It’s No Happy New Year for Many Dogs

Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

If you drive around your neighborhood, you will see many chained up dogs shivering in the cold. Winter weather means extra hardship for ‘backyard” dogs, and, as responsible pet caregivers, we acknowledge that it is inhumane treatment, but we seem to just look the other way and are silent. These dogs suffer from frostbite, exposure, and dehydration, and often have nowhere to go to escape the cold and snow. Why do so many dogs end up at the end of a chain? There are many excuses. Animals are still considered property in the eyes of the law, and some caregivers view their dogs as “possessions” to do with as they please. Others just shrug and say that people have always kept dogs that way. Some simply don’t want the animal in the house and resort to a chain to prevent him from running away. Most have tired of the responsibility of adequately caring for a dog or are not willing to deal with a behavior problem, and have simply relegated him to the outdoors—tied or penned up. There are thousands of chained dogs in this country who exist with deprivation and loneliness. Let’s begin the New Year by breaking our silence about all the chained and penned up dogs. Lori Oswald tells this true story of a backyard dog.

Donovan was not a special dog. He never pulled a child from in front of an oncoming car; he didn’t win a ribbon in a dog show; he was quite an ordinary dog. His owners could be considered quite ordinary too…a nice family with two children, who decided fourteen years earlier to get a dog. A dog would be fun. So one day, perhaps at a shopping center giveaway, or maybe from the pet section of the local ads, they found Donovan, and brought him home. At first the kids were excited, but the newness soon wore off. Dad build a small house and they staked him outside with a chain attached to it, agreeing that he would be “just fine” outside. I never met Donovan. Although I regularly visited his house, I never even knew he existed. He lived 24/7 on a six foot chain, digging holes for entertainment, watching as life passed him by. Mom assured everyone that he was “well cared for.” For 14 years Donovan lived out back on his chain, hungering for a little attention and affection. One day he finally escaped his little world on a chain and holes and dog house—he died. Donovan, unfortunately, is not a fictional character. Neither are his owners. They have been looking around for another dog. “We sure miss Donovan,” they lament.

How many Donovans are in your neighborhood? It’s no Happy New Year for dogs on chains, and it is up to us to break our silence and say “NO! It is not okay to allow dogs to be tethered for extended periods of time.” A dog is a pack animal and needs to be treated as part of the family.

 

A New Year. A Fresh Start

Most of us have made New Year’s lists of good intentions…which we usually quickly forget.   We really do plan to eat healthier, exercise more, and clean out our closets.   Overworked, overstressed, and always in a hurry, we seem to regret the past and worry about the future, rather than savoring the moment.   There is a lesson to be learned from our four-footed friends as legendary Field And Stream writer Gene Hill says in his piece, “Just My Dog”:

He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds.  He has told me a thousand times that I am his reason for being, by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile, by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him.  (I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.)  When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive.  When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile.  When I am happy, he is joy unbounded.  When I am a fool, he enjoys it; when I succeed, he brags.  Without him, I am only a man.   With him, I am all-powerful.  He has taught me so much, including the meaning of devotion.  With him, I know a secret comfort and private peace.  He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant.  His head on my knee can heal my human hurts.  His presence by my side is protection against my fears.  He has promised to wait for me…whenever…wherever…just in case I need him.  And I expect I will, as I always have.

Here are a few resolutions that would benefit your dog;

*Daily walks are good for both you and your dog.  Don’t walk the same path every day; canines need to smell  new scents, mark their territory, and discover new things.  It also gives you the opportunity to clear your own head, and forget your schedule, your cell phones and all the activities of the day.   Focus on the moment.

*Many dogs need a professional groomer’s touch once in a while, but you can certainly do regular brushing and maintenance.   If your dog smells bad, it’s time for a bath.  Hopefully you have access to a deep sink, or even a tub, and a place to keep shampoos, conditioners, combs clippers, and towels.

