Dogs are happiest when rules are clear about what’s allowed and what’s not
By Kim Campbell Thornton
A few months ago, I wrote about our foster cavalier, Kibo. Since then, Kibo — now Keeper — has become a permanent part of our family, and I’m happy to say that he’s adjusting nicely. Other than occasionally climbing onto the dining room table to check for food when someone forgets to push in a chair after eating, he hasn’t really broken any rules or caused any damage. He’s a nice dog in general, but I think it helped that we provided him with clear expectations and a structured environment from day one.
It’s all too easy to start off by spoiling a foster dog or one adopted from a shelter or rescue group. Who wouldn’t want to give him a little special treatment after the upset of losing his family?
Think again. Free run of the house, lots of treats and no demands are a good recipe for trouble and can make it difficult for him to fit in as a new family member. The following tips will help you set up your new dog for success:
-Housetraining. Even dogs who are already housetrained may be anxious and forget their manners in a new place. I was concerned about Keeper lifting his leg in the house. Treating him as if he were a puppy ensured that he had only one incident of urinating where he shouldn’t. Here’s what to do:
1. Take him outside to potty on leash on a regular schedule and praise him when he performs.
2. When you can’t pay close attention to him, confine him to a crate, exercise pen or room with an easily cleanable floor.
3. If you take him outside to potty and he doesn’t do anything, put him into his crate and then take him back out later.
– Set rules. Keeper was very comfortable jumping onto the sofa and chairs. Fortunately for him, that’s OK in our house, but a couple of chairs are off-limits to dogs. When he jumped on them, I gave an immediate “Off” command and directed him to the sofa.
If your house rules call for dogs to keep four on the floor, establish that from the beginning. No “just this once” or “just while he’s getting settled in.” Dogs don’t get the concept of “sometimes.” If you find him on the furniture, say “Off” and indicate what you want with a pointed finger or sweeping motion of your arm. If necessary, lure him with a treat to an alternate spot, such as a dog bed or blanket on the floor. Praise and reward him when he’s on it. Repeat as needed, always using a neutral and matter-of-fact tone. There’s no need to sound angry.
– Ban begging. Keeper’s worst habit is begging at the table or hanging out in the kitchen waiting for something to drop onto the floor. A couple of techniques can help to deter this habit, or at least make it less annoying:
Feed your dog before the family eats so he has no reason to beg. At mealtime, send the dog to his crate or dog bed using a neutral, matter-of-fact voice. Repeat as needed, making sure the kids and your spouse aren’t slipping him their Brussels sprouts when you’re not looking.
Use the same technique in the kitchen when you are preparing meals. There’s nothing wrong with the dog being in the kitchen while you cook, but he should be in a corner, out of the way.
To recap: Be firm and consistent, show him what you want instead of scolding him for what you don’t want, and offer praise and rewards when he does things you like. As you come to know him and he becomes familiar with the house routine, you can gradually give him more freedom to make himself at home.
cats need dental care
Dental care is key to keeping your pet’s teeth in place
By Dr. Marty Becker
Let me get this out of the way up front: Yes, I do brush my pets’ teeth. I really do.
I believe the task is too important to ignore, and so, too, are regular veterinary dental examinations and cleanings as recommended under anesthesia. That’s why one of my own older dogs went under recently, coming out of anesthesia safely with a couple fewer teeth, but healthier teeth and gums overall.
Does this make you feel guilty? That’s not my intent. My goal is to show that I practice what I preach because I believe good dental care is essential not only to your pet’s health, but also to his quality of life. Broken, rotting teeth and infected gums make pets miserable, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened a pet’s mouth in an exam room to see gums so inflamed they look as if a blow-torch had been passed over them.
A situation like that is what should make someone feel guilty. But the problems — and the guilt — are easily avoided. Your veterinarian is ready to get you on the right track.
First thing to remember: Foul-smelling breath from your dog or cat is never normal. It’s a symptom of disease that you need to heed.
Second thing: Brushing is easier than you think it will be. Approach the task with a positive attitude, take it slow and easy, and then follow with something the pet likes — a play session or a food treat.
For kittens and puppies, the focus is on training and prevention, but adult pets will likely need veterinary attention before a preventive-care program can help. Your veterinarian should check your pet’s mouth, teeth and gums as part of the regular examination, and make recommendations based on what he or she finds there. For many pets, the next step will be a complete dentistry under anesthesia. The procedure takes 45 minutes to an hour, and involves not only cleaning and polishing the teeth, but also checking for and treating broken or rotting teeth, cavities, abscesses and periodontal disease.
