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Monday, November 20, 2017

Do's and Don'ts to Winterize Your Pet

Winter is coming, and that can mean a lot of things to your pet. It can mean fun in the snow, embarrassingly adorable sweaters, or danger. Along with the cold, pet owners should keep an eye out for ice and salt burn. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to help guide your way through the winter wonderland.

DO:  Protect your pet from the cold!
If your dog has a short coat, but likes being outside, don’t be afraid to pull a sweater on over them. Cute designs are a plus, but for the less fashion conscious dog there are still options. Most pet stores carry a basic velcro fleece to keep chills off of your furry friend.

DON’T: Go overboard.
Sweaters can help keep dogs warm, but keep in mind that most dogs don’t appreciate being dressed up.  Hats, scarves, and other add-ons should be used for pictures only. Your dog will be less likely to lose them and appreciate not having things hanging off of them during play time.

DO: Protect the paws
The winter is the most dangerous time for your pet’s paws. Ice buildup between the toes can give your dog frostbite before you even realize it. Check your dog’s paws thoroughly during and after playing in the snow. Paw wax such as Mushers can help protect from the cold, as well as salt burn. Salt burn is common and painful to your pet. Be sure to use a pet friendly ice melt and encourage neighbors to do the same. Typically these brands will advertise that they are pet safe right on the front of the package

DON’T: Get too attached to the booties
Dog booties or shoes need to be introduced to the dog in the initial training/puppy stages. If your dog is uncomfortable having things around its feet, these booties are a bad idea. They are as expensive as they are cute, and are easily lost. An inexpensive alternative to dogs with longer paw fur is a combination of infant or child no slip socks and hair ties. Be careful not to attach these too tightly.

DO: Watch your step on walks
Dogs still need to be walked during the winter, but ice is dangerous to both you and your pet. One slip can bring you down and cause you to drop the leash. Consider investing in a hands-free jogging lead to avoid losing your pet (not recommended for hard pulling dogs).

DON’T: Use retractable leashes

Retractable leashes can encourage your dog to pull more than normal, even if it is leash trained. The locking mechanisms can also be too difficult to manage while wearing mittens. When the path is icy, just don’t take the risk.

Check out the video below for more tips for Winter safety on walks!
Video Credit: [Vetsreet.com] (2015, February 24)Tips for safely walking a dog in winter. 
Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ia6G_C1ZaUA

Monday, November 6, 2017

Solving your Pulling Pup Problems

Pulling on walks can be a sign of excitement or just insufficient training. It is a clear sign that the dog is not paying attention to its owner. This behavior issue is not one to be ignored. Even if your dog is small and their pulling isn’t bothering you, it causes the collar to press harder against your dog’s trachea and can cause serious lasting damage.


Owners of small dogs frequently opt out of training and just use a harness. Harnesses take the pressure off of the neck and move it to the chest, where it won’t interfere with the dog’s ability to breathe. This shortcut may work for smaller dogs, but stronger, larger breeds are going to take a little more work. Most harnesses clip to the leash in the back, which can encourage your dog’s pulling. No-pull harnesses can help by clipping in the front and slightly constricting on the chest to help your dog pay more attention. For more information about no-pull harnesses, check out the video below featuring the Easy Walk harness.
Video Credit: [Petsafe] (2013, Sept 3) PetSafe Easy Walk harness fitting and use. Retrived from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7P3GjsnbBgQ

Chain/Choker Collars

Contrast what people believe, chain/choker collars are not a solution. They are a training tool and should not be used without some knowledge. It is important to make sure that the collar is the right size and can just barely be slipped on over the dog’s head. Too much slack takes away the collars ability to give instant correction. There are two very common mistakes that people make when using a choker collar. One is that they have it placed where the regular collar normally sits. Choker collars are more effective and less damaging when they sit higher, as close to the jaw line as possible.

Another common mistake is not keeping enough tension on the line. The tension on the leash when using a choker collar should be tight enough to keep it in place, but not so tight that the collar starts restricting. An easy way to monitor the slack is to use two hands, the dominant hand holding the handle and the other holding the leash closer to your dog. The leash should be crossing your body.  

These rules also apply to using a prong/pinch collar that should only be used by experienced dog owners or by the advice of your dog’s trainer.

Martingale collars

Training your dog is a constant effort. Martingales collars can help keep your dog from pulling without having to return to the chain choker collars. They tighten a bit on the neck, but not as severely as chain/choker collars. These collars should only be used on dogs that have been trained with a choker collar.

Other options

Sometimes leash training your dog is intimidating and harnesses are difficult. One other option for inexperienced dog owners is the Thunderleash. The leash attaches to standard collars, then wraps around the dogs chest and is re-attached to a clip near the collar. When the dog pulls, the Thunderleash tightens, and stops the dog without causing damage. This technique can be done with standard leashes for a temporary solution, as shown below.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Dog nutrition is one of the most complex aspects of dog ownership. Dog food companies will advertise that their food will make your dog smarter, healthier, and stronger. In a world of complicated labels and mystery ingredients, it often feels impossible to know which food will best suit your best friend.

