Tag: pet safety
A recent study by the University of Lincoln in Britain indicated that the use of shock collars may not provide training benefits that outweigh the potential negatives (including more observed tension, more yawning, and less interaction with their fellow dogs). Although shock collars are rather common and their positive versus negative benefits can still be debated, there are other training options available to work with our dogs that do not necessarily involve negative consequences.
Positive reinforcement is perhaps the most common of the “positive” training methods. This involves offering a treat or praise when your dog performs the desired behavior and teaches him that he receives the desired outcome (i.e. a scratch on the ear or a favorite treat) by meeting the standards you’ve set. Positive reinforcement has been shown to increase performance in working dogs such as farm dogs and the principles of positive reinforcement also carry over well into the home for the non-working dog. For example, the most successful trainers make their expectations clear by using concise commands, make sure to reward desired behaviors immediately, and are consistent in providing rewards for said behaviors. This method can be used for working dogs such as companion animals when teaching a dog how to help his master cross the street or can even be helpful in the home setting for rewarding desired behaviors such as stay or NOT jumping on guests when they enter.
SHAPE THE ENVIRONMENT
In addition to the cue/reward/consistency formula of positive reinforcement, positive training for your dog also involves his overall quality of life. A well exercised dog that has adequate shelter and nutrition, as well as a conscientious handler that strives to be in tune with his needs and behaviors, will generally respond best to reinforcement cues. Training a working dog or a family dog involves communication, patience, and love, and the best environment for a dog working on learning new skills or eliminating undesirable behaviors is one in which he feels comfortable and safe! If you are moving toward positive training cues with your dog, try to look at the big picture – is he not responding to a cue because the cue, timing, or reward are off? Or is he struggling because he has excess energy or is distracted by something in his environment? With the right adjustments and a healthy dose of patience, you can avoid using methods based on punishment or suffering and work together with your dog to encourage the behaviors that work best for you, for him, and for your overall environment, whether that be a working environment or that of your home.
Images courtesy of Joselito Tagorao and Taro the Shiba Inu
With summer winding down, our focus has likely shifted to the new school year and the tasks of fall: prepping for fall holidays, starting to appreciate the changing seasons, and even possibly anticipating the transition into the winter holidays. However, in most regions the great outdoors are temperate and our outdoor spaces still provide opportunities for grilling, relaxing, and enjoying time with family and friends. But what if we’ve made it through the summer without optimizing our outdoor spaces, whether we have a large, fenced yard, a small, concrete patio, or anything in between? What small changes can be made to make our shared areas as dog-friendly as possible for our canine best friends?
BIG OR SMALL – FOCUS ON SAFETY
First and foremost, a common area is more enjoyable for everyone if it is safe for all users! A Great Dane from Portland, Oregon recently made headlines with his gastrointestinal exploits: he was found with 43 ½ socks in his digestive system! The poor pup was understandably experiencing distress. Other commonly ingested items include corn cobs, strings and ropes, and even coins. Review your outdoor space with a critical eye to ensure that small items, garbage, and even shoes are out of reach and safe from consumption. And if your pup tends to get into certain types of items, such as paper products or leather items, exercise extra caution to make sure they’re not in your yard or on your patio! Certain plants can also prove poisonous to our dogs, so it is also important to do a quick check and make sure your plants, both blooming and non-blooming, are dog-safe and non-toxic. Another consideration for making your yard dog-friendly is containment; is your fence dig-proof? Or are your patio railings narrow enough to keep him contained, safe and sound? You and your dog will both be able to get much more enjoyment out of your outdoor space if you’re not constantly monitoring for safety hazards!
INTRODUCING APPEALING ELEMENTS
Perhaps the simplest way to keep your dog happy in the great outdoors is to give him the creature comforts he desires most: shade, shelter, and appealing textures. Shade can be introduced via canopies or shade trees, and your dog will appreciate having safe places that are set up just for him. For example, if your backyard has a covered patio area or a large expanse of grass, you might consider building a dog house for him to enjoy. Many pups also appreciate having their own soft space to lie down and relax, such as a dog bed. Remember our dogs love to be RIGHT with us, so putting a dog bed in a covered area where there is not human companionship may go unappreciated. If you do your best to set up a spot near where the action is (or even near the nice warm firepit as the weather cools!), she will likely greatly appreciate the gesture. Overall, when we are designing comfortable outdoor spaces for our pups, remember their primary concerns are typically limited to having a great place to nap, with maybe some room to run as well. And even if you don’t have the space to provide that room to run, they really just want to be close to their family, so and try keep their nesting places near where you will be relaxing as well!