This is a medical procedure, not a cosmetic one, which is why it’s absolutely not the same as those “no-anesthesia” cleanings offered by non-veterinarians. I recognize that people worry about anesthesia, but the benefits outweigh the risks. Today’s anesthetics are dramatically safer than those of even a few years ago, making the dangers and pain of untreated dental problems the bigger risk to health, even with older pets like my own dog Quixote.
After the problems are treated, at-home care can keep things in good shape. Here are some tips:
• Brush regularly. Use a toothpaste designed for dogs or cats a couple of times a week at least, although daily is better. If you absolutely cannot brush, ask your veterinarian about dental rinses that can help prevent dental problems. They’re usually not as good as brushing, but they can and do help.
• Discuss your pet’s diet with your veterinarian. Some pet-food companies offer kibble with a mild abrasive texture to help keep teeth clean, or with ingredients that help keep plaque from forming.
• Offer tooth-safe toys to help with oral health. Again, talk to your veterinarian. You’ll want to avoid chews so hard they can break a tooth, and you may want to consider those impregnated with enzymes to help prevent plaque buildup.
Once your pet’s teeth are in good shape, you’ll notice an end to bad breath. The true benefits of dental care go far beyond a better-smelling mouth, however, making what seems like an aesthetic issue one that is in fact a cornerstone of a preventive-care program.
February is Pet Dental Health Month. During the month, your veterinarian may be able to provide special information on your pet’s dental care or have special offers on services.
Good reasons for giving cats baths
Q: Is there really any need ever to bathe a cat? Seems they take care of themselves pretty well. — via Facebook
A: Actually, there are some good reasons to bathe cats, and they’re arguably strong enough to make it worth the effort to teach cats to tolerate baths while they’re still easier-to-handle kittens.
Among the reasons why it’s worth it: You may sometimes need to wash off something your cat got into, which you don’t want him to ingest when he licks his coat. If this happens and your cat absolutely will not handle being bathed, talk to your veterinary hospital about having them handle it. Many groomers will also handle cats, and that’s certainly an option for the routine grooming of long-haired cats (who may need to be shaved clear of mats), as well as for those cats who need to have sticky or dangerous material removed from their coats.
There’s also a benefit to you in bathing your cat: It reduces shedding and allergies. Studies have shown that getting cats wet can reduce the sneezing, wheezing and itchy eyes associated with allergies to cats. It may even make life with a cat possible for people who are mildly or even moderately allergic to them. You don’t have to bother with soap for allergies, though: Just rinsing a cat weekly reduces the dander that triggers allergy attacks.
While it’s decidedly more difficult to teach an adult cat to tolerate bathing than to start a kitten with baths from the start, it can be done with most of them if you introduce the concept a little bit at a time, with lots of treats and praise. One note of caution: Use a shampoo that’s labeled for cats, not dogs. If you use a dog shampoo that contains ingredients for combating fleas, you may put your cat’s health at risk. This is true even of natural ingredients meant to repel fleas. In general, you should consult your vet before using any dog product on your cat. — Dr. Marty Becker
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TWO’S COMPANY~ Adding another adult cat requires preparation and patience
Adding another adult cat requires preparation and patience
By Gina Spadafori
It’s not often that I have to take my own advice on something I’ve never done before, but that’s exactly what happened recently, when I adopted a middle-aged cat and brought her home to live with an established middle-aged cat who didn’t seem that interested in sharing his space.
The introductions were by the book — my own book, “Cats for Dummies,” to be precise — and now both cats are happily co-habitating, enjoying the company not only of each other but also of my two dogs. The bed is a little crowded with all four of them on it, but I don’t mind: It’s worth it to see them all so happy together.
If you’re thinking of adopting another adult cat, there is never a bad time. Here’s how to ease the strain on new cat, old cat — and you.
Successful introductions require laying the groundwork before you bring home a second cat. Your current cat and your new one should be spayed or neutered to reduce hormone-related behavior challenges. Your new pet will also need a visit to the veterinarian before coming home to be sure he’s not bringing in parasites and contagious diseases that can put your established pet at risk.
Prepare a room for your new cat with food and water bowls, toys, and a litter box and scratching post that needn’t be shared. This separate room will be your new pet’s home turf while the two cats get used to each other’s existence.
