4 Tips for Welcoming a New Dog into Your Home
As people continue to navigate the world of social distancing, animal shelters across the country have seen an increase in pet adoptions. People are craving connection and companionship, and few things compare to the loyalty of dogs – from their affectionate snuggles on the couch to their wagging tails when you walk through the door.
In fact, in a survey from the Human Animal Bond Research Institute and Mars Petcare, 80% of pet owners said their pet makes them feel less lonely, which is especially relevant in today’s world. To help encourage more adoptions and celebrate the unconditional love of dogs, the PEDIGREE® brand introduced the One True Loyalty Program, which will cover the adoption fees for new pet parents who adopt a dog and purchase two bags of PEDIGREE dog food (15 pounds or more), through Oct. 31.
“Throughout this pandemic, the silver lining has been the increase in dogs finding their forever homes, which is our mission in everything we do,” said Deb Fair, executive director of PEDIGREE Foundation. “So many loyalty programs take ages to earn a reward, but now, people can get the most valued and truest kind of loyalty instantly – the unconditional love of a dog.”
With so many people adding furry friends to their families, consider these tips from the PEDIGREE brand to successfully welcome a new dog into your home. If you’re considering adopting a dog, visit PEDIGREELoyalty.com to learn more about the One True Loyalty Program and how to get your adoption fees covered.
1. Create a Safe Space – Giving a dog a forever family can be a wonderful thing, but the transition from a shelter to a home can be a lot for a pooch to take in. Give your dog a spot to call his own where he can feel safe and secure. Get a crate that’s just big enough for him to stand up and turn around in, but not too big where he has extra room to do his business. Drape a blanket or towel over the sides to make it cozy and put one or two of his favorite toys inside.
2. Establish a Routine – To ease the transition into a new home, it’s helpful to get your dog used to a routine. When he can anticipate his meals, potty breaks, naps and playtimes, he’ll likely be less anxious throughout the day, allowing him to focus more on being your most loyal friend.
3. Take Frequent Potty Breaks – Training a dog to do his business outside takes time and patience. Do your best to stay ahead of any accidents by taking your pup outside frequently – after naps, meals and play sessions and especially if he starts sniffing around in circles. Praise him with love and his favorite treats when he’s successful outside, and soon enough, he’ll get the hang of it.
4. Return the Loyalty – The unconditional love and loyalty of dogs is unmatched, and they deserve all of it in return. Shower your dog with love, snuggles, treats and plenty of playtime, and you’ll soon form an unbreakable bond with your new best friend.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock
4 Ways Pets Help Impact Health and Wellness
Daily life across the country has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and in times of isolation, relationships – human or animal – are as important as ever before.
According to a survey conducted by the Waltham Petcare Science Institute, 85% of people said interaction with a companion animal helped reduce loneliness and 76% agreed human-animal interactions can help address social isolation. As people are connecting virtually with friends and family, they’re also turning to their pets for comfort and companionship.
As part of its BETTER CITIES FOR PETS™ program, Mars Petcare collaborates with cities to create more welcoming environments for people and their pets so more people can enjoy the positive impact pets can have on mental health and wellness at home and on the go. Consider these benefits pets provide and learn more at BetterCitiesForPets.com.
1. Pets provide stress relief. Stress management is a key factor to living a happy and healthy life, and these days some people are experiencing more daily stressors. Research has shown that owning a pet can decrease blood pressure and may help manage both anxiety and depression. No matter what life might throw at you, a pet can be by your side to help you through it.
2. Pets provide comfort. Pets can help soothe people during times of trial, especially as it relates to one’s health. In 2020, Mars Petcare and Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt teamed up to bring a full-time facility dog, Squid, to the hospital to provide comfort and support for patients, their families and hospital staff experiencing the impact of intense medical situations. Squid helps provide insights on how pets like him can improve the lives of patients and their families.
3. Pets help with healing. Pet ownership can have positive healing benefits at all stages of an owner’s life. Increasing research has been done to show the power of pets in providing health and healing benefits. In fact, one study showed veterans with PTSD symptoms experienced improved levels of physiological stress indicators and lower levels of perceived PTSD symptoms after walking with shelter dogs.