Images courtesy Bruce Fingerhood and I Am Theo
In Wisconsin last month, longtime pet parent Lois Matykowski noticed that her granddaughter’s ice cream pop had vanished. Naturally, all eyes turned to the family pup Tucker, a notorious food and snack snatcher. It turned out that Tucker had not only grabbed the ice cream, but he’d even ingested the stick! And the story gets better: when he got sick later, he also managed to cough up a wedding ring that had been missing from the family for FIVE years. Tucker’s vet thinks the stick may have loosened the ring up from wherever it was hiding. Luckily, Tucker was just fine, and other than a sad little one over an irretrievable ice cream treat, everyone else in the family came out unharmed as well. However, Tucker’s adventure highlights all too common issues that pet parents face: keeping their dogs away from choking hazards and knowing what to do in the event their dog does get into something they shouldn’t.
INDOORS AND OUT: REMOVING HAZARDS
Inside our homes, from the perspective of a mischievous dog off limits treats and treasures are quite abundant. This is where watching your dog and knowing his patterns may come in handy. For example, some dogs are quite fond of shoes, while others are more interested in anything made of leather. In contrast, some pups are quite interested in eating paper or photos. When your dog does show interest in things that aren’t his, try and track what his main targets are. You may be able to learn what you need to be extra careful about keeping out of reach. Additionally, if your dog is young or just never quite outgrows scavenging, watch out for the usual suspects: small articles of clothing, chicken bones in trash cans, and even smaller hazards like marbles and individual keys. Both outdoors and in, it is imperative that poisonous hazards are kept secure and out of reach, including pesticides, soaps, and motor vehicle fluids. Practicing good housekeeping can save you significant time, heartache, and money by keeping your pup out of things she shouldn’t be snacking on, so if in doubt, put an item up on a shelf or safely behind a cupboard door!
IF YOU GET SUSPICIOUS…
Realistically, if you come home to a spilled bottle of detergent in the laundry room you will have definite cause for concern. But what if you don’t directly witness any mischief and your pup seems off? If an item is inexplicably missing or your dog’s behavior has changed (he is sluggish, hasn’t gone to the bathroom, loses his appetite, or is having trouble keeping food down), you can take immediate steps to help him. In the case of suspected ingestion of a poisonous substance (such as rat poison or auto coolant), call poison control, an animal hotline, or your vet’s office immediately. Time is of the essence! If you suspect your dog may be experiencing blockage of some sort, call your vet! You may need to bring her in for imaging to see just what exactly she has gotten herself into. If necessary, call the after-hours care number for your vet. It is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to the health of your dog, and pups can be quite creative when they get themselves into trouble. Which also brings us to a final point on prevention: our dogs tend to get into trouble when they are bored or anxious, so keeping them happy and safe can help prevent incidents such as these. Even the most well cared for and happy dog will get into trouble at some point, but pet parents can consider crate training their dogs when they have to be out and making sure their pups are getting adequate attention, exercise, and supervision in order to keep them from eating all of the forbidden things!
Images courtesy of RPavich and Beanie1988
Although as pet parents we realize just how well our dogs can communicate, the fact remains that they cannot speak the same way people do. A dog in a warm car can’t just politely request that a passerby let him out, and similarly a pup that shouldn’t stay outside in the sun all day can’t simply trot over to the fence and ask a neighbor for some shade. However, since we are pet parents and animal lovers, we can take the time to recognize situations that are not okay for dogs whether it is a neighbor pup or one that you see while out and about. We can collectively improve the quality of life for dogs by being aware and taking action when appropriate.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
According to the Humane Society, 49 states have included felony provisions in their animal abuse laws, which means that not only is the mistreatment of animals a serious moral crime, but in many areas the legal system also takes it seriously. In fact, the Humane Society also offers several helpful tips for spotting animal abuse, including watching for: persons that keep more pets than they can manage, animals that show an obvious lack of medical care (very thin, wounds that do not heal, and/or patches of hair loss), and inadequate shelter in hot or cold weather. Summer is in full swing and the risks to dogs left in areas without shade and especially left in closed vehicles is very real. Additionally, dogs that are left chained up for long periods of time are left in an exposed, vulnerable state, and dogs left behind to fend for themselves when their families move need to be taken in and cared for as quickly as possible. Domestic pets simply are not equipped to care for themselves; in addition to loneliness and battling the elements, they are exposed to hunger and, depending on your region, possibly predators. All of these issues are highly time sensitive, but in cases of an animal in a locked car or violence toward an animal, doing something immediately is of the essence.