Then, start the introductions by pushing no introduction at all.
Bring the new cat home in a carrier and set the pet in the room you’ve prepared. Let your resident cat discover the caged pet on his own, and don’t be discouraged by initial hisses. Let your resident cat explore awhile and then put him on the other side of the door and close it. When the new cat is alone with you in the room, open the carrier door. Leave the new cat alone in the room with the room door closed and the carrier door open, and let him choose to explore in his own way and time.
Maintain each cat separately for a week or so — with lots of love and play for both — and then on a day when you’re around to observe, leave the door to the new cat’s room open. If there are dogs in the house, put a baby gate across the door to give the cat an escape route where the dogs can’t go. Don’t force any of the pets together. Territory negotiations between cats can be drawn-out and delicate, and you must let them work it out on their own, ignoring the hisses and glares. As for dogs, let the cat decide how much to interact, if at all.
As the days go by, you can encourage both cats to play with you, using a cat “fishing pole” or a toy on a string. If they’re willing, feed them in ever-closer proximity, taking your cue from the cats as to how quickly to proceed.
Some cats will always maintain their own territories within the house — I’ve known pairs who happily maintained a one upstairs/one downstairs arrangement for life — while others will happily share everything from litter boxes to food dishes. Let the cats figure it out, and don’t force them to share if they don’t want to. Some cats will always need separate litter boxes, scratching posts, bowls and toys — and providing them is a small investment if it keeps the peace.
After six weeks, mine have — and probably will always have — separate litter boxes, but they share food, water dishes and space with obvious contentment. In fact, my established cat seems so happy for the company of his own kind that my only regret is not adopting another cat years ago.
SERIOUS PLAY (Happy Cat)
Toys are essential to keeping your cat active and happy
By Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
Inside every cat is a lion. Or a tiger. Or a lynx. Or, really, all of these great hunters. And in your cat’s mind, he’s a wild predator, too.
In fact, all cats are. They love to lurk and prowl and chase and pounce. An indoor cat doesn’t have the opportunity to go after real prey (unless you have mice in your home), but he still has strong hunting instincts. This genetic coding doesn’t disappear just because he lives a royal lifestyle in your home and has his meals delivered on the feline equivalent of a silver platter.
When a cat’s need to hunt isn’t fulfilled with live action, he turns to the next best thing: feet moving beneath the covers, hands dangling at an owner’s side, arms, legs, you name it. Instead of letting a kitten believe your body parts are fair game, provide him with toys that will satisfy his urge to hunt as well as save your skin.
It’s all too easy to accidentally encourage kittens to bite or scratch in play, but this type of aggressive behavior can turn into a big, painful problem as the kitten gets bigger. Never “arm wrestle” with a young cat, and keep some distance between you through play with toys that don’t involve direct contact with the kitten. When kitten teeth or claws touch human skin, screech loudly and immediately walk away. Kittens learn fast that playing rough ends the game, especially when there are other things to play with.
Cats like toys they can stalk, chase, pounce on and bite. Turn your home into an indoor hunting ground with perches for watching the outdoor world go by (such as a window-box bird feeder), scratching posts for paw marking and nail maintenance, cat trees for climbing, resting and observing, and an ever-changing assortment of toys, toys, toys.
Puzzle toys are particularly good for giving your cat an outlet for his hunting instincts and ensuring that he keeps his sleek, sinewy physique. Wands with feathers or other dangly bits and wind-up or battery-operated toys that move on their own excite a cat’s chase instinct. Balls inside a track let him paw for “prey,” just as if he were exploring a mouse hole. The fast, erratic motion of laser pointers and flashlights increase a cat’s ability to think and move quickly. (Direct the beam up and down the stairs to give him a real workout.) And don’t forget the classic catnip-filled mice for rolling and rabbit-kicking under the influence.
To keep your cat interested in his toys, change them out every few days. If he sees the same ones over and over again, he’ll get bored and look for something new to play with. Cats being who they are, it will probably be something expensive or fragile that you don’t want him to treat as a toy.
Those laser pointers, flashlights and wand toys have especially high value to cats because they are just so darn much fun. Bring them out less often than other toys, and limit the amount of time your cat is allowed to play with them. For some cats these toys are addictive, and they will stand in front of the closet where the laser or wand is stored and yowl plaintively until they are brought out.
Remember, if you give in even once, you have just taught your cat exactly how to manipulate you. To help soften your cat’s disappointment when these favorite toys go up, reward him with a treat afterward or give him another favorite toy, like a catnip mouse.
The word “toy” just doesn’t seem to cover how important these items are to our pets, especially an indoor cat. Indulge your pet with the gift of play, and you’ll both be happier for it.
Tricks are …TREATS!
Banish cabin fever by teaching your dog to be entertaining
By Dr. Marty Becker
and Gina Spadafori
Looking for a way to keep your dog busy on those days when the cold limits outside activity? It’s easy: Exercise his mind.
Veterinarians have long been sounding the alarm on what the lack of exercise is doing to the health of our pets, triggering an obesity crisis that’s echoing our own. Regular exercise means pets with fewer health and behavior problems.
But many of our dogs are also getting the short end of the stick when it comes to exercising their minds. And winter is a great time to teach your old dog a few new tricks.
What many people don’t realize is that training is a way of communicating with your dog, of sharing a common language. The more words you both know the meaning of, the more you are sharing your lives.
How many words can your dog know? You’d be surprised. Consider that dogs who serve people with disabilities are routinely trained to perform dozens of different tasks. If you say your dog is not as smart as a service dog, we’ll argue back that even if he’s only half as smart, he can learn a couple of dozen more things than he knows now.
Besides, tricks are great fun for all dogs. While canine whiz kids such as poodles and border collies will pick up things quickly, any dog will catch on eventually, if you’re patient, consistent and encouraging. You can teach tricks one at a time or a couple at once, as long as you have time to practice each one several times a day.
Some dogs are better at some tricks than others. A small, agile terrier may find jumping through hoops easier than a bulldog would. And a retriever is probably more willing to hold things in his mouth than is a Pekinese. A basset hound can probably roll over but may find begging a little hard, being a little top-heavy. So think about your dog’s form and aptitudes before you start. You may notice something special your dog does that would be entertaining if you can get him to do it on command. You can. Give it a name, use that word when he’s most likely to do his thing, and praise him for “obeying.” He’ll make the connection soon enough.
You can dress up tricks a little, too, to make them seem more than they are. We’ve both judged at events with prizes for pet tricks — always a fun way to spend an afternoon. At one such event, the winner was a friendly Rottweiler who liked to jump in the air after soap bubbles. The trick itself wasn’t that big a deal, really, except for the fact that the owner turned it into a crowd-pleaser with a few props.
She put a ballerina skirt around the dog’s middle, with matching pink leg warmers on her back legs and a tiara on her head. She then put on “Swan Lake” in her portable stereo and starting blowing bubbles. The dog’s leaps and turns were a million times funnier when choreographed, and the pair won easily.
Check trick-training books and websites for ideas. If your dog shows a true aptitude and is the friendly, easygoing sort, you might find that joining a pet therapy group can be something you’ll both enjoy, an activity that gives your dog a job while brightening the lives of other people.
Five tips to help your cat get all nine lives
By Dr. Marty Becker
and Gina Spadafori
Modern veterinary care is not inexpensive.
Every day we hear from readers who remember when “Good ol’ Doc Jones” patched up their cats for next to nothing.
These days, readers complain, many veterinarians want to use available diagnostics to see what’s really going on (and reduce risk during anesthesia), suggest newer procedures to fix things that were fatal not that long ago, and pretty much try to do the best job they can with all the advances of the last couple of decades.
Costs for everything have gone up, and “Good ol’ Doc Jones” is paying more to keep the hospital doors open, even before you consider all the new options veterinarians can offer today. The good news: If you practice good preventive care with your cat — which should, of course, include neutering — you can really keep costs down.
Top strategy for doing so: Close the door on your cat’s wandering.
A lot of cat lovers hate hearing this. They’ve always let their cats roam, and they’re reluctant to change. A free-roaming cat seems easier to care for, especially if the outdoors serves as a litter box (a policy that’s never fair to or popular with the neighbors).
But the things that can happen to a free-roaming cat can really cost you at the veterinarian’s. Outdoor cats are at high risk for poisoning, infectious disease, accidents and attacks, all of which can mean misery for your pet and expensive veterinary costs for you.
Other strategies for preventive cat care:
• No more yearly shots. The emphasis has shifted away from automatic annual combination boosters to tailoring the kind and frequency of vaccines to an individual cat. Some vaccines are now given at longer intervals — every three years is common — and some are not given at all to cats who are not at high risk for a particular disease.
Skipping annual shots isn’t an excuse to skip regular “well-pet” exams, which are a cornerstone of a preventive-care program. You can discuss which vaccines are right for your cat during the visit.
• Keep your cat lean. Too much food and not enough activity puts the pounds on a pet. Excess weight is attributed to any number of health issues in cats, especially arthritis and diabetes. Don’t crash-diet your cat — it can be deadly. Instead, talk to your veterinarian about a healthy diet that will trim down your cat before the pounds really add up. Add in activity with daily play sessions using a laser-pointer or cat-fishing pole, whatever gets your cat going.
• Don’t forget the teeth. It doesn’t hurt to get into a regular routine of brushing or swiping your cat’s teeth, and many cats can learn to enjoy or at least tolerate the practice. If their teeth are left alone, cats develop dental problems that can shorten their lives and lessen their quality of life.
• Practice good grooming. Basic brushing, combing and flea control are a must for preventive care. Keeping your pet parasite-free will make living with your animal much more pleasant (after all, fleas bite people, too). Regular brushing can also help build the bond between you and your cat, and will allow you to notice skin problems and lumps and bumps early.
Five tips for nine lives, all of them guaranteed to save you money and spare your cat. You can’t beat that!
Patience when adopting an adult pet pays off in love
By Gina Spadafori
Even though my pets, from dogs to goats to horses, generally get along with others not of their kind, I believe most animals like having a companion of their own species. This is why I keep at least two of almost every type of pet I have, and why, three months ago, I added a cat.
Not a kitten — a cat. I thought my middle-aged indoor cat, Ilario, seemed lonely after my other cat had died. And while kittens are always appealing, I knew that many wonderful adult cats need homes.
I had one opening and wanted to fill it with a middle-aged cat. Enter Mariposa.
Within a month, I knew I’d made the right decision in adopting her. An adult cat can slide quickly into your life. You know pretty well what you’re getting with a grown cat — activity level, sociability, health, etc. Given time in a loving environment, a grown cat forms just as tight a bond with his new people as any kitten can.
If you’re thinking of adopting a kitten, I encourage you to think cat instead. (Or better yet: one of each!) Because adult cats are generally more reserved than kittens, you need to cut them some slack in the adoption process. And then give them plenty of time to adjust to their new home.
Mariposa spent the first two weeks alone in a closed spare bedroom, secluded away from Ilario and the dogs to give her time to adjust to the upheaval. When I went in to feed or clean the box, I sat quietly on the bed, letting her choose how much she cared to interact. For the first few days, all I saw of her was the flash of her tail as she slid under the bed. When she started greeting me by purring and jumping up beside me to be petted, I moved to the next stage, putting a baby gate across the open doorway.
After a few days and some hissy interactions, the two cats were happily sharing the sunny spot in the spare bedroom. But while Ilario came and went over the baby gate, Mariposa did not. She felt safer with the dogs on the other side of the gate, and I didn’t push it. Another couple weeks went by before she felt brave enough to explore a little more.
My dogs are not cat-aggressive. If they were, I’d never risk having a cat in the home. But they are naturally curious, so I kept a close eye on interactions. After a few sniffs and one aborted chase that ended with Mariposa flying over the baby gate to safety — my dogs know the “leave it” command very well — everyone decided to get along. Each week they seem to get along better than the week before.
I made it easy, of course, with three litter boxes (experts advise one per cat, plus one) and separate feedings for everyone. Two cat trees at opposite ends of the house offer places for togetherness or quiet time alone. Not that either cat is often alone: As I’d guessed he would, Ilario loves having another cat in the home.
My biggest challenge now? Finding space on the bed. With two cats and two dogs, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of room left over. Mariposa, for her part, sleeps on top of me. That’s going to be uncomfortable in the summer, but on these cold evenings I have to admit: It makes me even happier for adopting her than I ever would have dreamed possible.
FREE TO A GOOD HOME
Maddie’s Fund challenges adoption myths to get shelter pets placed
By Gina Spadafori
If someone else pays the adoption fee when you adopt a pet, does it change how much you “value” the animal as a member of your family? How you answer that question may reveal how you feel about many of the changes currently underway in the shelter and rescue community.
It has long been a core belief in the community that people who didn’t pay for a pet were more likely to “get rid of it” for pretty much any reason at all — or for no reason at all.
In recent years, though, organizations such as Maddie’s Fund, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians and the No-Kill Advocacy Center have challenged those views and many others, working to increase the number of homeless animals placed in good homes by changing the way shelters do business.
One of the first things they looked at: the idea that adoption fees help pets find better homes. After Maddie’s Fund experimented with paying the adoption fees for a relatively small adoption drive, the Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine tracked the people and the pets they adopted. They found that the overwhelming majority of the animals were still in their homes months later, most sleeping on the beds of the people who adopted them.
A few years ago, I would have been in the “people value what they pay for” camp. I ran a breed rescue for a couple of years, taking in and rehoming about 200 dogs in that time. You definitely can get burned out and cynical when dealing with people who are giving up pets.
But the relatively few “bad eggs” in the pet-owner population seem to get concentrated into the “baskets” of rescuers and shelter workers. It’s easy to start thinking that pretty much everyone is a pet-dumping jerk, even those who don’t want to give up pets but have to, such as when someone loses their home.
There will always be some people who don’t do right by their pets, but studies show that most people truly are doing the very best they can for the pets they consider family. Even if sometimes the “best” is finding another home.
When you stop looking at everyone as an enemy, you can ask your communities for help — and you’ll get it. That’s why this year I volunteered to help Maddie’s Fund spread the word of this year’s Pet Adoption Days. For weeks now, I’ve been helping the group connect with people who will share the information — and with some, I hope, who’ll adopt a pet!
We are pet-loving societies here in the United States and Canada, and Maddie’s is truly on to something here. In providing shelters and rescue groups with the resources to change how they work with their communities, they’re giving them room to change — for the better.
It’s a pretty good bet that 5,000 pets will find new homes during Maddie’s Pet Adoption Days as planned, but it’s just as likely that more hearts will be changed forever by drives like these than can be filled by shelters operating on their own.
And that’s great news for pets and the people who love them.
More information, go to www.maddiesfund.org
Why cats are attracted to the feline-averse
• Why, in a room full of people, will a cat make a beeline toward the one person who is not paying attention? One possible answer: That’s the only person who’s playing by the cat’s own rules for proper behavior. Cats don’t like eye contact from strangers. When a friendly cat wanders into a room full of people, he may be intimidated by a new person’s stare. So, he heads instead for the people he thinks are being polite — those who aren’t looking. The cat doesn’t realize that these people may not be looking because they don’t like cats or are allergic. In the end, it’s a bit of a cross-species miscommunication. That’s one theory, anyway. It could also turn out that rubbing cat fur on the slacks of a cat hater is just the ultimate feline fun.
— Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
Free Pet Adoptions for Veterans, Active Military, First Responders and their Families
Animal Services hosts third-annual Veterans’ Day adoption event
EL PASO, Texas – This Friday through Monday, Animal Services will be holding a “Pets for Vets” adoption event, featuring free pet adoptions for all veterans, active military, first responders and their families. This Veterans’ Day event aims at connecting families with great shelter pets, while also honoring the service of the brave men and women in our community.
All adoptions include the animal’s spay/neuter procedure, initial age-appropriate vaccinations, microchip and City license.
How to Find the Right Dog for Your Family
Adding a four-legged friend to the family is no small decision, and it’s easy to get distracted by sweet eyes pleading to be taken home. Becoming a dog parent is a major commitment, so it’s important to do your research and make well-informed choices before deciding on a new dog.
No matter what stage of acquiring a dog you’re in, educate yourself about your options. A resource like Be Dog Smart, an online tool designed to guide consumers through the process of looking for a dog, can help you every step of the way, regardless of whether you’re considering getting a dog from a professional breeder, pet store, friend, family member or adopting from a shelter or rescue.
By asking the right questions, researching credible sources and requesting transparency from those who provide companion animals, you can rest assured you are taking the right steps to bring home a new furry family member.
Take smarter steps to bring your new fur-baby home with these tips from the Pet Leadership Council, the creators of the Be Dog Smart initiative:
1.Determine the responsible environment you would like to acquire your dog from. One way to ensure those who raise and supply dogs maintain proper care standards is to understand the acquisition process and thoroughly vet breeders, retailers, shelters and rescues before supporting their operations. Ask questions about their businesses, policies, animal care and referral sources. Visit the locations personally to get a sense for the environment before making a decision. Once you settle on a source for your dog, interview several options to determine the best fit.
2.Consider how a dog fits into your living situation. For example, if you work long hours, you’ll need to consider ways for your dog to be let outside during the day. Although some breeds require less space for exercise, all dogs need daily activity and regular access to relieve themselves.
3.Think about the time and monetary investment. Dogs typically do not understand being left in their crates because you have a busy work schedule or social life. Contemplate your available time and how you would adjust to accommodate your pet. The same can be said for your finances. Ensure you can afford essentials such as food, grooming items and veterinary care as well as extras like toys and treats before making the commitment.
4.Learn about the differences between purebred and mixed breeds. With so many breeds of dogs available, it’s tough to know which one is the right fit for you. Purebred dogs, which are dogs whose parents belong to the same breed, offer predictability in size, appearance, temperament, health issues, grooming needs and energy level. Mixed breeds, whose parents come from different breeds or are mixed breeds themselves, have a lower chance of being born with inherited congenital diseases and often inherit only the best traits from each parent.
5.Weigh the benefits of a puppy versus an adult dog. Puppies are typically sweet and fun, and there are advantages to bonding with a puppy from its earliest stages of life. However, puppies quickly grow and can require a lot of work and training. Puppies are also more likely to be destructive. At rescues and shelters you’ll often find older dogs, many who were abandoned due to their owner’s life circumstances, not anything they did wrong. These dogs can be wonderful additions to a family and may be house trained and have previous basic command training, but there is a possibility of not getting a clear understanding of the dog’s past.
For additional tips and to learn more, visit BeDogSmart.org
The Benefits of Service Dogs
Supporting veterans when they return home
Service dogs offer countless benefits to help combat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but they can also be instrumental in rebuilding and uniting families after veterans come home from serving their country.
According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 30% of American military veterans experience PTSD after returning home from combat. Yet only about 40% of those individuals ever seek help.
Service animals are recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The designation is limited to dogs who are trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability. In some cases, these tasks are highly physical in nature, such as guiding a person who is blind or pulling a wheelchair. Other roles service dogs play may be less immediately visible, such as providing a calming presence to a person with PTSD who is experiencing an anxiety attack.
More Than a Companion
Service dogs are highly trained to assist military veterans in achieving better quality of life. Veterans who utilize service dogs report lower levels of depression and anxiety, fewer hospitalizations and a reduction in medical and psychiatric costs, among other benefits. Beyond what these canines help prevent, consider these examples of what they empower:
• Ease loneliness and stress
• Reduce social anxiety
• Decrease reliance on prescription drugs
• Help veterans return to work or attend college
• Strengthen personal relationships
• Provide security, protection and unconditional love
Up to the Task
Just like the members of the armed forces they help, service dogs are highly trained professionals with an important job to do, including tasks such as these:
• Turn on lights and open doors before a veteran enters his or her home
• Nudging, pawing or licking to interrupt flashbacks or nightmares
• Utilizing body weight as a grounding mechanism to reduce anxiety or alleviate panic
• Retrieve bags with medications or a list of numbers to call during a medical emergency
• Provide security and reduce hypervigilance in public places
• Pick up dropped items and assist with mobility and ambulation
To see video stories of how service dogs have impacted the lives of veterans and their families, visit DogChow.com/service. In addition, for every purchase of specially marked bags of Dog Chow Complete Adult through Nov. 1, the brand will donate 5 cents, up to $100,000, to the Tony La Russa Animal Rescue Foundation Pets and Vets program, which matches veterans experiencing PTSD and other challenges with service dogs, free of charge.
When You See a Service Dog
Service dogs are often large breeds that stand out in a crowd, and their calm demeanor can make it seem perfectly appropriate to approach and pet them. However, it’s important to remember that service dogs are at work and distractions can prevent them from providing the service their owners need.
The International Association of Canine Professionals offers these etiquette tips for interacting with service dogs and their owners:
• Remember that a service dog is there as support for a person with a physical or health disability, which may or may not be readily apparent.
• Respect that health conditions are private matters most people prefer not to discuss with strangers.
• Just as you would not stare or point at a person in a wheelchair, avoid calling unnecessary attention to a person with a service dog.
• If you must interact, always focus your attention on the handler, not the dog, so the dog can stay focused on its job. Avoid whistling, clapping or otherwise distracting the dog.
• Teach children not to approach service dogs. Although most are trained to avoid aggression, a perceived threat to their handlers could result in warning growls or barks that may scare a child.