4. Pets combat loneliness. While the pandemic has made it difficult to spend quality time with loved ones, pets can help combat the sense of isolation their owners may feel. In a study by HABRI in collaboration with Mars Petcare, 80% of pet owners said their pets make them feel less lonely, and 89% of people who got a pet for loneliness felt their pet has helped them feel less lonely.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock
Get Curious About Your Cat’s Health
Adopting and fostering pets continues to trend as people across the nation add furry friends to their families for company during these unprecedented times. However, building a bond is just the first step to pet ownership; curiosity and care for your pet’s health lasts its entire life.
Strong bonds with pets are among the more positive outcomes of being in quarantine. Nearly 40% of people agree they couldn’t have made it through quarantine without their pets, according to a survey by Royal Canin. However, of the more than 90 million cats in United States households, more than half do not receive a yearly veterinary exam, according to the American Pet Products Association.
Cats are typically stoic, so if they are giving obvious indications of not feeling well, they need to be examined promptly. However, it’s not always obvious that something is affecting your cat’s health, and in the context of a pandemic, it may not be clear how to address concerns.
In honor of its annual #Cat2Vet campaign, which aims to improve the lives of cats by encouraging owners to schedule regular veterinary checkups, the experts at Royal Canin offer these tips for becoming more curious about your cat’s health.
Potential health signals
If your cat is otherwise acting normal, there may be a few hints that he or she isn’t actually feeling well. Watch for weight loss, changes in appetite or water intake, coughing or sneezing, acting lethargic, vomiting, changes in stool quality and more or less urine in the litter box.
If there’s anything unusual going on with your cat, ask your vet if you have concerns. The staff at your clinic can help you determine if a visit is necessary.
Accessing veterinary care
Many clinics offer curbside services where pet owners stay outside instead of entering the clinic. You can tell your veterinarian about your concerns over the phone while he or she examines your cat.
Another option is mobile veterinary services, which are available in many areas. Mobile services can be utilized for routine visits, sick visits, hospice visits or other specialized care. Emergency clinics and specialty hospitals are also open if needed as veterinarian clinics are considered essential businesses.
Some veterinarians are also offering telehealth services for pet owners. In addition, Royal Canin offers cat owners free access to Ask.Vet’s chat service. The service provides access to licensed veterinarians from the safety of your home 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Simply sign up at Ask.Vet or text “chatnow” to 67076 to be connected with a veterinarian who can answer health-related questions.
Preparing for a visit
Especially for cats who are not accustomed to regular vet visits, a trip when they’re already feeling unwell can be stressful. Consider these tips to help ease the experience:
• Rather than keeping the cat carrier hidden away, make it accessible for your cat to get familiar and comfortable with the way it looks and smells.
• Make daily time for activities like brushing and nail trims that help desensitize your cat to being touched.
• Use pheromone wipes and sprays to help relax your cat and reduce stress before the trip.
• Play calming music at an appropriate volume to help calm cats at home and in the car on the way to the vet.
Join the conversation about feline health and share why you take your cat to the vet annually by using #Cat2Vet on social media, and visit RoyalCanin.com/cathealth to learn more and enter to win a prize pack to prep your cat’s next vet visit.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Factor Pets into Fire Safety Planning
Pets are not just animals, they’re members of the family. While four-legged friends bring joy, it’s important to protect them in the event of a home emergency.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, every year 500,000 pets suffer from smoke inhalation and 40,000 die due to home fires. As you make safety preparations, remember to account for your pets. Know where they like to hide, include them in your evacuation plan and make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are up to date.
Find more fire safety tips for pets at Kidde.com/petsafety
Fire Safety for Furry Family Members
If you have a fire escape plan in place for your home, you’re steps ahead of many Americans. According to the National Fire Protection Association, only 30% of American households have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan. It’s important for families to stay ahead of the curve and be prepared in the event of a fire.
If an emergency occurs, every member of the household should be accounted for, including pets.
Every year, 500,000 pets suffer from smoke inhalation and 40,000 die due to home fires, according to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. With 90% of pet owners stating they consider their animals members of the family, according to UBS, it is important to be prepared to rescue four-legged friends when disaster strikes.
