. You shouldn’t ever force your dog to get onto the board. But if and when they do, give them lots of praise and dog treats while they are still on the board. You want to reinforce the behavior of being ON the surfboard instead of getting off. The next step is to practice a “stay” command. Teach them to remain on the board until you give them a release command, so that once they’re in the water, they won’t try to jump off and swim back to you.

If your dog has never worn a life jacket, you should practice putting it on them and letting them wear it around the house. Once they’re comfortable with it, have them wear it for their surfing lessons. The last pre-water step is teaching your dog to balance on an unsteady board. Use pillows or cushions underneath the board to make it wobbly. When they master the dry land surf lessons, you can move on to a pool. Here, they learn to jump onto the board themselves, and you can push them around so they learn to balance on the board while it’s moving.

Once they’re comfortable being on the board in the pool, take your surfing lesson to a lake or bay where the water is calm. A perfect place for this step is somewhere that allows boating, which will create very small “practice waves” your dog can master before graduating to the ocean. Even if you don’t live near the ocean, lakes can still be a great way for your dog to have fun on a surfboard.

These tips are not intended to be a comprehensive guide to dog surfing. For that, please visit Surf Dog Ricochet's website or enroll in a dog surfing school. And speaking of Ricochet, I have some exciting news to share with you about “Rip Curl Ricki” and CANIDAE in a day or two – stay tuned!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Making Pet Beds from Repurposed Items

By Ruthie Bently

I love going to auctions and yard sales; they are a great place to find inexpensive items you can repurpose or reclaim and use with your pets. Repurposing, which is different from recycling, means to give a new purpose or use to something. Reclaiming is the act of making something available for use or to rescue it from an undesirable state. If cash is limited, you don’t even need to go out to find these reusable items. You can make pet beds (including stuffing) out of your old blankets, pillow cases, mattress pads, sheets, towels, quilts and clothing.

If you have the time, you can sew your pet bed by hand. For large beds, you may want to use a sewing machine. You don’t have to be an expert with a sewing machine – knowing the basics and being able to sew a straight stitch is all you need. You shouldn’t need a heavy duty sewing machine, but it’s good to have several sturdy needles suitable for sewing heavier fabrics or multiple layers. Thread, a stitch ripper and sturdy pair of scissors round out the supplies list.

If you are totally helpless around a sewing machine, Velcro® is a handy thing to have. The fabric you choose will depend on how roughly your pet treats things. If it’s for a dog, their digging ability needs to be considered, as dogs will dig to adjust their bed to their liking, especially if it is used in their crate. Cats scratch things and while dogs don’t scratch in the same manner, you want to stay away from fabrics that have an open weave. Your pet’s toenails may get caught in it.

Some of the items you choose can be cut with scissors to fit your purpose. You may choose to sew items instead, depending on what you intend to use them for. If you’re making a simple mat for a small dog or your cat’s favorite sleeping spot, a mattress pad or quilt cut into four to eight pieces works well. Trim the elastic edge off the mattress pad, fold it in half and cut the halves apart. Take the remaining two pieces and cut again. If it is still too large, fold and cut the remaining pieces until you have the desired size. A simple whip stitch or straight stitch will keep the edges from raveling. If you want a thicker pad or more substantial bed, you can use a pillow case as a cover for the layers you have just cut. You can stitch thin pieces of Velcro to the inside edge of the pillow case’s opening to use as an easy closure.

If you’re using a quilt or a mattress pad to make a pet bed for a larger dog, folding in half and folding again creates a good size. Tacking the corners will hold it flat, but may make it harder to wash. If you just want a flat mat, folding in quarters and cutting as above works well. You can find dog bed patterns you can make online. Though some suggest using old couch cushions, I wouldn’t, since you don’t know what may be lurking in the foam of the cushion. Over time the composition of the foam tends to break down. You don’t want your dog to chew it up and ingest it either.

I have found making a bed from blue jeans to be an easy project. I rip the inseam leg stitches out up to the crotch, and stitch the fronts of the legs together at the center creating a new seam. I then sew a new seam by stitching the backs of the legs together. To make a bottom seam, I stitch the bottom of the pants closed where the feet would have exited. You can then stuff it with cotton towels or the items you created above if you want more layers. A blue jean skirt works well for a bed too, you only have to sew one seam. I would not suggest using Velcro on more than one seam if you have a dog that likes to shake things; you may come home to find stuffing all over the room.

Whatever item or items you choose to repurpose or refurbish to suit the needs of your pet’s bed, you are only limited by your imagination. You may never look at an old pair of blue jeans the same again. Not only are you keeping something from ending up in a landfill, you are giving new life to an item that still has life to give.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What is the Purpose of a Dog's Dew Claw?

By Linda Cole

Dogs have a toenail located on the inside part of their front leg that's called a dew claw. Most dog owners know where it's located and remember to clip it at the same time the rest of the dog's toenails are trimmed. If this nail is left untrimmed, it can cause pain and damage to the dog's leg. Some dog breeds have dew claws on their back legs as well. What is the purpose of a dog's dew claw, and why do some breeds have them on their back feet?

Because a dog's dew claw is located up on his leg, when he walks through the grass in the morning before the dew has vanished, the claw skims along the top of the grass. And that's how the dew claw got its name.

Not all dogs are born with dew claws, some only have the toenail on the front leg and other breeds have them on all four legs. Some breeds can have two dew claws on one or more legs. When a dog has a double claw on a leg, it's called polydactyl. Some dog breeds are required to have back dew claws if they are being shown in the ring because it's part of the standard for that breed.

Although not all dogs use their dew claw, they do have a purpose. It's sort of like our thumb, and some dogs use it to hold onto bones, toys, balls or other things they play with or chew on. Two of my dogs can control the toenail well enough to dig food out from between their teeth. They will scratch their nose or corner of their eye with it and one uses her dew claw to scratch inside her ear like we would use a finger.

Some rare dog breeds like the Basenji (pictured above), the New Guinea Singing Dog and the Catahoula Leopard Dog are able to climb trees almost as well as a cat, and they use their dew claws to grasp the tree bark as they climb. Other dogs bred to hunt have also been known to climb trees after their quarry has been treed.

The dew claw is classified as another toe and does need to be trimmed just like the other toenails. Because of the position of the claw, left untrimmed, it can curve down so much it becomes ingrown and puts the dog at risk for infection. Most dew claws are not down far enough on the dog's leg to make contact with the ground which gives the nail no way to be worn down naturally. It's important to keep these claws trimmed regularly, especially back ones. Left untrimmed, the quick will also grow longer which will make it harder to keep the toenails properly trimmed. Dew claws that are too long can make it easier for the dog to catch one in the brush when he's running around outside while working or playing. This can result in a torn toe.