WHAT TO DO
As mentioned above, dogs in direct danger as a result of extreme temperatures (whether hot or cold) and/or violent conditions need help right away. If you witness either scenario (or any scenario in which you feel a dog is in immediate danger), call the authorities right away! Call 911 in the case of a time sensitive emergency; in cases where you suspect mistreatment of a longer duration, you may want to consider calling your local animal welfare agency. Keep track of what you’ve seen and heard and make sure to let authorities know the details. Local rescues, vet offices, local law enforcement, and even the Humane Society can all also be starting points for finding the right people to help. Even in the event that you come across a lost or stray dog in your neighborhood, it’s important to do something. You may not feel safe personally approaching the animal (and that's okay!). But you can always call for help from someone that does. Protecting our dogs is a community effort; the great news is that animals rescued from bad situations can go on to thrive and live a happy, comfortable life with a family that truly cares for them. They just need a little help from us humans to get them into a safe, loving environment as soon as possible.
Images courtesy Taro the Shiba Inu and Jamie McCaffrey
This past weekend was Memorial Day, and aside from its main purpose as a means to recognize our servicemembers who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, for many the holiday also stands as a benchmark of sorts. That is, for many Memorial is the unofficial start of summer. Summertime means barbeques, sunny days in the park, and trips to the local pool, lake, or beach; all of those activities also entail increased sun exposure. Although our dogs have a fur coat, that coat does not provide sufficient protection from the sun’s rays and may even exacerbate the effects of heat on a warm day. Just as we should take the time to apply sunscreen, wear hats, and take other steps to protect ourselves from the effects of the sun, so should we keep an eye on the wellbeing of our pups on those long summer days!
As the temperature rises, our instinct may be to help our dogs out by thinning out their coat and thus hopefully increasing their comfort on hot days. However, shaving a long-haired dog’s coat may actually increase their skin exposure to the sun’s rays and thus increase their chances of sustaining a sunburn while outside. As an alternative, make sure to keep your dog clean and well-groomed, as brushing out their coat (especially their undercoat) thoroughly will thin their fur somewhat while still offering the skin protection that they need. In addition, if your dog is already a short-haired breed or for some reason has a thinning coat, make sure to limit his sun exposure to prevent sunburn. For any breed, especially on very hot days, keep an eye on how long your dog is outside in the sun. If he or she is panting, it has likely been too long! Bring your pup inside or into the shade for a break and ensure there is constant access to fresh, clean water.
So as mentioned above, the first step to preventing sunburns and possible heat injuries is to only allow your pup minimal exposure and make sure to move her out of the sun and heat once she starts to show signs of overheating, such as panting. For a beach-bound pup, additional prevention in the form of dog-safe sunscreen or sun protective clothing may provide further protection. But what can we do once sun or heat exposure has gone too far? If your dog has simply sustained a minor sunburn, a cool bath may be soothing for him. Just make sure to avoid vigorous lathering or other more abrasive techniques to keep him as comfortable as possible. It is important to note, though, that if you observe any signs of possible heat injury or more severe sunburn, it is imperative that you reach out to your trusted vet or if necessary, a pet urgent care facility. According to WebMD, these include: heavy panting, thick saliva, vomiting, diarrhea, an eventual grey-like color to gums and tongue, and a spike in rectal temperature. It is always better to be safe than sorry – if you have any concerns about sun damage, dehydration, or heat exhaustion in your pet, reach out to your vet to be sure! With proper planning and monitoring you and your dog can enjoy those gorgeous summer days, just keep a sharp eye, protect yourselves from the sun and heat, and don’t forget to have plenty of time together in the shade with a cool drink of water!
Images courtesy Pat Murray and Joe Sullivan
I can still remember clear as day the afternoon we brought Kaiser home: we had driven from the Baltimore area out into the Pennsylvania countryside, and it was a beautiful, crystal clear day. We’d already been to the farm where Kaiser was born, so the terrain, the family, and even the home were familiar to us. Everything seemed so simple; we picked him up, finalized a few details, and within a short time we were back on the road and I had a yellow bundle of fur sleeping on my lap. As the road shot by, I started to think about getting him all set up once we were home. As he was our first puppy I had done research on training, temperament, food, you name it. And perhaps most fortunately, had already sought the advice of a local trainer on sleeping arrangements.