“Pets are part of our families, so it’s important to recognize they’re vulnerable to the same fire risks as people,” said Sharon Cooksey, Kidde’s fire safety expert. “There are simple ways to keep pets safe at home. Most importantly, recognize every second counts in case of fire, so pet owners should install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms as well as fire extinguishers. Make sure alarms are replaced every 10 years and fire extinguishers every 12 years.”
Protect your pet – and your human family – with these tips.
Minimize smoke alarm reactions. Dogs may become unsettled or anxious when a smoke alarm sounds, running and hiding rather than heading toward the door. Particularly if your pet shows signs of agitation when you test the alarm, enlist assistance from professional trainers to help your canine friend learn how to properly respond. Some websites offer online tips, too.
Use window cling alerts. In an emergency, first responders need to be able to quickly assess the number of pets in a home. Consider attaching a non-adhesive decal to a window near your front door to let rescuers know how many animals are inside.
Account for pets in evacuation plans. Pets should always be included in a family’s evacuation plan. Always involve your pets and stay aware of their typical hiding spots or safe places where they often nap, in case you must evacuate quickly. Be sure to practice your evacuation plan periodically. Also assign a family member to be responsible for each pet’s escape. Keep an emergency kit with food, medication, a leash and collars near the exit.
Keep alarms current. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms must be replaced after 10 years. In addition to testing alarms once each week, check the manufacture date on your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to make sure they’re current. If they’re older than 10 years of age, it’s time to replace them. Some options, like Kidde’s Wire-Free Interconnected Alarms, feature built-in 10-year sealed batteries and offer simple setup without the hassle of hardwiring or a Wi-Fi connection.
Plan ahead for emergency care. If the unthinkable happens, make sure your pets will be cared for. Save contact information for your veterinarian in a place where you and other family members can easily access it, such as your phone contacts list or a cloud-based shared file. Research local boarding options, hotels that allow pets and friends or family members who might take in your pet temporarily. Also be sure your pet’s microchip information is current in case you become separated in an emergency.
For more pet fire safety tips, visit Kidde.com/petsafety.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
3 Tips to Support Your Pet’s Immune System
Up to 70% of a pet’s immune system is contained within his or her digestive system.
“The digestive tract has immune cells that provide surveillance and are the front-line protectors to catch potential issues when pets eat something that’s not good for them,” said Michael Hayek, Ph.D., director of companion animal technical innovation for Exclusive® Pet Foods. “Since the digestive tract is so large, these cells comprise a large percentage of the total immune activity in dogs and cats.”
To encourage owners to learn more about the importance of pets’ digestion and how it supports their overall health, Exclusive Pet Foods with the Comfort Care™ Digestive Health Support System has designated August as Pet Digestive Health Month. Hayek underscores the importance of monitoring what dogs and cats eat by offering these tips:
Limit or avoid human food
Resisting an adorable, begging, furry face can be difficult. Hayek suggests reaching for a few extra kibbles or a treat formulated for the nutrition of cats and dogs. However, remember to also limit the number of treats each day.
Avoid extreme stress
Family vacations are a good example. If boarding your pets, keeping them on a consistent diet can support digestive health until they are back to a normal routine.
Be aware of what your pets could get into
Keep garbage covered or in an enclosed space. Look around for small items pets could ingest. Look for anything in your yard they shouldn’t eat, and make sure dangerous foods such as chocolate are out of reach.
“Dogs are naturally curious and want to explore everything,” Hayek said. “I guess you could say they eat first and ask questions later. Having things in the house or backyard they should not get into may be the biggest threat to their digestive health.”
To support overall digestive health, it’s also important for owners to provide pets with a food with ingredients selected for ease of digestion. For example, the Comfort Care Digestive Health Support System in Exclusive Signature pet foods is composed of a combination of fiber (beet pulp), prebiotics (chicory root or yeast) and probiotics. A proprietary yeast is also used as part of the system. The company has conducted research that demonstrated this particular combination supports digestive health when present in the formula.
Hayek recommends, along with providing the right combination of fiber, prebiotics and probiotics, owners consult their pets’ veterinarians if particular problems persist.
For more information, please visit exclusivesignature.com
4 Ways to Help Transition Pets to Post-Quarantine Routines
As states ease COVID-19 restrictions and people get out of the house to return to work, pets around the country may see their daily routines of hanging out with everyone come to an end.
Some dogs and cats handle routine changes easily. For others, a routine change at home can cause behavior issues, nervousness or separation anxiety.
A Suzy survey of 5,000 U.S. pet owners found nearly 70% of respondents are concerned their pets will have new or additional anxiety when they return to work. It’s important to prepare pets for changes in routine, especially those that are new to a home, for their well-being and harmony of the whole family.
Consider these post-quarantine transition tips.
Make a Plan
The key to any plan is making sure everyone knows what to do. This goes for veteran pet owners and the owners of more than 221,000 new pets adopted or fostered since March, according to the 24Pet ShelterWatch Report. Pet owners should agree on the plan for their pets and details should be shared with children who help with care.
“Pet owners should make a plan with minimal and realistic changes to help their dogs or cats adapt to new routines,” said veterinarian Elizabeth DeLomba, MBA, senior veterinary services consultant at VetriScience Laboratories. “Start by offering your pets belongings that make them feel safe and comfortable and add small things that promote mental and physical stimulation.”
Practice the New Routine
Ease your pet into being alone by spending short periods of time away from him or her both in and outside the home and work your way up to hours of separation.
Use practice time to get your dog or cat used to what happens before you leave for work, comfortable with a crate or other safe space and acquainted with a new toy, treat or someone who will check on him or her during the day.
Before you leave, take your pet for a walk or play at home to get energy out prior to your departure. When it is time to leave, don’t make a big deal out of leaving. Say goodbye long before you leave then leave calmly.
Try a Calming Supplement
The survey revealed that 65% of respondents plan to use a nutritional supplement to help their dog or cat cope with any anxiety a new routine brings. Over the counter calming supplements like VetriScience Composure chews can help pets relax during stressful times without changing their personality or energy level. Calming supplements come in bite-size chews or a liquid dosage and can help relieve stress for dogs and cats of all breeds and sizes.
“Fear and anxiety disorders affect 23 million dogs in the U.S. alone,” DeLomba said. “Supplements may offer a convenient approach for managing separation anxiety and other behavioral issues. The ingredients in supplements work together to make a positive impact on behavior and anxiousness, which results in a calmer, more focused pet.”
Keep Them Stimulated
Don’t let your dog or cat feel bored when home alone. Play music, keep a television on or use a white noise machine to create some constant sound. If your pet isn’t into watching television, keep him or her busy with a treat-dispensing toy that requires some work. Or stuff a toy with peanut butter, freeze it and give it to your dog when you leave. These ideas can help keep your pet’s mind stimulated and encourage him or her to focus on something other than being alone.
Start thinking about a plan for your pet and ask your veterinarian if you have concerns about behavioral changes. Learn more and find the full survey results at vetriscience.com.
SAFE ON THE FOURTH OF JULY
Medications, special shirts may calm anxious pets when fireworks start
By Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
If there’s one holiday that’s not popular at U.S. shelters and veterinary emergency hospitals, it’s probably the Fourth of July. That’s because the fireworks and other celebrations of this midsummer bash trigger pet care tragedies — a flow of lost pets, sick pets and injured pets.
Loud noises startle and distress many pets, with their supersensitive hearing. Scared pets have been known to jump out of apartment windows, leap over or dig under fences, or chew their skin until it’s raw. They may also bolt out an open door to become lost and never found, or hit by a car. Even the ones who just tremble in terror may be safe, but they’re miserable. Even calm pets may seize the opportunity offered by a holiday buffet to eat something they should not.
While most of the danger is on the actual holiday, the noise and parties can continue for days, especially when the Fourth falls midweek, as it does this year.
The best defense against Fourth of July problems is a good offense started weeks or months before summer. Professional trainers and behaviorists start socializing dogs and making every potentially negative experience — such as fireworks and thunderstorms — into something rewarding. If a negative experience comes with tasty treats, then your pet is going to at least tolerate it, if not welcome it. This works best when started as a puppy, but don’t give up hope if your dog is already an adult: New behaviors can be learned.
One way to help your pet is to expose him or her to commercial recordings of thunderstorms or fireworks and play them at increasing volume. Play the recordings at low volume — recognizing how acute a pet’s hearing is — and give praise and treats. It’s a party! As the volume and duration are increased during subsequent sessions, give him really tasty treats so he has the expectation of a repeat treat. Initially, play the recording for five minutes, eventually leaving it on during daily activities as “normal” background noise.
That’s fine for next year, but what about this year’s holiday?
Provide pets with safe hiding spaces inside your home during the holiday fireworks or a storm. Dogs and cats who are comfortable in crates can find them a good place to ride out the noise, especially if the crate is put in a quiet, darkened part of the house.
Some pets are so unhinged by noise that veterinary-prescribed medications are needed to keep them calm. Valium and Xanax (and their generic versions) are well-tolerated by most pets, and many veterinarians are happy to provide you with a pre-holiday prescription. Remember to give the medications as recommended — they usually work best before the rockets’ red glare begins. And talk to your veterinarian about other calming techniques. Some alternative-care veterinarians may recommend the herbal product Rescue Remedy, while others can show you acupressure and massage techniques to keep pets calmer.
Pet-supply retailers offer additional ways to calm your pet, such as with pressure shirts for animals, which work off the same principles that calm autistic children. The Thundershirt and The Anxiety Wrap are two such products for dogs and cats. The Calming Cap, which reduces sensory input, is another product meant to ease anxious pets. Finally, for dogs there’s the “Through a Dog’s Ear” series of music CDs that are clinically proven not to cover noise, but to use sound to calm canines.
Make sure your pet isn’t a casualty of Independence Day. If nothing else, keep your pet inside until the celebrations are over, and call your veterinarian for medication that can help ease the fear.
Feline obesity is out of control. Here’s how to get your cat back on track to a healthy figure
By Kim Campbell Thornton
When we at Pet Connection say “fat cats,” we’re not talking Wall Street bankers. The percentage of cats considered to be overweight (10 to 19 percent greater than ideal weight) or obese (20 percent or greater than ideal body weight) has reached a whopping 58 percent, according to a survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.
That makes excess weight the No. 1 nutritional disorder in cats. Carrying too many pounds is linked to a number of feline health problems. Obese cats are more likely to suffer a liver disease called hepatic lipidosis; feline urinary tract disease; diabetes; lameness; complications from anesthesia; and non-allergenic skin conditions.
What’s the skinny on the increase in tubby tabbies? It may be as simple as a lack of recognition of what a healthy cat looks and feels like. A study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery in 2010 found that nearly 34 percent of owners underestimated their cats’ body condition score.
Body condition scores rank cats on a 5-point scale, with 1 being emaciated, 2 thin, 3 ideal, 4 heavy and 5 grossly obese. In a hands-on test, it should be easy to feel a cat’s ribs and other prominent bones using light pressure. If your cat falls into category 4 or 5, it’s time to institute a kitty weight loss plan to help him regain a slim, trim figure.
Start with a veterinary exam to rule out medical problems that might be causing the weight gain. A weigh-in establishes current weight so a goal weight can be determined.
Your first thought might be to cut back on the amount of food you give, but that just leads to a cat who is hungry and unhappy. A different food may be a better option.
Feeding a diet that swaps out carbohydrates for proteins appears to be useful for weight loss, says Margie Scherk, DVM, speaking on feline weight management at the World Feline Veterinary Conference in San Diego, California, last October. And be aware that even 10 extra pieces a day of kibble formulated for normal weight maintenance can cause a cat to gain a pound in a year. Measure food and give it at regular mealtimes instead of free feeding.
Diet is a big part of helping cats lose weight, but getting them moving is important, too. You might not be able to take your cat jogging or get him to walk on a treadmill, but there are plenty of creative ways to add exercise to your pet’s life and at the same time provide a more stimulating environment.
An easy way to keep him moving while you’re gone during the day is to divide the amount of food he receives daily into six or seven portions. Place each portion in a small container, and hide them throughout the house. Mix up your hiding places so he has to work to find his food each day.
Interactive play is also important. Use toys to encourage him to walk and run around the house. Your cat is a predator, so focus on his love of stalking and chasing. Cats have short attention spans, so playtime of two to five minutes a few times a day is plenty. Since cats are nocturnal, you may find that he is more interested in being active after the sun goes down.
Introduce exercise gently and gradually. Cats who are overweight or obese can injure their joints if they do too much too quickly.
Most important, remember that prevention is best when it comes to obesity. Weight gain is more likely after cats turn 2 years old, so don’t let them become sedentary as they mature. That’s a heck of a lot easier than trying to change their eating habits or food after they have put on too many pounds.
FORSAKE THE SNAKE
Snake-aversion training can help any dog avoid a serious or even fatal bite
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Has your dog passed his SAT? Snake-aversion training, that is.
If you live in an area where venomous snakes are common or frequently take your dog hiking in such areas, you may want to look for a class that will teach your dog to avoid the scaly “slitherins.” The training can also teach dogs to avoid toxic amphibians, such as the Colorado river toad and cane toads. It’s especially useful for active, inquisitive dogs, or those with a high prey drive, but any dog can benefit if there’s a chance he will come face-to-face with a rattlesnake, copperhead or water moccasin.
Jackie Brown of San Clemente, California, often saw rattlesnakes while hiking with her dog, but it wasn’t until she saw a nonvenomous snake in her yard that she realized Jager, a miniature poodle, could encounter snakes anywhere.
“I worried about what he would do if he came across a rattlesnake,” she says. “Would he try to play with it? Chase it? Corner it in the yard? I didn’t want to leave it to chance, so I decided to look into snake-aversion training, which I had read about in a dog magazine.”
Dogs learn to avoid snakes once they smell, hear or see one. The training, accomplished with the aid of an electronic collar, helps them to keep a safe distance. It takes only a few minutes to teach a dog that snakes are better left alone.
The session usually involves exposing the dog to the sound of a rattlesnake’s rattle, snakeskins and live snakes — mouths banded closed — in different environments, such as sun or shade. If the dog approaches the snake, the trainer activates the electronic collar to simulate a snakebite. Collars are set on low — enough to create a negative association, but not enough to cause pain or distress. (Be sure to try it on your own skin first to make sure it’s working correctly before it’s placed on your dog.) Some sessions have a final test with a hidden snake. The class should be repeated every year or two to reinforce the lesson.
Depending on where you live, sessions are not always easy to find. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation, or look for fliers at your local pet supply store or animal shelter. Hunters and other outdoorspeople are usually familiar with snake training. Ask to observe a session first, and choose an experienced trainer who uses the collar carefully and makes sure the dogs feel comfortable and safe. Excellent timing and the ability to observe changes in the dog’s behavior are critical.
“It is a specialized field, and I would not trust my dogs in the hands of a rookie,” says dog trainer Connie Kelly of Carlsbad, California, who has had her Australian shepherds snake-trained.
Watch how the handler treats the snakes as well. You want someone who handles them kindly and respectfully and always makes sure they are safe.
People who don’t understand the process may consider it cruel or abusive. That’s a mistake, says Eric Christensen of Oro Valley, Arizona, whose English springer spaniels and flat-coated retrievers have all undergone snake-aversion training.
“It is neither (cruel nor abusive) if done correctly, and is, in fact, a potentially life-saving gift.”
Jager? A few months after training, he and Brown came across a dead rattlesnake on one of their walks. As soon as he smelled it, Jager jumped back about three feet, Brown reports.
“It made me feel better knowing that he would try to get away if he came across a live one,” she says.
PET VERSUS PARENT
Parents say no to a pet? Here are 6 ways kids can still be involved with animals
By Kim Campbell Thornton
When I met with my accountant recently, he mentioned that his 14-year-old son really wanted a golden retriever. Problem is, my accountant and his wife don’t especially want a dog, especially one that would be their responsibility when their son goes to college in four years.
“I wish there was some way we could have a dog just for the short term,” he said.
Usually, when parents who don’t want a pet ask me about getting one for the kids, I tell them to hold firm: If parents, who have ultimate responsibility for the animal, aren’t interested, I think it’s best for them not to give in to the pleading. In this case, though, I had a suggestion.
“Why don’t you look into raising a guide dog puppy? You get the pup when he’s 8 weeks old, and he goes for formal training when he’s 13 to 15 months old. That would give your son a taste of dog ownership, but you wouldn’t be left holding the leash when he leaves home.”(Visit guidedogs.com for more information.)
I don’t know if they’ll actually do it, but it got me thinking about other ways that pet-loving kids can play with, care for and train animals without necessarily bringing one home to a parent who’s allergic or simply not interested — at least not in a full-time, lifelong commitment. The following options are some compromises that may meet the needs of kids and parents alike.
–Read to shelter pets. When kids read to animals, the activity provides socialization and human interaction for dogs and cats and improves children’s reading skills. Shelters that offer such programs include Animal Rescue League of Berks County, Pennsylvania; Bitter Root Humane Association in Hamilton, Montana; and Panhandle Animal Shelter in Ponderay, Idaho. Contact your local shelter, library or public school to see if a program is available in your area, or if they’d like to start one.
– Volunteer at a shelter or sanctuary. Depending on a child’s age, he or she may be able to volunteer to help feed, groom or walk shelter pets. Parents may be required to participate as well to provide supervision. Even if they can’t volunteer hands-on with animals at a shelter, kids can raise money with lemonade stands or bake sales or help with set-up and take-down at adoption events.
– Go to camp. At Animal Friends Canine Good Manners Camp in Pittsburgh, kids spend five days working with camp counselors to teach shelter dogs the basics of good behavior so they’ll be more adoptable. Critter Camp at Helen Woodward Animal Center in San Diego offers daylong and weeklong programs that teach animal handling and socialization and let kids explore animal-related careers. Another program to check out is Friends for Life Camp through SPCA LA in Los Angeles. Kids who are interested in becoming veterinarians may want to attend “vet camp.” Among the veterinary schools that offer camps of up to a week are Auburn, Colorado State, Mississippi State, Ohio State, Purdue, Tufts, University of Georgia, University of Pennsylvania and University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Camps are geared to children of different ages. Search “camps for animal lovers” or “vet camp” to find other options.
– Foster kittens. Shelters always need foster homes for kittens, especially during late spring and summer, which is known as “kitten season.”
– Apprentice with a professional or amateur show dog handler. “Some owners are happy to have a junior show their dog, particularly when the dog has finished his championship but loves to be in the show ring,” says Phyllis M. Potterfield of Charleston, West Virginia.
11 tips to help your dog get in the swim this summer
By Kim Campbell Thornton
It’s almost summertime, and that means it’s time to get in the water. And what water-loving dog owner doesn’t throw tennis balls for Jake to fetch from the pool, take him to the beach or have him as first mate while power-boating, sailing, kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding?
Those are all great ways to spend time with your dog, but it’s important to ensure that he’s “waterproof.” People often assume that dogs know instinctively how to swim, but that’s not the case. Teaching your dog to swim is an important part of his education, especially if you have a pool, hot tub or pond on your property or spend lots of time at the shore.
•Summer is the best time to introduce your dog to the joys of playing in water. Even dogs such as Labs or Chesapeake Bay retrievers may balk if their first experience in the wet stuff is a cold one.
•If possible, take your dog to an area where he can get his paws wet gradually, such as a lake or an ocean beach that doesn’t have big surf.
• Never throw your dog in the water. That’s a good way to teach him to hate swimming.
• If you’re introducing a puppy to water, it helps if you have an older dog who can show him the ropes. Pups will usually follow older dogs and copy what they do.
• As your dog gets more used to being in the water, up the fun level by throwing a bumper or floating ball into shallow water for him to fetch.
• As your dog goes deeper, support his body until he starts swimming on his own. Encourage him to swim to you.