Back dew claws are more common in breeds like the Great Pyrenees, Saint Bernard and Briard. It's believed the toenail on the back legs of the Great Pyrenees and other dogs that were bred to work in snow or rough terrain aids them as they do their job by giving them better stability as they run over the rough ground or make sharp turns.

The dew claw is attached to the leg with muscle and bone, although not all dew claws have bone in them. Sometimes the toe is attached loosely to the leg and when the dog runs, the toenail can become caught and easily torn. The back dew claw may need to be removed if it's loose or has been torn to avoid more injury to the dog's back feet.

For most dogs, the dew claw serves no particular purpose, but it still needs to be attended to just like the other toenails. It's easy to forget them, especially on long haired dogs where the hair covers the toe. Even though most dogs don't use the toe, sometimes they do and it may be more useful to the dog than we realize.

Trimming your dog's toenails regularly can help keep them at the proper length. A good time to do that is when you groom your pet. Ruthie Bently’s article on basic grooming supplies and procedures has excellent information on how to groom your dog.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Friday, July 23, 2010

What Qualities Does a Therapy Cat Need?

By Julia Williams

We recently introduced you to therapy dogs Stitch, Riley and Sophie, sponsored by CANIDAE. Inspired by their heartwarming story, I began to wonder if there was such a thing as therapy cats. I didn’t really think so, given that my feline friends have all been “scaredy-cats” who run and hide from the vacuum cleaner (aka, the “suck monster”), the Fedex guy, and pretty much all visitors except a chosen few. It turns out there are lots of calmer, more courageous kitties who aren’t afraid of strangers or noisy places, and these are the ones who make good therapy cats.

I’ve recently become acquainted with a delightful therapy cat named Tabitha, or Tabby for short. Tabby’s human mom, Karen, graciously gave me some information on the qualities a therapy cat needs and how to get started. I thought I’d pass them on, in case you have an outgoing feline and you’re interested in training them to be a therapy cat volunteer. I’d really like to do this myself, but I know my three kitties (bless their hearts), would make terrible therapy cats.

First though, let me tell you a little about Tabby. She just turned five and has been doing animal-assisted therapy for about a year. She’s a tabby cat of course, and lives in Vancouver, WA with Karen, her husband Scott and four other felines. Tabby loves human attention and being petted which, along with her calm demeanor and sociable nature, make her well suited to therapy cat work. Tabby likes attention so much that at home, she demands it from her humans all the time (that sounds like my cat Belle!). During her therapy cat training, Tabby even invented her own way of asking for petting – by sitting down and tapping people with one paw.

Karen trained Tabby using the evaluation criteria of The Delta Society, regarded as the top training/certification program for Animal Assisted Therapy. Tabby isn’t certified yet, but she will be very soon. In the meantime, the plucky feline is getting lots of paws-on experience as a therapy cat. How did that come about? Karen spoke with the director of an assisted living facility about Tabby and her training, and they agreed to meet her. Tabby naturally charmed everyone during her first visit – and the rest, as they say, is history!

Karen takes Tabby to the facility so she can visit with people who have severely limited mobility, dementia, Alzheimer's, and other ailments that make it hard for them to interact with people. Tabby also goes to a nursing home and an extended care facility at the request of a resident’s family. No matter who she visits, Tabby always brings them a great deal of comfort and joy.

Before she began her therapy cat training, Tabby learned to wear a harness and leash, and ride in a cat stroller. During visits, the cat needs to be controlled somehow, and a leash is the best way. Karen said it’s not essential that the cat learn to walk on the leash, but people do enjoy seeing it. In any event, a harness and leash will keep the cat safe should they be startled by something and try to run away. If you’d like to leash-train your cat, this article gives step-by-step instructions.

To get Tabby used to strange settings and new experiences, Karen takes her to dog parks, offices, and stores that allow pets inside. Therapy cats should be even-tempered, outgoing and not afraid to meet new people. They shouldn’t growl or hiss at people, cats, dogs or other animals. Said Karen, “You can train them for the specifics, but if they aren't calm then no amount of training will be enough.” Most Home Depot stores allow pets inside, she said, and they’re a perfect place to acclimate the cat to loud sounds, beeping equipment, carts (akin to wheelchairs in a facility setting), and being petted by strangers.

Not all therapy cats work with the elderly; some work with children in schools or pediatric therapy settings, and some work one-on-one with occupational therapy professionals. It’s important to choose a setting where you and your cat are comfortable, and pay attention to what your cat is telling you. Every cat has its own time limits, noise threshold and comfort level in strange situations. Watch your cat’s body language for signs of anxiety or fear, and end the training or visit when your cat tells you it’s time. You can always train more another day, but pushing your cat beyond their tolerance level will result in them not wanting to continue.

You can read more about Tabby’s therapy visits on her blog, Furry Tales of the PDX Pride. Tabby writes about her exploits so descriptively that it feels like you’re right there with her, visiting the patients and experiencing everything she does. Being a therapy cat is hard work, but it’s also very rewarding. I tip my hat to Tabby, a therapy cat extraordinaire! I can tell she loves her “job,” and she brings joy to so many people who really need it.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Home Remedies for a Pet’s Itchy Skin

By Ruthie Bently

I have long been a fan of natural remedies whenever possible, not for only myself but my companion animals as well. I have become even more aware of the chemicals in my environment since I adopted Skye, a seizure dog. There are many factors that might trigger a seizure and as a responsible pet owner, I want to be very careful with anything used in and around my home.

A pet’s itchy skin can be caused by many things: bug bites and stings, fleas, ticks, infection, poison ivy, poison oak, poor nutrition, food allergies, and allergies to elements in the home. Pets can be allergic to air fresheners, carpet and floor cleaners, even the detergent used to clean their bedding. Itchy skin can manifest itself in many ways. Your pet may be constantly rubbing up against furniture inside the house or along fences outside the house. Excessive rolling in the grass may be another indication of itchy skin. Your pet may chew their paws or lick themselves frequently trying to relieve the itch. You may even see red patches of skin.

You can create your own natural remedies for your pet’s itchy skin. I have used oatmeal, plantain and baking soda, and this year I am growing chamomile. You can also use yellow dock, green tea and calendula.

Rinses can be made with plantain, yellow dock, chamomile and green tea. To make a rinse with chamomile or green tea, steep two teabags in two cups hot water and discard the teabags. Let the liquid cool, apply it to your pet and let air dry. To make a yellow dock rinse, add one tablespoon of dried yellow dock to two cups boiling water. Let it cool, discard the herb and apply the liquid. To make a plantain rinse, add two tablespoons dried plantain (or six tablespoons fresh) to two cups boiling water. Cover and let steep for 20 minutes. When cool, strain off liquid and apply. The longer you allow plantain to remain on the skin the more beneficial it is.

You can make your own oatmeal bath for your dog at home, which can be used to wash the entire dog, itchy feet or applied to dry skin for relief. For a foot bath, add colloidal oatmeal to a bath with several inches of warm water in it. Let your dog’s feet soak for between 5 to 10 minutes. Remove your dog from the bath and dry their feet. The size of your dog will determine how much colloidal oatmeal you add to a regular bath. Skye weighs 57 pounds and I would use 1 cup of colloidal oatmeal to her bath water.

To make your own colloidal oatmeal, use regular oatmeal or quick oats. Grind the oats/oatmeal until it is a fine powder, without bits or pieces. It should have the consistency of powdered sugar. I use a coffee grinder, but a blender or food processor on the high setting works. To test the colloid attributes of your oatmeal, mix a tablespoon of oats in a glass of warm water. If the oats turn the water cloudy and it feels smooth, the consistency is correct. By grinding several cups at a time you’ll have it on hand when you need it; store extra oatmeal in an airtight container in your pantry.

If your pet isn’t itching all over, a thick paste made from either baking soda or colloidal oatmeal and water is good for treating insect stings and bites, as well as poison ivy or poison oak. Apply paste to affected area and leave on for at least 10 minutes for best results. Baking soda can also be used as a soothing bath. For a bath, I would suggest adding a cup of baking soda to the bath water.

Consult your vet if the itching doesn’t go away or gets worse, as it may indicate a more serious condition. Each pet is different and while these natural remedies may not work as quickly as a man-made product, the effects are more beneficial and may be longer lasting for your pet. No one wants to see their pet in discomfort and though they can’t verbally tell us, we know when they are. By having a few simple ingredients in your pantry, you can make your own remedy for your pet’s itchy skin if you can’t get to the vet.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How to Give Your Pooch a Pedicure

By Suzanne Alicie

One of the tasks that often gets overlooked by dog owners is the doggie pedicure. Unless you have a breed that gets groomed often you may not spare a thought to grooming your dog’s feet. But this is actually very important for their health and mobility. As a responsible pet owner you will want to meet all the needs of your pet.

Most dogs who are walked regularly or allowed to play outside wear their nails down to a natural length. But if your dog doesn’t take care of this naturally it is important that you take care of it so that your dog doesn’t suffer from bent and broken claws, or claws that actually grow sideways. This is a common problem on the front paws where your dog’s weight rests. If the two front-most claws get too long when your dog walks, they will spread apart and bend instead of wearing down naturally.

Another problem many dogs experience is when the fur between the pads on their feet gets too long, they lose traction and can easily slip and fall down stairs and on hard floors. It is important that you realize as a dog owner that a doggie pedicure is not just to make the dogs feet pretty, it can help you avoid additional vet bills and save your dog from unnecessary pain.

To perform a doggie pedicure at home you will first need to make sure that you have all the supplies on hand. Over the years I have found what seems to be the ideal tools for doggie pedicures and keep them all in a drawer to use after baths. We have two large dogs that have thick hard claws and lots of hair around their pads. My pedicure supplies include:

• Dog nail clippers - heavy duty for large dogs
• Small scissors
• Styptic powder
• Antibacterial ointment
• Personal hair clipper - small such as for bikini line or eyebrows.
• Heavy duty emery board/electronic dog nail file system

I usually sit on the floor where the dog can lie down in front of me. I start with the back paws because they usually require less work. The hardest part for me is the clipping of the nails. I am always scared I will cut the nails too short and damage the quick. Sadly at times I have, but styptic powder stops the bleeding. Nails should be cut straight and fast to avoid bending and tugging on the nail. Always make sure your clippers are sharp and won’t cause your dog pain.

Once all the nails are trimmed I move to the “toe hairs.” Using a small pair of sharp scissors I trim long hairs that are around the nails and the ankles of the dog’s feet, front and back. Then I use a personal hair trimmer to get in between toes and pads to remove the hairs that could cause them to slip and slide.

The next step is smoothing the nails so that they won’t split, crack, or cause nasty scratches on me or the dog. I like electronic filing systems but my dogs don’t like the noise, so it is usually faster to use a heavy duty emery board. No matter what you use, the idea is to smooth the rough edges and leave your dog with slightly rounded claws.

Once all the trimming, clipping and shaping is done, all that is left is applying an antibacterial ointment to any places where I have cut the nail too short or caused irritation of the paws with the hair clippers. A small dab of ointment to promote healing and kill germs, and voila! Doggie pedicure finished.

Not all dogs will lie still and allow you to manipulate their feet in this manner, and each dog may require a different approach. For example, with my two dogs I have one that requires another person to pet her belly while I work on her feet and the other one who tries to gnaw on my hand while I hold the foot I am working on. Neither of them is really scared or trying to bite me, they are just letting me know they are not happy with what I am doing. Now if I pull out the electronic file and turn it on both of them will bark at it and try to bite it. Every dog is different, and you may have to make some adjustments to account for the things that will frighten or upset your dog.

If you are afraid your dog will bite you, do not attempt to give him a pedicure yourself; take him to a professional groomer. Dogs can sense your fear and nervousness and will react in kind because they don’t realize that you may be afraid of them or of hurting them. All they know is that something is frightening you and therefore they will become nervous, skittish and possibly defensive as well.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Five Popular Dog Breeds From the Movies

By Linda Cole

You know when a dog movie is a success because people rush out to get the latest popular breed from a recent movie. It's great to add a dog to your family, but only after you've done the homework to make sure a popular dog breed is really the right one for you and your family. Any breed of dog can be aggressive and hard to handle if left to their own devices. Below are characteristics of five popular dog breeds from the movies. The dogs on this list are intelligent, energetic, tenacious and loyal, and would be a good choice as a family pet – with the right pack leader.

Dalmatian. Disney's 101 Dalmatians was an adorable film filled with black spotted puppies running all over the place. This popular dog breed was bred to run along the side or under horse drawn carriages. They get along well with other pets, especially horses. They're a strong willed and muscular dog with lots of energy. They need an owner with a firm and consistent hand to take the alpha role. A Dalmatian is intelligent and will find ways to burn up excess energy if left on their own. This dog makes a fine family pet as long as he has lots of exercise for his mind and body to keep him from becoming high strung and excitable. Supervise young children around this dog.