The truth is in the ingredients

Your dog’s food may have catchy phrases on the front of the packages that are easy to get caught up in. These phrases may say anything from “all natural” to “great taste”. The savvy dog owner will pay no attention to these phrases and immediately look for an ingredients label. If the ingredients label looks like the picture below it’s a no go.

The ingredient label for these treats raises a few red flags. Not only are there ingredients such as caramel color and multiple dyes, including red 40, but the main ingredients are “meat and bone meal” and “poultry by-product”.

By-product is the term used for the parts of the animal that is left over after the meat has been taken off. The remaining parts are ground into a meal. This meal has very little nutritional value and will make your dog feel full without giving it a balanced diet.

Mystery Meat
“meat and bone meal” raises another red flag. It is legal for a pet food manufacturer to use deceased zoo animals in the food under this category. This includes animals that died of disease and until recently, included road kill.

Grain-Free Foods
Many brands offer a grain free version of their food. Grain Free should only be fed to dogs with grain allergies and active dogs. In order to make up for the lost carbohydrates, these foods add more protein, fat, and fiber (potatoes are a common source). Feeding these to a less active family pet can result in weight gain and an unsatisfied, always hungry pet.

Weight Management Food
If you notice that your dog has a little more to love than it should, it is important to get him on a weight management food as soon as possible. Extra weight is harder to get off than it is to prevent and while a chubby dog may be endearing, the additional stress on the muscles and joints creates more problems later in life.

Fact or Fiction: Common Myths about dog food

Fiction # 1: Dogs are naturally carnivorous hunters, the more meat the better.

Fact: Dogs are naturally omnivorous scavengers, fruits, vegetables, and carbohydrates are all  important.

Fiction #2: Dogs get bored with eating the same food all the time.

Fact: Switching a dog’s food causes stomach issues and takes away his steady, balanced diet. If you feel your dog is bored, change the treats.

Fiction #3: Wet food is better because it is closer to real meat.

Fact: Wet food sits on your dogs teeth and does not scrape off any tarter when he chews. There is also less nutritional value in a can of dog food than a cup of kibble.  

It is important to know the dangers of people food, check out the video to learn more!
Video Credit: 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Every dog owner knows that play time is important. It’s a way to exercise and bond with your pup.  Whether your dog is a German Shepherd or a Chihuahua, knowing how to exercise your dog is a great way to maintain peace in your home. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog.

Hunting Breeds
German Shorthair Pointers, Bloodhounds, Brittany Spaniels, and English Setters are known for enjoying hunting small animals and fowl. A breed similar to these active dogs can be a hunter’s best friend. If one of these breeds is your family dog, exercising may be a pain. Fetch usually tires out the dogs, but make sure to use a sturdy toy! I prefer to use the Chuckit brand frisbee (photo below) for  my Border Collie.

 Games such as Hide and Seek can help mentally stimulate your dog during play. Try having different family members hide around the house and call the dog. You can also have them wait while you hide their favorite treats or toys and make them search for them.

Intelligence/Agility Breeds
German Shepherds, Border Collies, Huskies, Poodles, and Dobermans tend to be too smart for their own good. Neglecting their need for mental stimulation can result in a sassy, stubborn, or destructive dog. If your breed is food motivated, puzzles can be a great solution. Treat puzzles can be found at most pet supply stores. Hide the treats in the puzzle and watch your dog’s brain go to work. Setting up small agility courses in the backyard is a great activity for nicer days. Teeter totters, tunnels, and jumping through hula hoops can leave your dog tired, happy, and satisfied.

Chewing dogs
Every young dog loves to chew. Some breeds like Jack Russell Terriers, American Pit Bulls, or Retrievers never grow out of it. Not satisfying this need is dangerous. Not only will your dog become destructive, but it could chew on things that put its health at risk. For example, Retrievers that do not have a chewing outlet are known to chew rocks. This can ruin a Retriever’s teeth and can cause them to accidentally swallow the rock.

Having chews that your dog loves available creates a safer and happier pet. Stay away from rawhide, it is NOT digestible and these breeds are likely to swallow it. Instead, opt for bully sticks, pig ears, cow hooves, or natural bones. For more inclusive play time, a tug rope can help your dog have fun with you, while satisfying the need to move those jaws. (For a cheap alternative, buy some jeans from the thrift store, cut off the denim legs, and tie them each into a knot.)

Safety note: Never allow your dog to chew on the rope. Swallowing fibers can cause digestive issues. Do not tug with a dog that is possessive of the toy or untrained. This increases the risk of a dog bite. 

For tips on indoor playing, check out this video!

Video Credit: 
Roark, A. [Cone of Shame]. (2015, April 1) 5 Tips for Tiring Out Your Dog Indoors. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCeCLUFDZUk