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!

Summer Has Collapsed Into Fall

“And all at once, summer collapsed into fall.” This quote by Oscar Wilde has certainly proven true out here on the Iowa prairie, and we are all suddenly thinking about winterizing our homes and cars, and making cold-weather-plans for our four-footed friends. It may be true that some breeds tolerate the cold better than others, but few dogs do well left outside for extended periods of time in cold, damp weather.

We discourage caregivers from keeping dogs outside all of the time in any weather, but the risk is certainly worse when the temperatures drop below the freezing mark. And remember that temperature is not the only factor to consider; wind chill makes conditions even more dangerous for animals.

If, for some reason, you do not want your dog in the main part of your home, surely there is a heated porch, an entryway, or even a corner in the garage that could be made into a cozy spot for her. If you accepted the responsibility of caring for an animal, you must also recognize the importance of finding a warm, comfortable place for her to stay. If she has behavioral issues, the solution is not to banish her to the back yard, but to spend the necessary time to train her. Dogs are smart and eager to comply to human rules, but they must be taught what the rules are.

Perhaps one of the most important considerations to prepare your pet for winter is nutrition. A high quality nutritionally balanced diet is essential. To find out how different foods rate, you can go to www.dogfoodadvisor.com which rates all of the major dog foods. Check out the food you are currently using—you may be surprised at what you find. All dog foods are not created equal and with all the clever marketing techniques used, it is difficult to sort out what is good and what is simply advertising hype.

Every year dogs die from ingesting traditional ethylene glycol-based antifreeze. It smells and tastes good to them, but it is very toxic. Never keep antifreeze where curious dogs (or children) can reach it, and remember that antifreeze sometimes collects on driveways and roadways. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, at least 10,000 dogs drink antifreeze every year because of the pleasant sweet taste. It takes only a small amount of traditional antifreeze to cause serious problems to the dog’s kidneys, and most dogs who drink it will die.

With winter just around the corner, don’t think that the fleas have all gone south. Most of us don’t associate fleas with dropping temperatures, but the fact is that fleas are more prevalent now than at any other time of the year. Throughout the summer, flea populations have increased and are peaking in the fall. They are also seeking out warm bodies and other warm places to feed and exist, so it is important to continue using flea preventatives well into the winter. A little extra prevention is better than having to deal with a flea infestation.

The use of rodenticides increases in the fall as rodents seek shelter from the cooler outdoor temperatures by attempting to move indoors. Rodenticides are highly toxic to pets, so if you use these products, be careful to put them in places inaccessible to your pets.

Don’t use cooler weather as an excuse to skip walking the dog…an exercise-deprived can get a serious case of cabin fever, which often leads to frustration-induced behaviors such as destructiveness and hyperactivity.

We are surrounded by potential dangers for our four-footed friends, but with a few extra precautions, you can keep your pet safe and healthy during these crisp, cool autumn months.

Needy Dogs are All Around Us

I seldom repeat a column, but this is such a current problem, by request, I am sharing it again (originally published in 2012).

 

NEEDY DOGS ARE ALL AROUND US

As Iowa weather grows colder, I would like to share an observation by Cherine Bissinger:

“As the weather turns nasty, I cannot suppress my deep feelings of desperation for the countless animals forced to endure a torturous existence with owners who willfully neglect or casually ignore the basic needs of their four-footed companions. Every day I am surrounded by humans who never extend an act of kindness toward voiceless, living creatures. Driving to work, I am horrified by the sight of helpless animals without any visible shelter. ‘What is the matter with us?’ I think to myself. ‘How can we allow such suffering?’ As I drive into town I see total disregard for decency and blatant lack of compassion for animal welfare, and as I park my car at work, my attention is drawn to the sight of a dog wagging his tail. The sun has barely risen, and the home where the dog is tied is dark. Apparently this innocent dog has spent the night outside in the blustery wind and cold, while his humans slept contentedly indoors, apparently oblivious of the painful effects of such inhumanity. I walk toward the dog, and he jumps up as much as the length of his chain will permit. He is shivering wildly, and I whisper words of comfort to the dog. I tell him how sorry I am for his predicament, and regretfully turn to walk into my workplace. Each step I take away from the dog, I imagine his desolate look of devastation for having been forgotten and ignored. I think of the thousands of animals suffering in silence. Life is unjust, and like the neglected animals, I feel helpless. When will things change? Feeble anti-cruelty laws, little enforcement of existing laws, and most of all public apathy are overwhelming. What has happened to us as human beings that we can ignore the plight of so many animals?”

We are all aware of dogs in our own neighborhoods who are not enjoying a good life. Maybe their caregivers don’t even realize that their dog is suffering. Without being judgmental, perhaps you could suggest ways to make life better. If you feel the dog is in danger, report it to the authorities, and follow up to be sure that appropriate action is taken. Each of us has a circle of compassion: the people and animals and things that we care about, that emotionally affect us. It may be our own family, our own friends, and our own pets, but not the family, friends, or pets belonging to others. It may be those just in our own comfort zone. Essentially, we all need the same things as the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion: compassion, intelligence, and the courage to make the world a better place for both humans and animals. May we all strive to expand our circle of compassion.

 

 A PRAYER FOR THE ANIMALS

by Albert Schweitzer

 Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends, the animals,

 Especially for those who are suffering;

For any that are lost or deserted, or frightened, or hungry.

We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity,

And for those who deal with them, we ask hearts of compassion,

And gentle hands and kindly words.

Help us to be true friends to the animals,

And so to share the blessings of the merciful.

 

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.

Here A Mill, There a Mill

A puppy mill is a breeding operation where too many dogs are kept in overcrowded and often inferior conditions, without adequate veterinary care, food and water, or human interaction, and sadly they are found in every state in the country. Life in a puppy mill is grim. The dogs do not experience simple pleasures like exercise, basic grooming, treats and toys. A breeding female might spend her entire life confined in a filthy wire cage, bred over and over again, year after year, without human interaction. When she is no longer able to produce litters, she will be killed or abandoned. . “There they sit, huddled in dirty, cramped cages; frail bodies shiver in defeat, sadness reflected in their eyes. They long to be loved but no one seems to care. They are property to be bought and sold.”

Most of the pets sold in pet stores, through classified ads, and over the internet, come from puppy mills. Often puppy mills sell directly to consumers through web sites that give the impression that they are reputable breeders. If you decide to buy a puppy directly from a breeder, do not do so without seeing where the puppies AND THEIR PARENTS are being raised and housed. Reputable breeders should be glad to show you where the animals are housed and how they care for the animals. If a breeder refuses you this option, don’t walk, RUN away.

Puppy mills will continue to flourish as long as consumers keep buying dogs through stores, ads, and over the internet, and almost all these puppies come from puppy mills, regardless of what you are told. Make a better choice for animals by adopting from a shelter or rescue group, and by encouraging others to do the same.

If you want to add a dog to your family, please understand that,,,

  • Reputable breeders care where their puppies go, and interview potential adopters. They don’t sell through pet stores, newspaper ads, Craig’s List, or internet sites without meeting the prospective family.
  • Puppy mill/pet store dogs often have medical problems but pet retailers don’t care that poor breeding and lack of socialization may lead to behavior problems throughout the dogs’ lives. They count on the bond between families and their new puppies being so strong that the puppies won’t be returned.
  • ”Purebred” documents aren’t worth the paper they are written on. Even the American Kennel Association admits that it “cannot guarantee the quality of health of the dogs in its registry.”
  • A “USDA inspected” breeder doesn’t necessarily mean a good breeder. The USDA has very minimal standards, with many USDA licensed puppy mills operating under deplorable conditions.
  • The bottom line is for people to stop buying puppy mill dogs.,,if the mills and pet stores don’t make money, they will close….so it is up to you and me.

To improve the plight of puppy mill dogs, we must enact AND ENFORCE standards of care for the animals with higher standards for those selling them. The USDA is not going to do much to better the lives of these animals—it is up to us to become involved. I regularly hear, “It’s so sad, but there isn’t anything I can do.” WRONG…there is something everyone can do! Animal welfare and rescue groups are struggling to pass better legislation, but if things are ever to REALLY change for the animals that we claim to care so much about, we must ALL join the cause.

Dogs suffer deprivation and death in nightmare puppy mills…that is a documented fact. Puppy mills are deplorable places…that is a documented fact. The cruelty will stop only when people stop buying pet store dogs, and we pass better legislation to ensure better lives for our companion animals…those are documented facts..

UNSEEN THEY SUFFER; UNHEARD THEY CRY; IN AGONY THEY LINGER; IN LONELINESS THEY DIE.

 

Backyard Dogs

It is a widely held misconception that dogs will be happy and healthy living only in the back yard. Current studies in dog psychology indicate that dogs isolated in back yards are very likely to develop behavioral problems. Dogs are instinctively pack animals, and forcing a dog to live away from its humans goes against a dog’s most basic instincts. Isolated, a dog exhibits stress by digging, barking, chewing, escaping, and exhibiting troublesome problems.

Dogs need companionship. When you have a dog, you become the dog’s pack and he wants to be with his pack. Forcing her to live outside with little human companionship is one of the most damaging things a pet care giver can do to a dog. Backyard dogs do not develop strong bonds with humans, making him harder to train than a dog allowed to be in the home with the family. Back yard dogs usually do not have the opportunity to become socialized to people and other dogs, so they may become fearful or even aggressive.

Dogs that are tied up or chained outside suffer great frustration!. They also are unable to escape from other animals or people who mean to do them harm. They can also become entangled and do harm to themselves. Several states are finally enacting laws prohibiting tethering your dog for extended time. Unless people have time to spend with their dog, it is best to not get a dog. A sad, lonely, bewildered dog tied out back only suffers, and hopefully no one wants to maintain suffering.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DOG TIED IN THE BACK YARD:

Early morning: I can see and hear people moving around in the house. I am hungry and thirsty. I tipped over my food and water bowls last night when I got tangled in my chain. The chain is too tight, and it is cutting into my neck.

8:15 A.M: the people in the house are all leaving. I try to run toward them with my tail wagging, hoping they will notice me, but my chain snaps me backward. It is no use.

8:15 A.M. -2:00 P.M. : I am not sure what I am supposed to do. I can’t protect the house from my short chain. I don’t have any toys to play with. Maybe if I bark, someone will show me what to do, or come to play with me, so I bark.

2:30: The animal control officer arrives and posts a notice on the door of the house. He looks at me and sadly shakes his head. Do I look bad? I know I’m dirty but it is hard to be clean when I’m always sitting in dirt. I pace in circles and bark because I don’t know what else to do.

3;15: The smallest person in the family comes home, but he doesn’t pay any attention. I go to the bathroom in the same place, the only place I can.

5:30: the rest of the people come home. One of them removes the notice left by the animal control officer and yells at me to stop barking. I pace back and forth, confused.

6:00 I am still hungry and thirsty. One of the people from the house comes out and fills my food and water bowls. I am so happy for this attention I jump up in excitement, spilling both bowls and dirtying his clothes. He yells at me that this behavior is one of the reasons no one wants anything to do with me.

8:00: Another lonely night. I am sad and bewildered. I dream about being on a chain because it’s all I know.

Be realistic. Making the backyard your dog’s home does not make him part of your family. Dogs offer steadfast devotion, abiding love, and joyful companionship, and unless you have the time and commitment to return them in kind, please do not get a dog.

 

Down in the Dumps

“Down in the dumps” is a phrase humans often use when depressed or unhappy. This was a commonplace expression used frequently in plays and manuscripts from the 16th century on. Shakespeare used the term several times, for example, in The Taming of the Shrew. No one really knows if dogs suffer from clinical depression similar to humans but we know that they experience mood and behavior changes. Since dogs can’t talk to us, we must rely on observation to determine if a canine is feeling “down in the dumps.”

Changes in behavior symptomatic of depression, including lack of appetite, having accidents in the house, sleeping more than usual, reluctance to exercise, and sudden aggressive behavior in a usually mild mannered dog should be evaluated by a veterinarian. If the dog gets a clean bill of health, perhaps the problem is depression.

Dogs are social animals and many are left alone long hours without access to human contact, access to bathroom facilities, or an outlet for their energy. If the time you are able to spend with your dog doesn’t seem adequate, consider asking a friend to stop by while you are gone, or consider doggie day care, or hiring a dog walker.

  • Pets do best when their daily routine is consistent. Try to keep exercise, walks, playtime, bedtime, and other regular activities on as regular a schedule as possible.
  • Be careful to not reward his depression. Giving extra attention to a dog who is displaying an undesirable behavior can reinforce the behavior.
  • Give it time…..your dog’s depression may take a few days or even weeks to blow over, but usually most bets return to their normal selves.
  • Keep your dog’s mealtimes and diet the same. It is important to give him the same food he’s used to, at the same time each day, but you might consider making him some homemade treats. Here are a couple recipes that will be appreciated by any dog, whether ‘down in the dumps” or not!!

PEANUT BUTTER-PUMPKIN TREATS

  • 2 ½ cups flour (preferably whole wheat)
  •  2 eggs
  •  ½ cup canned pumpkin (NOT pie mix)
  •  2 Tablespoons peanut butter
  •  ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Mix together.
  2. Add enough water to make the dough workable, but stiff.
  3. Roll into balls.
  4. Flatten with a glass or the palm of your hand.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. For harder treats, bake for 40 minutes.

MICROWAVE BOW WOW BONES

  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup beef or chicken broth
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tablespoon bacon bits or grated cheese (or both
  1. Grease a microwave safe dish (and grease your hands!)
  2. Mix the ingredients and knead with your greased hands (add a bit more broth if needed)
  3. Roll into small rolls…like mini tootsie rolls
  4. Place in a dish and microwave for about 4-5 minutes or until hard (microwaves differ, so check the bones a couple times)

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.