• No easy access to a lake or ocean? A child’s wading pool is an equally good start. Let your dog splash around in it to get the idea that playing in water is fun. When he encounters the real thing, he’ll love it.
• Even the most water-loving dog can tire or panic for some reason. Always be sure your dog knows how to get out of the pool. Take him into the pool and show him how to find the stairs and climb out. Let him get in the pool and see if he can get out on his own. Practice this frequently until you’re sure he’s prepared.
• If you have a boat, the same rules apply. Put your dog in the water and then help him get back into the boat. Some dogs learn to use the boat ladder to scramble back on board. More important, keep a safety harness or canine life vest on him anytime he’s on board, whether you’re in a canoe or on a yacht. Choose one with a loop on the top so you can grasp it by hand or with a boat hook to haul him back in. It should fit snugly without restricting your dog’s movement. The best choice is one with adjustable straps and quick-release buckles.
• Consider purchasing a product such as a Skamper-Ramp, which can be used in pools and on boats. The ramp is easily visible because it’s white and it angles down, breaking the surface of the water and placing it at pet’s-eye level.
• Use a pool fence or other barrier to keep old or blind pets away from water. If they fall in the pool, they won’t be able to get out. Other dogs that risk drowning if they fall in the water are those with big heads or short legs, such as bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, dachshunds and basset hounds.
Now, get out there and enjoy the dog days of summer.
5 Tips for Bringing a New Pet Home
Bringing a pet home for the first time – even if you already have other pets – can be an exciting moment. However, it’s important to involve the whole family in discussing whether your family will foster or adopt, and what each family member’s responsibilities with the new pet will be. It also takes preparation and patience to ensure a smooth transition.
Regardless of the type of companion you’re welcoming into your home, adjusting to a new environment can be overwhelming and could lead to anxiety. Because dogs and cats do not communicate like humans, they often express anxiety by misbehaving, which makes it important to be willing to spend the first several days bonding with your pet and forming good habits.
Visit your local shelter or animal welfare organization to complete necessary forms and background check, and consider this advice from the experts at PetSmart to help set you and your new furry friend up for a successful homecoming.
Introduce Your Pets
When bringing a new pet into the family, set up a proper introduction with any current pets to help make the transition easier. For dogs, schedule the initial meeting at a neutral environment outside of your home. Cats typically need a more gradual introduction to get comfortable. Start by keeping your felines in separate rooms with their own litter boxes, but let them see each other periodically through a glass window to get used to sharing the space. Allowing your pets to play with each other’s toys can also create familiarity with their new housemate’s scent.
Pet-Proof Your Home
Because new pets can be especially curious and jump onto high surfaces or squeeze into small spaces, ensure clothes, cleaning supplies, electrical wires or cords and other potential hazards are out of reach. Other measures you can take to pet-proof your home include keeping toilet lids closed, covering vents and latching trash can lids. Also create a pet-friendly space with a bed or another way to divert attention, such as a scratching post for cats.
Prepare the Necessities
Decrease stress before bringing your new companion home by getting as many of the necessities ahead of time as possible. Ensuring your pet comes home to his or her own crate or bed, food and water bowls, a collar with identification, leash, food, necessary pest treatments and a variety of toys can make the adjustment to new surroundings easier.
Create a Schedule
Creating a routine for your companion’s mealtimes, bathroom breaks and playtime can help make the transition easier on both you and your pet. When building out the schedule, keep in mind that younger pets typically need to relieve themselves more often, and puppies and kittens also often require more exercise than older pets. Plan time for daily walks, solo playtime and trips to the park or backyard to play fetch.
Keep Your Pet Happy and Healthy
While a proper diet and plenty of exercise can go a long way toward keeping your pet feeling his or her best, ensure your furry friend looks the part by regularly bathing him or her and maintaining a healthy coat by brushing often with at-home grooming tools. It is also important to find a veterinarian who’s equipped to handle breed-specific needs and schedule routine checkups to stay on top of vaccines and any potential health concerns. Speak with your foster coordinator to find out about foster-specific requirements.
Find more tips for welcoming a new pet into your household at petsmart.com. Photo courtesy of Getty Images