Chihuahua. The Legally Blonde movies made people rush out and get their own cute little pup, but even these small dogs need the right family. This dog can be possessive, yappy and not a good pet around kids if their owner lets them get away with things. The Chihuahua is a popular dog breed who will take over as pack leader if given a chance. Just like big dogs, they need exercise that provides them with enough stimulation to keep them from becoming bored. A Chihuahua needs to be treated like a Great Dane because that's how they see themselves. When well socialized, they can be an excellent pet. Children need to be taught to be gentle with these dogs.

Siberian Huskies. Snow Dogs and Eight Below are two good movies about Huskies. A Husky is a great dog. I had two of them and wouldn't hesitate to open my home up to another one. This popular dog breed requires regular grooming especially in the spring and fall. Huskies love to run and as working dogs, they're happiest doing what they love. Aloof towards strangers, they are strong willed, but make a great family pet. If you're looking for a watchdog, forget about a Husky. They rarely bark, preferring a mournful howl, and see everyone as a friend. If you have cats or small pets in the home, never leave them alone together when you're gone. A Husky is loyal, happy, laid back and intelligent. You have to be this dog's pack leader, otherwise he'll try to take over and ignore your commands.

Jack Russell Terrier. The Mask and the TV show Frazier made the Jack Russell Terrier a household name. Bred to hunt fox with an eagerness to burrow underground in pursuit of prey, these terriers are as tenacious as they come. They are hardy dogs that can do well in most any climate. Like the Chihuahua, they need to be treated like big dogs with proper exercise to stimulate them, mentally and physically. They can be aggressive with other dogs and are not afraid of fighting. Jacks have a strong prey drive and you shouldn't trust them around small pets in the home. As long as they understand who the leader is and have been well socialized, they are fine with other dogs and children. These little dogs are excellent jumpers and climbers, making them great escape artists.

Border Collie. Air Bud, Snow Dogs and Because of Winn Dixie showed the athletic ability of the Border Collie and why they're at the top the list of most intelligent dogs. This popular dog breed can be sensitive and loves lots of praise. They were bred to be a farmer's “right hand man” and they love working and playing. If you don't have time to properly exercise a Border Collie, this dog won't fit into your lifestyle. They need a firm hand, especially pups, and are eager to please their owner.

Small children should be supervised at all times around any dog. If a popular dog breed fits into your lifestyle, you can't go wrong adopting one. As long as you understand what you're getting into and have the stamina, commitment and patience, any of the above popular dog breeds would make an excellent pet with proper training, socializing and exercise.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Monday, July 19, 2010

True Stories of Interspecies Animal Friendships

By Julia Williams

There are so many things about animals I love that it would be hard to pick just one thing I admire most. But when I see examples of unlikely animal friendships, particularly those of two natural born enemies, it really touches my heart. I’m convinced these incredible beings are much more evolved than most people think. Humans could learn a lot from these “animal odd couples” that play together, eat together, show affection for one another, and give and receive motherly attention. If dogs and elephants, ostriches and giraffes, hippos and tortoises, and birds and cats can get along so well, why can’t we?

While humans are busy warring with others we consider “different” than us, these animals are simply enjoying the companionship of another. They don’t consider race, or country, or religion. One could argue that animals don’t have the intellectual capacity to consider such things, and this is why these unlikely friendships can develop. I think this inability to reason might be what makes animals so special in my eyes.

Human beings think too much. If only we’d listen to our hearts instead of our heads, things would often go so much better. This is because the heart is never wrong. It never steers us down the path of war or conflict. It steers us toward love, kindness, affection and trust. I believe this is what interspecies animal friendships are all about. The cat listens to its heart, which tells it that a mouse can be its companion instead of its lunch.

Below are some of my favorite examples of interspecies animal friendships. These true stories of animals that form unlikely bonds are sure to touch your heart and make you go “awwww.”

The Dog and the Deer: this super cute video shows Buddy the black Lab playing in the yard with a white-tail deer who was found alone and malnourished when it was just a baby. Buddy’s owner bottle fed the baby deer and it bonded with the dog as well as their cats. In the video, Buddy and the deer chase each other around the yard and engage in hilarious mock sparring with their front legs. The deer is now free to wander and has been seen hanging out with his own kind, but frequently comes back to their house to play with the dog.

The Cat and the Deer video features an orange kitten licking a deer all over its face, then the two of them curl up together and fall asleep, but not before the deer gives the kitten an endearing lick on its nose. The Louis Armstrong song “What a Wonderful World” makes this footage even more charming.

Bea the Giraffe and Wilma the Ostrich live at Busch Gardens Theme Park in Tampa Bay, Florida. The park’s 65-acre Serengeti Plain is home to herds of giraffe, zebra, rhino, antelope and countless species of birds. Just as they do in the wild, the animals usually hang out with their own species. But zookeepers noticed an unusual friendship between a three-year-old giraffe and an ostrich, who seem to really adore one another. Photo by Matt Marriott / Associated Press

Owen and Mzee is the true story of an unlikely animal duo who found comfort and love in each other’s presence after the 2004 tsunami. Owen, an orphaned baby hippo who got separated from his pod, was rescued and taken to an animal sanctuary in Kenya, where he meets Mzee, a 130-year-old giant tortoise. The book, Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship shows photos of the pair eating, swimming, snuggling, and playing together. You can also see a delightful photo montage of Owen and Mzee here.

The Kitten and the Crow: a young stray kitten about four months old is videotaped for many months with its best friend and protector, a big black crow. The two saunter along side by side, they wrestle together in the grass, the crow feeds the kitten a worm (ewww), and takes care of it to make sure it survives.

Why do these unlikely animal friendships occur? I think this quote from the “kitten and the crow” video sums it up nicely: “If you are able to gain trust in someone or something, or each other, then anything is possible.” For some unknown reason, the crow had a motherly instinct. The young kitten was still a baby, and it trusted the crow, who was the only mother figure in its life. A bond developed between the two, and the rest is history. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it could be that simple for the rest of us?

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Why Do Mother Cats Hide Their Kittens?

By Ruthie Bently

Cats are the most recently domesticated species, but some scientists argue that cats should not be considered domesticated. Nevertheless, like our canine companions, our cats do many things based on their natural instincts. Some of these things include: hiding or burying food, kneading, hunting, claiming territory and mating. Another natural instinct that a female cat has and some will use is hiding their kittens.

A feral cat will hide her kittens to protect them from predators and intact tom cats. Newborn kittens are blind and cannot protect themselves, so they rely on their mother to keep them safe. Coyotes, hawks, eagles and owls are not above killing cats if they are small enough to overpower and kill. Even a domestic dog can kill kittens by accident while trying to play with them. Male lions will kill cubs in the pride that are not his when they take over a pride. While cats are not lions, there have been reported incidents of intact tom cats killing kittens. Understanding this will help you deal with your cat hiding her kittens.

Cats are secretive, private creatures and while they may birth their kittens in a safe, secure place they may still move them later. A mother cat may feel uncomfortable with the place she has had her kittens. She may feel it is unsafe for her kittens and may move them. A room may have too much foot traffic going through it. The area may be too noisy or the lighting may be too bright for her liking. A mother cat may move her kittens if the situation is too stressful for her. She may move them to a closet, under a bed, into a dresser drawer, under or behind the sofa or a chair, into a kitchen cabinet or another odd place. Your cat may also “claim” the territory she moves her kittens to and defend it aggressively.

One common reason a momma cat moves her kittens is because too many people are looking at her kittens too often or too soon for her comfort. While you do want the kittens to be well socialized and you can handle them immediately after birth, your cat needs to feel her refuge is a safe, secure place for her kittens. To make your cat comfortable, her refuge should be in a quiet place where she can be with her kittens undisturbed. Children and other animals should not be allowed near her hideaway. If you have young children, make sure you educate them about how to treat your cat with kittens before she has them. I would suggest keeping people away at least until the kittens open their eyes (at about eight days old).

When you are ready to begin socializing the kittens, young children should not handle the kittens unless supervised by an adult. They may injure the kittens by accident. Visitors that have cats of their own should not be allowed near the babies before the kittens have been inoculated, and anyone handling the kittens should wash their hands first.

Not all cats hide their kittens, and even cats that are very comfortable with their surroundings will move their kittens from time to time. The best thing to do is not to interfere. Try and keep tabs on where she is moving them to, so you can step in if there is an emergency. To rephrase the title of an old TV show: “Mother Knows Best.”

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, July 17, 2010

What is Hanging Tongue Syndrome?

By Linda Cole

Seeing a dog with their tongue sticking out is cute, especially when puppies do it. Most of the dogs we see competing in the World's Ugliest Dog competitions always seem to have their tongue hanging out between their teeth. However, a dog's tongue sticking out all the time could be a condition called hanging tongue syndrome, and it can cause the dog pain. Hanging tongue syndrome isn't life threatening in itself, but it could indicate something is wrong.

A dog's tongue is quite remarkable when you think about it. They use it to drink water, help keep themselves cool and to clean their coat and feet. Plus, most dogs aren't shy when it comes to giving us a warm, sloppy kiss when they feel we need one.

How the tongue helps cool the dog is simple, yet effective. When dogs get hot while playing or exercising, they pant to cool down. The blood vessels in the tongue swell because of increased blood flow to the tongue. As the dog pants, moisture is created by their breath which evaporates and cools the tongue. As the tongue cools down, the blood flow is cooled and this goes throughout the dog's respiratory system, cooling his entire body.

A dog's tongue sticking out constantly can end up dry and cracked which can be painful for them. Just like when we get dry, cracked lips from spending too much time in the sun or from dry air during the winter. If the dog's tongue sticks out regularly, the end can become dry if they don't or can't pull it inside their mouth to moisten it. Hanging tongue syndrome is usually seen more often in smaller breeds like the Chihuahua, King Charles Spaniels and the Mexican Hairless, but larger breeds can be affected as well.

Hanging tongue syndrome can occur if the dog has suffered an injury or some kind of trauma to their muzzle or jaw. Some neurological diseases or deformities of the mouth or teeth can leave their tongue sticking out because their condition won't allow them to pull the tongue all the way into the mouth. You can tell your dog has hanging tongue syndrome when they don't or can't pull their tongue all the way in to moisten it. The tongue can even become discolored. If hanging tongue syndrome develops suddenly, it could be a sign of neurological problems, so make sure to have your dog checked out, just in case.

Sometimes, medications or temporary injuries can cause the dog's tongue to hang outside his mouth. If the dog lets his tongue stick out during the healing process or while on medication, once the injury heals or the medication has ended, the dog should return to normal. This isn't hanging tongue syndrome. However, it's always a good idea to have your vet take a look at your dog if he does allow his tongue to hang out.

Dogs who have their tongue sticking out all the time should be monitored to make sure a bacterial infection doesn't develop. Any sign of change in skin texture, bleeding, swelling or even a slight change in color should be checked out by a vet. These dogs are also at greater risk for frostbite during the winter months. A dog with true hanging tongue syndrome may need surgery to remove the part of the tongue that sticks out of his mouth. One common characteristic of dogs with hanging tongue syndrome is excessive drooling after drinking or eating. Dogs with this syndrome can usually remain the happy and normal pet you've always known, however.

Some dogs have an overbite or under-bite that makes it difficult for them to keep their tongue in their mouth because their teeth don't line up properly. This is also not true hanging tongue syndrome. For some dogs, leaving the tongue sticking out of their mouth is just a sign of complete relaxation. It's only true hanging tongue syndrome when they can't pull it back in.

Hanging tongue syndrome is not something dogs can control. For whatever reason, they just can't pull their tongue all the way into their mouth. It's not uncommon to see puppies and even older dogs become so laid back and relaxed with their tongue sticking out the side of their mouth. As with any health concern, a visit to your vet may be in order to make sure everything is alright.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Friday, July 16, 2010

Do Rabbits Make Good Pets?

By Julia Williams

I’ve never had a pet rabbit, but over the years I’ve thought about getting one. Usually these thoughts come after seeing a picture of an adorable, fluffy bunny. Like kittens and puppies, baby rabbits have a cuteness that is hard to resist. Once, I seriously entertained the idea of getting a pet rabbit after seeing some baby bunnies in a pet store. But I was on vacation out of state and it wasn’t practical, so I went home bunny-less. I have, however, done considerable research on whether rabbits make good pets. Since July is “Adopt-a-Rescued-Rabbit Month” I thought I’d tell you some of my findings, in case you are considering getting a pet rabbit.

What I’ve learned is that rabbits can make great pets, but they are not for everyone. This is true of just about any pet, I suppose, but rabbits in particular. I’ve read lots of glowing pro-rabbit testimonials, and just as many anti-rabbit diatribes that called them “ill-tempered, destructive and unrewarding animals.”

Here’s the thing: whether rabbits make good pets or not largely depends upon what you are expecting or wanting from a pet, and how you personally define what being a “good pet” means. A rabbit may or may not fulfill this expectation. Though some rabbits do form strong bonds with humans and enjoy being petted and groomed, others are quite anti-social and prefer to be left alone. Moreover, most rabbits do not tolerate being held and do not like to sit on laps.

Although rabbits might seem like an easy, low-maintenance “starter pet,” they aren’t. Pet rabbits require much more care than a dog or cat. Rabbits that will be kept indoors require that you do extensive bunny proofing of your home. Even then, rabbits can’t be left unsupervised in the house, due to their tendency to investigate and chew on things like books, clothes, furniture and power cords. Indoor rabbits need a large cage equipped with a litter box, chew toys and enough space so that the rabbit doesn’t feel confined. Outside rabbits need to be kept in a hutch or they will dig holes in your yard and destroy your vegetable and flower gardens.

Like cats, rabbits can easily be house trained to use a “litter box.” Whether they actually use the box consistently enough to be allowed to roam around your home, is debatable. Some rabbit owners say their bunnies are very good about using their box, while others say their pet bunny leaves droppings all over the house.

Rabbits do not provide the same level of interactivity that you’d get with a dog or cat. However, rabbits do like to play with toys, and can be entertaining to watch. Rabbits have very distinct personalities and have been described as “playful and silly like puppies or kittens, independent, fascinating, loyal and openly affectionate.” Rabbits can learn to respond to their names and to simple words. Many long-time rabbit owners also claim that domestic bunny pets are every bit as smart as cats and dogs, in their own way.

If you’re thinking about adopting a bunny, the most important thing you can do as a responsible pet owner is to thoroughly research the pros and cons of rabbits as pets. Like any other pet, rabbits deserve to be in a home where their human family is well prepared for everything it offers, good and bad. There are many sites online that can help you determine if a rabbit would be a good pet for you. Two that are very comprehensive and a good place to start your research are the House Rabbit Society and Petfinder. Both of these sites have detailed information on training, grooming and handling rabbits, socialization, behavior and medical issues, rabbit proofing your home and more.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Thursday, July 15, 2010

How to Help Your Dog Overcome a Fear of Water

By Ruthie Bently

Why are some dogs afraid of water? I have read that some breeds are predisposed to a fear of water, but I don’t agree with that. If a dog is afraid of water, many experts feel it is because they had a bad experience when they were younger. Another reason a dog may be afraid of water is because they don’t know what it is. Water comes in several forms and is found in many places and situations.

A dog growing up in a kennel situation, going outside to go potty in a cement run covered from the weather will have no experience with wet grass on their paws or feeling snow or raindrops on their skin. It makes sense that a dog in that situation would not have any experience with water and may not understand it. I think instinct may have to do with the initial fear of water some dogs have. If a dog is wary of something they don’t understand and keeps their distance, it is less apt to harm them.

Wolves are not afraid of water and they have to hunt to feed their families whether it is raining or snowing. They cover long distances and depending on the season have to cross water, ice and snow to get from one place to another. Our domestic dogs haven’t had to live outdoors for hundreds of years and are no longer as in tune to the changes in weather that their wild counterparts are. Don’t get me wrong, dogs do feel the barometric pressure change when a storm is moving in. However, most are inside where the temperature is constant and they don’t feel the cold or heat of the day; and they don’t sit watching the weather outside change.

How do you get your dog used to water? You can train your dog to be accepting of water gradually, using understanding, patience, praise and dog treats as bait (if you need them). It may take several tries if they have gotten scared by water in the past. Try not to become frustrated if it doesn’t happen the way you want the first time you try it. If your dog is afraid of rain, take their favorite toy outside and play a game with them while it is raining. You can use this method when it is snowing too; just make sure you can see the toy in the snow. Praise them and offer a treat when they bring the toy back. If they have a problem with dewy grass, take them for a walk in the early morning or invite one of their dog friends over for an early morning play session while the grass is still wet. They will be interested in playing and forget about the wet grass.

Maybe your dog is fearful of taking a bath because they fell in the bathtub when they were young, went under and got a mouth full of water. Try getting them used to shallow water using a kiddie pool with a piece of non-skid shelf liner in the bottom so they won’t fall. Fill it with a few inches of water, get in and coax them in with you using a treat. Gently apply water to them and show them it isn’t as scary as they think. If you have a small dog, use a dishpan filled with warm water instead.

If your dog is afraid of water in general, try taking them to a lake with a beach or a gentle sloping bank that allows them to walk in on their own. Plan your trip on a day when the wind is calm, so there will be less wave action that may make them nervous. Attach a six foot lead to their collar and use praise and a treat to coax them into the water. If they don’t want to enter the water don’t force the issue. Return another day and repeat the exercise.

Skye is one of those dogs that isn’t entirely sure about water. She’s not afraid of a bath, though she is glad when it is over. She doesn’t like rain but she loves playing in the snow and has to be cajoled to come back inside. I had to teach Skye about the water in her kiddie pool but she goes charging into the river when we take a walk there. She wasn’t always so accepting of water, but over time she discovered that it isn’t the demon she thought it was. By understand your dog and using patience, praise and treats, you can help a dog who is fearful of water, learn to enjoy getting wet.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Meet One of the Very First CANIDAE “Consumers”

By Julia Williams

This is a true story about Scout, a 15-year old chocolate Lab who has been eating CANIDAE dog food since the company started about 14-1/2 years ago. Scout began eating the All Life Stages formula as a 6-month old puppy, which makes him one of the company’s very first customers!

Considering that the average lifespan of Labrador Retrievers is estimated to be about 10-12 years, Scout is doing quite well. Moreover, Scout’s longevity is a testament to CANIDAE and their commitment to offering consumers premium quality pet food. Scout thrived on his all-CANIDAE diet as a young strapping pup, and as he grew and aged, his good health continued.

Scout now eats the CANIDAE Platinum formula for seniors and is still very healthy. Although he does have some arthritis in his legs, this is to be expected for such an old dog. As you can see from these recent photos, Scout is an energetic happy boy, still loving life and going strong at the age of 15.

Scout belongs to Duncan Reid, whose mother Debbie is a longtime friend of CANIDAE customer service rep Diane Matsuura. Debbie bought Scout from a breeder who was also one of the first sales reps for CANIDAE, back in the mid 1990s when the company was just getting started. Duncan said Scout was born in March of 1995, and was his 8th grade graduation present.

“My parents saw a ‘Labrador Puppies Available’ ad on the bulletin board at San Dimas Grain Company in California and decided it was time for me to have a dog of my own. When it came time to choose, there were so many cute puppies that I had the hardest time picking one. I remember looking over the group of puppies and seeing a small shy puppy amongst all the other strong energetic puppies. He was getting pushed around and most people would have overlooked this shy puppy, but I fell in love with him. I don't know what it was; I just could not leave without him. We named him Windy River Scout after his mother, Marilyn's Windy City, and his father, Mad River Burt.”