For a first time pet parent the puppy stage can be somewhat alarming. One knows on some level that it is going to be demanding. House breaking, setting up a new routine, and managing your pup’s angry little chewing habit while he or she is teething. It’s genuinely a matter of taking a completely unsocialized little guy and teaching him what is and what is not acceptable behavior, and that can be a daunting process. And on top of all of that, new pet parents are also likely struggling with sleep deprivation. Puppies need lots of potty breaks, even at night, and initially may have trouble adjusting to a conventional sleep schedule. But in order to maintain one’s responsibilities and just for the health of you, your family, and your new puppy, getting on a sleep schedule is highly important.
WHY A CRATE?
Of course as a pet parent we all ultimately find what works best for us and for our puppies. That being said, a crate may be a good way to get on a sleep schedule and establish a safe place in your home that is your puppy’s special space. According to the Humane Society, as natural den animals having a crate in the home can serve as a his “own personal den where he can find comfort and solitude while you know he's safe and secure—and not shredding your house while you're out running errands”. When attempting to get your puppy used to her crate, try to focus on the theme of safe and comfortable – pick out a soft, safe puppy bed made for use in a crate, or perhaps a soft blanket that can be folded and laid in the bottom. You can even consider draping a blanket or large towel over the top to make it more den-like, and tuck the crate in a corner or along a wall where it won’t be in the way and generating traffic. Your puppy will likely be more comfortable if she feels tucked out of the way and snug when she’s in her crate. If she’s hesitant to go in, remember: never force it. Hide a couple of treats inside as a special reward for when she does go in and check it out. Pick a cue and work on reinforcing that command, such as “go to your bed” or “go to your house”. Consistency is key, as your puppy will learn quickly that listening to your cue and doing the expected behavior leads to ear scratches, a cookie, or whatever reward you set for the behavior. On their website, the Humane Society lists several chronological steps for crate training your pup. Once he’s okay with going in and out, you can start to lengthen the time he spends inside, gradually working up to leaving him in it for periods during the day and eventually at night. With patience and lots of love, the end goal will benefit everyone in the home: a puppy that happily snuggles up in her crate for a good night’s sleep!!
Images courtesy John Star5115 and Moxkyr
We don’t have snow everywhere in the nation just yet, but one thing is certain: it feels like winter! The seasons are simply a part of life, so even though it may be more appealing to cozy up under a blanket and stay inside, the reality is we have to go out in it! So why not embrace the chill, and instead of rushed, uncomfortable potty breaks take the proper precautions so we can enjoy the season?
LOOK OUT FOR THOSE FEET
As early morning walks get colder and frostier, we may simply switch to boots and not give it too much additional thought. But what about our pups’ feet? In addition to colder temperatures that lead to colder concrete and asphalt, depending on your region winter may also mean deicer (salt mixes) spread on sidewalks, frost on the grass, and even snow on all surfaces. Similar to the fertilizers that are used on lawns periodically during the year, deicer formulas contain harsh chemicals that can wreak havoc on our dog’s footpads. Even simple rock salt can do damage to our dog’s feet. And unfortunately, while professional companies often place small flags to indicate fertilized areas, deicer is spread directly on the sidewalks that we use with our dogs and it is tougher to avoid. However, we do have a couple of options to prevent chapping, chemical burns, and other winter foot injuries. The first step is to maintain good grooming practices: trim your dog’s nails regularly, and if necessary very carefully trim any excess fur that may trap frost and snow around his footpads. Additionally, there are several balms on the market that can be used as a protectant on your dog’s pads. Check with your veterinarian or a pet store that you trust to find one with ingredients that are suitable for your dog, and then coat his feet each time you go out. And although they make take some adjustment, for longer walks or if a balm is not sufficient, you may consider weatherproof dog booties. They are a simple boot and typically have a Velcro cinch around the ankle to keep them snug but not too tight.
On chilly days, think through all of your plans with the weather in mind. Going to run errands? Make sure you won’t be parked for excessive amounts of time, thus leaving your dog out in the car. The temp will drop, and she is susceptible to hypothermia just like we are. And leaving the engine running is not a better option – this may expose your dog to dangerous carbon monoxide fumes. Does he want to go play in the backyard? Of course, let him out – but keep in mind how long he is out there and bring him back to warm up if it’s been too long. He can always go back out to run around later! And for sleeping arrangements: please, please think about the temps where your dog sleeps! Wood floors, tile, and other non-carpeted areas can be very cold. If your dog doesn’t already have a bed (or beds!) in the house, consider purchasing one or more. Or set up a nice little nest for him with blankets and towels so he can stay cozy at night. And please keep in mind that your dog needs adequate shelter – according to the American Kennel Society, our dogs can be at risk for frostbite even if simply left outside to play for too long. So imagine the damage that sleeping in an unheated or damp area outside could do!! The simplest formula for winter success is to remember your pup wants (and needs!) to be warm and dry. So by all means, take her out to play, and go get wet in the snow! But get her back to warm and dry with towel drying and a dry place to snuggle as soon as possible, and you will be able to weather the winter season just fine.
Images courtesy the author.
Halloween is quickly approaching, and while it can be a festive, enjoyable time of year for pets and their parents (see our previous article on Funny Dog Costumes for some great ideas!), the somewhat hectic nature of trick treating and Halloween celebrations can also prove to be stressful and even dangerous for our furry friends. Keeping both fun and safety in mind, we’ve put together a few suggestions for maximizing the holiday celebrations while also keeping your dog(s) safe and happy.
No matter how cute your little guy or gal may look on Halloween, the most important thing you can do as a pet parent is keep him or her safe on the holiday. Changes in routine and different foods and home décor can pose hazards for your dog. For example, certain foods that are okay for humans can be quite dangerous. According to Pet Poison Helpline’s website, chocolate, grapes, raisins, too many sweets, and even candy wrappers can pose hazards to your dog. Keep treats out of reach and keep in mind that with lots of activity and noise, your dog may be more anxious and therefore more creative in finding ways to access hazardous snacks. If your pet will be unsupervised, take the time to put people food and drinks away.
Speaking of pet supervision, it may be helpful to come up with a plan ahead of time on how you’ll navigate Halloween with your pet. For example, if you are planning to stay in and hand out candy, will your pet be okay with the constant opening and closing of the door? Or will he or she possibly try and get out? You may want to set up baby gates or other boundaries indoors to keep your pet in a secure area. If your dog is highly excitable you could even leave a bowl of treats on the porch for the little goblins with a friendly sign to avoid constant knocking and/or doorbell ringing. Or if you will be going trick or treating or out to a Halloween event, you might consider either taking your pet with you or setting up pet sitting so she’s not all alone and subject to noise, commotion, or any other mischief on Halloween night. Just to be on the safe side, you can also make sure you have your vet’s contact info on hand and that your dog’s ID tag is updated with a current address and phone number.
Additionally, when decorating for the holiday keep your pup in mind. Candles can easily be tipped over by a curious dog and a jack-o’-lantern may be no match for your dog’s wagging tail. A little planning when placing décor can go a long way. Also, Pet Poison Helpline notes that even glow sticks and glow jewelry can cause trouble for a dog that likes to chew (let’s be honest… what dog doesn’t like to chew?).
HAVE FUN TOGETHER!
Once you have the important safety pieces in place, why not consider ways to enjoy Halloween with your pet? As mentioned above, you can include him by choosing a fun costume; if he’s comfortable with crowds he can even go trick or treating or to other holiday celebrations with you. Another option is to set up on the porch or in the front yard with your pet to welcome trick or treaters so she feels included and gets to socialize, too. Holidays are about recreation, celebration, and enjoying time with loved ones, and with a little planning you and your pup can have a great, safe time no matter what your plans are on Halloween!
Images courtesy KOMUnews
Written by Noelle L Published by Maggie B
Summer can be great fun for you and your dog with activities like hiking, swimming, boating and more, but it also brings some seasonal health hazards and risks pet parents need to remember. Among them are dehydration, burned pads and heat stroke. Here are some tips for a safe summer with your dog in the season ahead.
Auto Travel - Be very careful about leaving your pet in the car in the summer. Temperatures can rise quickly causing your dog to overheat, get heat stroke or worse, die.
Dehydration - Provide lots of cool fresh water to your pet both inside your home and outside. You can treat your dog to pupsicles or other frozen treats to increase the liquid intake of your pet each day.
Burned Pads - With the summer sun pounding down on asphalt, sidewalks and streets can become hot enough to burn your dog's feet. Test the surface with you hand before you go for a walk to be sure the temperature is not so hot it will hurt your dog. You can also buy booties, specifically designed to protect your pet's feet on hot surfaces.