*A scrambled egg is a healthy addition to your pet’s diet…raw carrots are always a good treat.  Forget the unhealthy, commercial treats.  Here’s an easy-to-make recipe for homemade biscuits:

Mix 1 egg,  ½ cup of water, 2 ½ cups flour, ½ cup non-fat dry milk powder, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 5 tablespoons of margarine.  Knead the mixture until the dough forms a ball.  Pinch off small pieces, and place on lightly greased cookie sheet.   Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Dogs love to be included as family, as Donna Hughes explains:

You’re going to the mailbox to drop some letters there……It won’t take long; it’s no big deal.

                Hey, I know—I’ll come too.

                You’re filling up the feeders for the birds in the yard; you don’t need help…it isn’t hard,

                But why don’t I come too?

                You’re driving to Gramma’s house for New Year’s Day…the roads are jammed; the traffic crazy.

                Don’t worry…I’ll come too.

                Your cold is getting worse, and you are sneezing up a storm…

                That cough is bad; you need some rest….to bed now; I’ll come too.

Another quote by Gene Hill:  No one can fully understand the meaning of love unless he is owned by a dog!    A dog can show you more honest affection with a flick of his tail  than a man can gather through a lifetime of handshakes.

Let’s resolve to make this the very best year ever, filled with peace, love, and joy for both the four-footed and two-footed.

HAPPY NEW YEAR.

I’ll Always Be With You

I’LL ALWAYS BE WITH YOU.

Hopefully, all of you dog lovers are also friends with Winnie the Pooh …

not a dog but with the same endearing characteristics of dogs.

“Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too” is truly a golden oldie…

a 1991 Christmas television special based on the Disney television series,

and TV Guide ranked the special number 6 on its l0 Best Family Holiday Specials list.

Two days before Christmas, Christopher Robin writes a letter to Santa Claus

, asking for a few presents, and sends the letter off into the wind, but on Christmas Eve,

since Winnie the Pooh did not ask for anything for himself, they retrieve the letter,

and rewrite it to include Pooh’s present, a pot of honey.

They cast the letter intothe wind again, but the wind shifts,

and they are afraid that Santa will never receive the letter.

Pooh decides that they must take things into their own hands

to make sure gifts are delivered.

Pooh sneaks out and delivers Tigger, Rabbit, and Eeyore

a super-bouncer barrel, a bug sprayer, and a mobile home, respectively,

or rather handmade versions of the said items that break apart upon use.

Pooh finally decides to try to deliver the letter to Santa himself,

telling the gang that it would be worth missing Christmas

if he could “bring Christmas” to them. He does not get far, though

, as the wind suddenly takes the letter, so he gives up. At the Christmas tree,

Pooh’s friends bemoan that spending time with him at Christmas

is more important than getting any gifts, just as Pooh reunites with them.

Christopher Robin shows up on his new sled and brings them all the gifts

they had originally asked for. They celebrate together.

One of my very favorite Pooh quotes is “If there is ever a tomorrow

when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember….

you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem,

and smarter than you think….but the most important thing is,

even if we’re apart, I’ll always be with you.”

 

Holiday Traditions Pose Hazards for Our Dogs

Many of our holiday traditions can pose serious threats to the well-being of our pets. As you begin to prepare for the festive season, be aware of activities that can be potentially dangerous to our four-footed friends.

‘Tis definitely the season for overeating, but it is important to keep your dog on a normal diet. Don’t give your pets holiday leftovers, and keep them out of the garbage. Poultry bones can splinter and cause blockages, and greasy, spicy and fatty foods can give your dog indigestion and diarrhea.

If you serve adult holiday beverages, be sure that alcoholic drinks are always out of reach of curious paws. If ingested, your dog can suffer severe damage, and possibly go into a coma, resulting in death from respiratory failure.

Be careful with holiday floral arrangements. Lilies can cause serious digestive problems, and common Yuletide plants such as mistletoe and holly berries can be potentially toxic. Should a dog (or cat) eat mistletoe, there is a strong likelihood that he will suffer gastrointestinal upset. Holly can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy if ingested.

Traditional tree decorations such as ribbons or tinsel, if ingested, can become lodged in the intestines and cause an obstruction. Take care to prevent your pets from having access to glass ornaments, wires, and cords from holiday decorations. Keep fragile ornaments toward the top if the tree, because, If chewed, such ornaments can damage your pet’s mouth from shards of glass or plastic, while a wire can deliver a potentially fatal electrical shock.

Several popular holiday treats are toxic to dogs. Many candies and other desserts contain the sweetener xylitol which is poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol can cause abnormal heart rate/rhythm, and even seizures. Be sure to dispose of candy wrappers carefully, because ingesting aluminum foil or cellophane can pose a choking hazard or cause intestinal blockage.

Be sure to cover the Christmas tree water. Stagnant tree water can act as a breeding ground for bacteria, and if ingested, a pet could end up with abdominal discomfort, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Remember that a dog will quickly know if a gift contains something edible, even if the humans don’t. Ask your guests in advance if there is food inside the presents, and keep them out of paws’ reach.

PLEASE do not even consider giving a puppy as a holiday gift. Usually giving a puppy for emotional reasons turns out badly. Love is not the problem because everyone loves a puppy, but people need to have some basic knowledge about the commitment and responsibility of caring for a pet. Accept the same philosophy as adopting a child. You don’t just give a kid away. Everyone must understand the responsibility of caring for a child, and the same holds true with a dog. A dog is not for Christmas; it is for life, and the holiday season is a busy time. We have all seen the ads depicting adorable puppies with red bows…Adorable? Absolutely. But in real life the holidays are not a great time to introduce a new puppy into the family.

The first few days with a pup are important, and it’s difficult to give a new dog the attention she deserves when everyone’s focus is on the big holiday. Puppies need lots of help at first to understand rules, and in a busy home, visitors are coming and going and doors opened to welcome guests make it easy for a pup to slip out unnoticed.

If you decide to give your family a puppy, please don’t take her home amidst the holiday excitement. Instead, wrap up a collar, dog dish, some puppy toys, and maybe a photo of the pup, and put those under the tree. Then wait until the festivities are over to actually bring the new puppy into your home. This accomplishes the puppy surprise, but allows time to make your home puppy safe, and give your new pup the attention she’ll need to adjust. Most of all, be committed to a LIFE LONG relationship

The Season for Caring and Sharing

‘Tis the season for caring and sharing, with the holiday season definitely in full swing, which means an over abundance of rich foods, many of which are not healthy for our four-legged friends …..actually many of them are not healthy for two-legs either, but we won’t dwell on that (or the fact that we stuffed ourselves at Thanksgiving)!

Holiday staples that are hazardous to pets include your turkey, which is usually basted in tasty herbs and spices that would likely upset her stomach. The fatty skin, and added salty brine isn’t good for her. Resist her begging looks and don’t share more than a small, (very small), bit of turkey breast, or you risk causing a life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas which requires immediate medical attention. .

When the turkey is gone, the bones that remain are NOT good chew toys ….they are brittle choking hazards that usually splinter if chewed. Be mindful of any bones on the table, kitchen counter, or trash, so your inquisitive pooch doesn’t make himself a bone buffet.

What do you put in your stuffing? This is a dish that usually includes some onions, mushrooms, garlic, and butter, none of which your dog should have. And then there’s the gravy, often loaded with garlic, onions, spices and herbs that are not safe for dogs. Since garlic is a member of the onion family (as far as dogs are concerned), garlic bread is also a no-no for them Sausage also contains onions, garlic, and other spices harmful to a dog’s health.

Raisins should never be given as a treat, and fruit with seeds or pits should be avoided, because they inflame the intestines. No plums, peaches, or grapes either!

If you bake for the holidays, it is important to NOT leave yeast dough on the counter unattended. Dogs will eat anything, and if yeast dough sits in his stomach, it can expand due to the warm, moist environment which can cause stomach upset, bloat, and twisting of the stomach. Yeast dough which ferments in the stomach can morph into alcohol and carbon dioxide which can become toxic very quickly as it is rapidly absorbed into the dog’s G.I. tract.

Most cooks know that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but dogs are curious creatures, and can often snag a chuck of chocolate off the table or counter. Theobromine and caffeine are two components in chocolate that stimulate the nervous system and cause severe symptoms.

Xylitol is a popular sugar substitute used in a ton of products, including baked goods, some peanut butters, gums, mints, chewable vitamins Life threatening conditions can result when ingested by dogs,

Both pumpkin and sweet potatoes are good for dogs, but at the holiday season, many people add cinnamon and nutmeg to their pumpkin or sweet potato dishes. Not good for the dogs!

Dogs shouldn’t be eating desert anyway, but some are worse than others. Pecan pie contains nuts which can cause muscle spasms and weakness of the legs, and is also loaded with sugar, nutmeg, and other not-so-dog friendly ingredients. (Nutmeg is added to many holiday desserts and is toxic to our canine companions.) Walnuts and macadamia nuts should be kept out of paw’s reach..

You certainly don’t intend to feed your dog rotted, moldy food, but trashcans are treasure cans for canines. Your overflowing trashcan can contain moldy foods that produce harmful mycotoxins, which can do serious damage to your dog’s health.

If you serve alcoholic beverages, keep them away from your dog. Accidental ingestion can cause severe coma, slowed respiration, and a life-threateningly low blood sugar in your dog.

If you suspect that your dog has ingested something poisonous, contact your veterinarian right away, but prevention is a better solution. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!!!

Thanksgiving 2018 – Give Thanks!

Time speeds by at an alarming pace, and it is easy to focus on what we don’t have, rather than what we do have, leaving us wishing for what is not in our lives instead of valuing what is. Back in the ‘old days’, a popular song put it this way: “accentuate the positive; eliminate the negative; latch on to the affirmative; don’t mess with Mr. In-between.” Good advice then. Good advice now. Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for our faith, our family, and our friends, both two-legged and four legged. We are truly blessed and are reminded that, although most of us have much, there are those who have little, and it is our responsibility to help, by both word and deed, those who lack many things which we take for granted. It is also a good time to pause and reflect on the role that companion animals play in our lives…their total loyalty, their cheerful spirits, and their unconditional love are priceless gifts.

Pastor Mark Wessels offers this special Thanksgiving prayer:

Lord, don’t let me ever forget how much I need my trusty dog…Help me to disregard the canine craters in my yard. Show me how to be cheerful even when the place is muddy. Don’t allow my dog to munch delivery men for lunch. Help me not to scowl or shout when my pup decides to howl. Grant me peace, not fear, when I feel a cold nose in my ear. Give me patience without end and help me be my dog’s best friend. Remind me that I am blessed to have her to cuddle and enjoy…..keep me thankful both today and all year long. 

Rescued dogs everywhere celebrate, knowing that they will never experience the loneliness that they hear in the barks of dogs still “out there” shivering in the cold and afraid. They know that whatever happens, they have humans who will be there for them. They will be taught the things they need to know to be loved by others. They will never be cast out because they are too old, too ill, too rowdy, or just not cute enough. If ill, they will receive medical treatment; if scared, they will be comforted; if sad, they will be cheered. They know that they have loving, forever homes. They are thankful! There are many, many needy dogs who still need forever homes, and they too would be filled with gratitude if you opened your heart and home for one!

“The year has turned full circle; the seasons come and go. The harvest is gathered in, and the north winds will blow. As we pause to count our blessings we realize that we are blessed. We count our gains, instead of losses; our joys instead of woes. We count our friends instead of foes; count our smiles instead of tears. We hug our family friends, both human and canine, and know that we are truly blessed”

Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive. If we find a way to be thankful for our troubles, they can often become our blessings. An old saying admonishes us to “rise up and be thankful…if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little; and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick; and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so let us all be thankful!” Rather than complain, let’s be thankful!

Halloween Pet Dangers

Halloween is a fun time for the kids, but it can be a time of stress and anxiety for your pets. PLEASE do not leave your dog outside where it can become the prey for pranksters. Many animals are teased, injured, stolen, or even killed on Halloween. If badly frightened, a pet may escape even from a fenced yard and get lost or injured. If you, or someone you know, keep pets outside, we encourage you to make changes and keep them indoors. It is best to keep them in a separate room during trick or treat time. Too many strangers in weird costumes can frighten even the calmest dog, and a frightened pooch may bolt out the door.

Very few dogs enjoy being dressed up in a costume. It is big business for pet stores and the internet to offer really cute doggie costumes, but we really advise you to forget the costume. As cute as they are, costumes pose a danger to your pet’s well-being. Depending on the outfit, the temperature, and your pet’s hair coat, it’s easier than you might think for him to overheat while all dressed up. Pets have also been injured when their range of motion, vision, or hearing is restricted by a costume, or when they frantically try to remove it. Many costumes contain buttons, bows, and other small accessories that can be pulled off and swallowed. It is important to make this about your pet. If he seems anxious, fearful, or uncomfortable, don’t force him to wear it. If you can’t resist dressing him up, just use a decorative bandana!

Candles, including the small ones inside jack ‘o lanterns, are fire hazards. You don’t want your dog getting too friendly or feisty with a carved pumpkin with a candle inside it. Make sure that any of these types of decorations are up well out of the dog’s reach.

We also discourage taking the dog along trick-or-treating. He may become overexcited and break loose. Leave the dog home.

Do not leave Halloween treats where the dog can reach them. Dogs do not properly digest sugary treats, and chocolate and candy with zylitol are toxic. (Zylitol is a sugar substitute that is showing up in all kinds of products, including sugar-free candy, gum, mints and baked goods.) A small amount of xylitol can cause a rapid, dangerous blood sugar drop and acute liver failure.

Halloween candy isn’t the only health hazard for pets. Empty candy wrappers smell like what was in them, which can intrigue your pet. Ingestion of cellophane wrappers or foil can case life-threatening bowel obstructions. Emphasize to everyone, especially the kids, the importance of keeping all candy wrappers out of paws’ reach.

Some people give non-candy treats, and a recent fad is the small boxes of raisins, or small bags of trail mix containing raisins. Raisins are toxic to dogs and very small amounts can trigger kidney failure. Chocolate covered raisins pose an even larger risk.

Talk to your children about the importance of respecting animals, and not pulling pranks on dogs. Encourage them to tell you if they see anyone annoying an animal. It is a good opportunity to discuss respect, responsibility, and compassion toward both humans and animals.

Taking just a few common sense precautions will make Halloween a lot more fun for both four-leggeds and two-leggeds. Have a safe, happy Halloween.

 

Halloween is a Nightmare for your Dog!

Scary costumes, spooky music, and chocolate treats all make Halloween lots of fun—for people, but those same things can create frightening and stressful experiences for your animal companions. The noises, trick-or-treaters at the door, and people in weird costumes can stimulate even the calmest dog to become fearful or aggressive.

Halloween dress-up for your dog has given pet stores and on-line pet supply sites another lucrative opportunity to make money, and every year I remind people that this is a commercial venture targeted to humans, not for the enjoyment of the dogs who prefer their birthday suits rather than cutesy costumes. Dogs are dogs; they do not need to be dressed up– most are not thrilled about wearing a costume and , however adorable they may be, most are uncomfortable, annoying, and potentially dangerous. It is easy for her to get tangled up, or become frantic, while all dressed up. My advice is always to FORGET DOG COSTUMES , and spend a few bucks on a safe toy–maybe a new Kong– that your dog will enjoy for months to come. If, however, you are determined to see your dog in a Halloween outfit , please consider these tips for keeping him safe , and hopefully stress free.

  • Make sure the outfit doesn’t restrict his movements in any way. Tightness around your dog’s neck, paws, legs, and torso, or tight elastics can pinch his body and be very uncomfortable. He’ll have to walk, run, and take potty breaks, so the costume needs room in the legs, and not get in the way when nature calls.
  • Keep in mind that your dog is probably not used to a costume, so don’t leave him dressed up for an extended period of time. He could get uncomfortable and irritated enough to shred the costume or even lash out with a bite or scratch.
  • The costume should not restrict his sight or hearing, and should not impede his ability to breathe or bark.
  • As cute as they might be, some elaborate costumes can cause your dog to overheat. Consider the temperature, and your dog’s coat to be sure that the outfit is not too heavy for the weather.
  • I browsed through a costume section, and it was obvious that many of them would most likely hinder a dog’s vision which could be very dangerous. Many of them also had small dangling accessories that the dog might chew of and swallow. Buttons, ribbons and tassels could cause intestinal blockage or choking if swallowed.
  • Most costumes are made from cheap, scratchy material to which your dog could have an adverse reaction, possibly causing an itchy rash, and possible infection. If your dog tries to scratch and rub the outfit off, please forget it.

It is important to have a couple dress rehearsals prior to the big night. Let your dog examine the outfit before you put it on him. Place the costume one the floor, and allow your dog sniff it…then drape part of the costume over his back, repeating this process several times before your actually put it on him. Take it on and off several times, and if your dog is distressed, allergic or shows abnormal anxiety, please don’t force him to wear it. Animals want desperately to please their caregivers, but we need to be concerned about their feelings, rather than our amusement. It is up to us to make sure that our dog’s Halloween doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

Fall is in the Air

Fall is in the air now… time to .say good-by to summer. Birds are migrating; trees are changing garb, with leaves transforming from golden to brown. Hopefully fall will bring calm after all the summer storms, but fall also brings many hazards for your pets:

  • Antifreeze—antifreeze typically contains ethylene glycol, an odorless but sweet-tasting chemical that is toxic to pets Ingesting just a small amount can potentially lead to kidney failure, seizures, and even death for your animals. The ASPCA Poison Control Center reports that every year thousands of dogs die from ingesting traditional ethylene glycol-based antifreeze. Do not keep antifreeze where dogs (or children) can reach it, and remember than antifreeze sometimes collects on driveways and roadways. We recommend that you check out propylene glycol-based antifreeze. It is more expensive, but is less toxic and tastes somewhat bitter, making it less attractive to dogs.
  • Rodenticides—the use of mouse and rat poisons increases in the fall, so it is imperative to make sure that none remain within reach of your pets. Many common products such as grain-based pellets or wax blocks are highly toxic to pets and can be fatal if even a small amount is ingested.
  • Mushrooms—mushrooms have been abundant this fall because of the wetter weather. It is difficult to differentiate between poisonous and nonpoisonous…they look very much alike and often grow together. Make sure that your pet is kept away from all mushrooms, and if you think your pet may have eaten one, contact your veterinarian right away.
  • School items—school backpacks are filled with pet dangers—glue sticks, crayons, and markers, and although they may not be extremely toxic, they can cause stomach distress and pose choking hazards. Lunch leftovers, medications, and sugar-free gum (which may contain zylitol) are also potentially dangerous items that a curious pet my find in an open backpack. Keep all school items in closed backpacks or areas where pets do not have access.
  • Decorations—fall decorations with corncobs can cause intestinal blockage, and if your dog has access to an outdoor play yard, be sure to check for any corncobs that the squirrels may have carried into the pet area. Your decorations may look like toys to your pets, so be cautious with the types of decorations you use. Avoid strings or ribbons dangling enticingly from the decorations.
  • Outdoor grilling—Barbecues can be a dangerous place for your pets. They may ingest skewers, or they may get into potentially toxic foods or alcohol Most pet caregivers are aware that chocolate is toxic to pets, but bones, raw bread dough, grapes, raisins, and onions can also present health problems. Hard candies, candy wrappers, lollipop sticks also pose choking or intestinal blockage threats.
  • Fatty foods can lead not only to an upset stomach but also to inflammation of the pancreas which can be quite dangerous. Pancreatitis can cause severe pain, lethargy, and vomiting, and in some cases can be life-threatening. If your dog shows these signs, you need to call your veterinarian right away.
  • Household medications—Be sure to keep medications out of reach of your pet’s reach. Acetaminophen can be toxic, and decongestants can cause elevated heart rate, possibly leading to seizures. Many pets will happily lap up any pills that may be dropped, and if a pet has ingested medication meant for humans, or something potentially toxic, don’t spend time trying to decide what to do. Call your vet right away.

Prevention is always the best approach. Be alert to dangers that may be encountered, and pet-proof your home from these hazards, so that you can safely enjoy the fall season with your dog. Vigilance is the key to keeping your pet safe this season and all year round.

 

Beat the Back to School Blues

As we enjoy the last days of summer, and prepare for fall changes, it is possible that pet caregivers may not think about what it means to the family dog. Dogs thrive on routine; it makes them feel secure, and they don’t understand why the kids go back to school, and aren’t around for playing and giving extra love and snuggles. College students leave, and older adults may be preoccupied with missing the kids and reorganizing their own lives. The result can be a lonely dog who just mopes around and sleeps more than usual, or becomes destructive. A little planning can forestall most problems.

  • Maintain routine as much as possible. Although your dog’s caregiver may change, her routine shouldn’t. Plan to eat, walk, and play at the same times, but avoid spending all your time with the dog. Gradually accustom her to your absence by leaving her alone for short periods, and then work on up to being gone for several hours If your dog has been clingy to the kids all summer, regularly interrupt her shadowing them around the house by baby-gating her into another room for brief periods.
  • Keep comings and goings low key. No huggy/kissy, “I’ll miss you” scenes that will often fuel anxiety in your dog. Ignore your dog for a few minutes before you leave and after you return to help lower his excitement level, and reduce the tension level he feels.
  • Those old T-shirts you were planning to throw out can serve a new purpose—leave an item of your clothing in your pet’s bed while you are away. Your familiar scent may comfort her.
  • EXERCISE. EXERCISE. EXERCISE. A tired dog is a good dog—for good reason. A dog who has gotten some serious exercise will seldom get into much trouble.
  • Leave the television or radio on, or better yet, play the heartbeat music therapy CD, Canine Lullabies, which is available from Terry Woodford. For more information, visit www.caninelullabies. This amazing CD actually does reduce anxiety and settles hyperactivity.
  • Provide diversions. Every dog deserves at least a couple Kongs. These toys are uniquely shaped of durable rubber and have hollow centers which can be filled with “good stuff.” Unstuffing Kongs can keep dogs busy for hours as they go for the nuggets stuffed inside. A simple stuffing can be just a little peanut butter rubbed inside the Kong, some kibble, a few doggie treats, and maybe a couple small chunks of cheese. If your dog has never had a stuffed Kong, make it easy to remove the stuffing at first, so they succeed at their removal work. Gradually make their job more challenging by packing the stuffing tighter. For creative ways to stuff your Kong, go to www.kongcompany.com. Most dogs love raw baby carrots, so you might hide a few around the house for him to play “Find It.”

Help your dog beat the back to school blues, and if problems arise, remember punishment for anxiety or inappropriate behavior is NEVER appropriate. A dog misbehaves because he is anxious or upset, not out of spite or to get even. No matter what he does while you are gone, punishment will only intensify the problems. Good caregivers know that positive reinforcement, persistence, and patience can correct just about any difficulty.