Duncan said he has so many fond memories of growing up with Scout. He remembers sleeping with him on the floor of the laundry room when he was a puppy so he wouldn’t whine in the middle of the night. He also remembers playing with him in the backyard every day after school. “One game we played was hide and seek. I would sneak into the bushes and be very quiet. When I was properly hidden, I would call Scout's name and wait for him to find me. It was our own little game and he always won.”

Scout is a beautiful chocolate Lab with a “golden” heart. In addition to being Duncan’s faithful companion for all these years, Scout earned his American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen certification many years ago, and attained his Rally Novice title at 11 years of age. “It is amazing how long he has lived, and I cherish every memory,” said Duncan.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Do Pets Forget About Us Over Time?

By Linda Cole

Sometimes, because of situations beyond our control, we have to find a pet a new home. An illness or change in jobs can force a loving owner to have to give their pet away. We develop such a close bond with our pets, we never forget them. But do pets forget about us over time? There's no shortage of stories recounting the adventures of pets who traveled hundreds of miles to find their family. When a close bond has been broken and pets have to form a new one with a new family, are we still in their mind? Do they forget about us or do they retain some memory of their old life?

My mom fought a lifelong battle with rheumatoid arthritis, and was in and out of the hospital for as long as I can remember, undergoing numerous surgeries to correct the damage caused by her disease. Complications from her last surgery kept her in the hospital far longer than expected. I was taking care of her pets at my house. As their extended stay turned into months, one of her dogs, Ben, began to mope around the house. Mom passed away in the hospital and I started the chore of bringing her belongings to my house. Ben perked up when he smelled familiar scents, and he burrowed under her bedding I had brought over to wash. He ran from room to room as if he were looking for something, and I always wondered if it was simply the smells he remembered or if he was looking for my mom. I do believe he remembered his life with her when he smelled familiar scents from his home.

We know a lot about dogs and cats, but whether pets forget about us when they go to a new home or become lost is still a mystery. But there are amazing examples of how a cat or dog walked hundreds of miles to get back home when they were lost, given away or relocated to a temporary home. A cat walked 1,000 miles through the Australian outback to return to his home after he was taken to stay temporarily with a family member while his owners were overseas. What's truly remarkable is how he knew which way to go, and that he survived in a region where many people have trouble surviving. It took him a year to cover his 1,000 mile trek home!

A well known example of a dog who refused to leave his master's side is Greyfriar's Bobby, a Skye terrier who became a fixture on his owner's grave for 14 years. Even though people in the community tried to adopt Bobby, he always ran away and returned to the cemetery.

Some pets seem to be more tuned into their owners than other pets. We know some dogs have the mental capacity of three year olds. Cats are much smarter than they're given credit for, and some dogs and cats do exhibit problem solving abilities. We can remember significant things that happened when we were three. So why should it surprise us if some pets can remember?

If pets do forget about us over time, then how do we explain the ones who crossed rivers and mountains to return to their homes? Some have even left their old home to find their owner who moved to a new location that was unfamiliar to the pet and yet, they were able to find them.

No one knows how pets are able to do this. It really is amazing how some pets are so connected with their owners that they will go in search of them. Some accounts of pets returning to their old home could be due to the pet wanting to be in familiar and comfortable territory. But that wouldn't explain why a pet would pull up roots, leaving their old home to go in search of an owner who moved hundreds of miles away or one who passed away.

Pets instinctively hide pain or injuries so they don't appear weak. Is it possible they're good at hiding their feelings as well? Love is a hard emotion to define when it comes to our pets. We love them, but do they love us in return? I think they do. Do pets forget about us over time? It probably depends on the pet. Some are willing to do whatever it takes to be with the ones they feel comfortable and safe with. Love, after all, is a comfortable and safe feeling. Maybe it's that simple for some pets – it’s a familiar bond with their human that remains no matter where we are.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Monday, July 12, 2010

How to Help Kids Learn Responsible Pet Ownership

By Tamara L. Waters

Becoming a responsible pet owner is something kids can learn early on. Helping your children learn how to care for pets responsibly and lovingly is easy enough to do, and more important than you might realize. Responsible pet care can also teach a number of life lessons to kids that will lead to them becoming responsible adults in many aspects of their lives. Here are a few tips on helping your kids learn these valuable lessons.

Feeding and Watering Chores

Children can take an active role in pet ownership by becoming part of a pet's daily care. Adding the feeding and watering of a pet to a child's daily chore list helps them develop a routine while taking part in the pet's care.

At my house, the kids are not allowed to put off the feeding and watering of the pets until they feel like it, or find time. When they get up in the morning, feeding the cats is the first thing they are expected to do and of course, our kitties remind them of this. The two oldest children rotate this task: one feeds the indoor cats and the other feeds the outdoor cats. The next day, the roles switch.

Exercise and Playtime

Setting aside regular time to exercise and play with pets isn't difficult and actually, it's fun. Most kids will love this part and making it fun can help them to see that pets should not be ignored – they should be part of the family. Just like children enjoy running and playing and having a good time, so do the pets.

When you take the dog for a walk, let the kids go along. This can be an opportunity to teach the kids proper dog walking techniques and help them establish a pattern that they will follow when they are older and have pets of their own.

Allow Kids to Be Part of Simple Decisions

Part of learning responsible pet ownership is taking ownership. Kids can do this by taking ownership of some of the simple decisions regarding the pet. Examples of simple decisions could be: the pet's name, pet toys, accessories (leash, collar, dog house, cat condo, food dishes) or pet food.

Allow children to help by doing research on pet care online. Let them check out books at the library about pets so they can read for themselves about proper care. Give the kids tasks that allow them to take an active role and ownership in the pet. The more they feel part of and valued in the decision-making, the more they will want to participate.

Taking the kids to routine veterinary appointments is also a great way to allow them to be part of decisions. When our cat has been sick, the kids will help remind me when it's time to give her medicine.

Cleaning and Maintenance

This is not a favorite part of pet care, but it is necessary. Learning about proper cleaning and maintenance for pets is a must. Whether it is scooping and changing the litter boxes or scooping the doggy doo, kids can take part.

In my home, my children are expected to clean up any messes their cats make. If the cat pukes up a hairball or knocks a glass over, the kids are expected to help clean up after them. Not only do they learn that Mom isn't the only one capable of cleaning up the messes, but they learn that Boo is their cat and therefore it is their responsibility to clean up after him. This is a good lesson to learn for life in general, not just for dealing with pets.

Teach your kids early on that being a pet owner requires responsibility in addition to love. They can begin learning these lessons at a young age and continue throughout their lifetime. Caring for a pet can help prepare them for their future as a responsible adult and they – along with your pets – will thank you for it.

Read more articles by Tamara L. Waters

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Breed Profile: Great Dane, the "Gentle Giant"

By Ruthie Bently

I have known several Great Danes during my career as a pet care professional. I had clients that lived in an apartment with three of these “gentle giants.” A Great Dane can do well in an apartment if they get plenty of exercise at the dog park or on long walks, though I would not recommend them for everyone.

The Great Dane is the second largest dog, behind the Irish Wolfhound. A male Great Dane stands between 30 to 34 inches at the withers, and weighs between 120 to 200 pounds. A female stands between 28 to 32 inches at the shoulder, and weighs between 100 to 130 pounds. The AKC standard states “The male shall not be less than 30 inches at the shoulders, but it is preferable that he be 32 inches or more, providing he is well proportioned to his height. The female shall not be less than 28 inches at the shoulders, but it is preferable that she be 30 inches or more, providing she is well proportioned to her height. Danes under minimum height must be disqualified.”

Due to their size, there are a few things to consider before getting a Great Dane. They don’t have to jump up on a counter to surf; they are tall enough to set their head on the counter or the kitchen table. They can empty a table of its contents with one wag of their tail. Great Danes are good with children but they could knock over a small child unintentionally, so they need to be supervised with children. The size of your residence should also be considered. They won’t fit in most cars, and you need a fairly large vehicle for them to fit into comfortably. They have an energetic, friendly personality and are known for being elegant though strong. They require daily exercise, but their short coat is easily groomed. Acceptable coat colors are black, blue, brindle, harlequin, fawn and mantle.

The Great Dane is a member of the working group and was recognized by the AKC in 1887. The translation of the breed’s French name (grand Danois) means “big Danish,” though Denmark has nothing to do with their lineage. They were developed in Germany to hunt wild boar and to guard estates, and the breed is believed to be over 400 years old. Their lineage can be traced back to crosses between old English Mastiffs and Irish Wolfhounds. Drawings on Egyptian monuments from around 3000 B.C. are believed to resemble the Great Dane, and the earliest documentation of a dog resembling them dates back to 1121 B.C. in China.

I grew up reading the Sunday comics, and Marmaduke was one of my favorites. It’s drawn by Brad Anderson, who created it and it focuses on the Winslow family and their irrepressible Great Dane, Marmaduke. The movie Marmaduke (based on the comic strip) opened in theaters this past June. My definition of responsible pet ownership includes thoroughly researching a breed you are interested in adding as a member of your family. I mention this because every time Hollywood introduces a movie about a specific dog, everyone wants one. However, many of these dogs end up in shelters, because they were not the right breed for the person. After Beethoven, Saint Bernards flooded the shelters; after 101 Dalmatians it was Dalmatians, and after Beverly Hills Chihuahua it was Chihuahuas.

The Great Dane Club of America and the AKC both advised people against rushing out to get a Great Dane after seeing the Marmaduke movie. Read more about this giant breed here, and help prevent a plethora of Great Danes from ending up in shelters.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How to Make Your Own Cat Toys

By Julia Williams

Every cat owner on the planet has experienced buying the most comfortable looking pet bed only to have their cat choose a cardboard box instead. The same is true for cat toys. I’ve lost count of how many cute toys I’ve brought home to less than enthusiastic felines. They would take one look at the new cat toy and proceed to bat around a pen. It became quite obvious that the store-bought cat toys were more for me than them, so I decided to learn how to make my own. Turns out, there are some really creative ideas for cheap cat toys, and some are even free!

Making Cat Toys from Household Objects

A toilet paper tube makes a great cat toy all by itself, but I found instructions online for making an even better cat toy from this throwaway item. Basically, you cut slits in both ends and fold them back so it resembles a spoked wheel (read the detailed instructions here). I made one of these in under five minutes and kitty-tested it. Belle liked it quite a bit; she chased it, batted it around and just generally mauled it. No worries – it’s free and simple to make, so when it gets destroyed I can always make another one.

Make a cat toy from an empty prescription pill bottle by adding some small beans to create a noisemaker. You could also fill it with a few pieces of dry cat food; if the child-proof cap happens to come off, your cat will be rewarded with a nice little snack. An alternative is those hollow plastic eggs used to hide treats for the annual Easter egg hunt. My cats like these better than the pill bottles because they have a more unpredictable roll. They do come apart easier though, so use crunchies instead of beans.

Portable baby gyms can easily be converted into a kitty gym. They have all sorts of toys and noisemakers hanging from them, and some of these might even interest your cat. If not, it’s easy to replace them with some cat toys, feathers and other dangly things your cat can play with. If you don’t have an old baby gym, you might be able to pick one up at a yard sale.

Those “fishing pole” types of cat toys are feline favorites. I bought a furry mouse-on-a-stick at the dollar store, and when the mouse got destroyed, I tied another cat toy to the plastic pole. You can easily make a fishing pole cat toy using a sturdy, straight tree branch, thick yarn or a shoelace, feathers (look around outside to get some for free), small ball or other cat toy. Just remember that the fishing pole toys are not designed for cats to use alone; always put them away after you’re done playing.

One day while cooking supper, I accidentally discovered another household item that makes a great cat toy. I dropped a carrot onto the floor and Rocky immediately pounced on it and claimed it as his new toy. He swatted it, rolled it, and carried it around in his mouth for the longest time. Since then, I sometimes give him a fresh carrot and he still thinks it’s the greatest cat toy ever. (Shh…don’t tell him it’s not really a cat toy).

Making Catnip Cat Toys from Scratch

Catnip is a kitty-safe stimulant that many felines are very attracted to. You can easily grow your own catnip, or buy it from the pet store. Take two small fabric squares, sew three of the edges together, stuff with catnip and stitch up the remaining edge to make a little pillow catnip toy. If you want to make something a little more creative, I found free patterns online for catnip-stuffed felt critters, including a fish, bird, and mouse. These super cute toys are simple to make, but the instructions suggest using beads for eyes; to make them safer for your cat, use felt for the eyes, or leave off the eyes altogether.

You can make a Knotted Catnip Cat Toy in a matter of minutes. Simply take a small scrap of fabric and place a pinch of catnip in the middle. Carefully fold the fabric over the catnip, then tie a knot in the fabric and voila – instant cat toy.

If you knit or crochet (or would like to learn) you can make a cat toy in under an hour. It can be as simple as two squares joined together (like the pillow toy above) or two round shapes to form a ball. More accomplished knitters can make mice, fish, birds and other shapes, or use this free pattern to knit egg roll and wonton cat toys.

Making your own cat toys is easy, it’s fun, and it saves money. Basically, anything that moves, rolls, makes noise or has feathers can become a cat toy. Just use your imagination! And for more inexpensive ways to entertain your kitty, read How to Save Money on Cat Toys.

Read more articles by Julia Williams
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