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Ten Tips for Winterizing Your Pets

Oh, the weather outside is frightful! Winter weather is rapidly approaching and you’ve likely begun layering your clothing and weatherproofing your car. When organizing for winter, don’t forget to think about your pets. They too are deserving of special treatment this time of year. Here are ten tips for keeping your pets cozy, comfortable, and healthy this winter:

1.  Just as arthritis can be more problematic for us when the temperature drops, so too does this apply to our animals. If your best buddy appears stiff first thing in the morning or is more tentative when navigating stairs or jumping up and down off the furniture, I encourage you to contact your veterinarian. These days, there are so many beneficial treatment options for soothing arthritis discomfort. For your pet’s sake, make the effort to learn more about them.

2.  When the temperature drops, outdoor kitties like to snuggle up against car engines for extra warmth. Be sure to provide plenty of notice before you start up your engine lest a “kitty squatter” sustain serious injury as a result of moving auto parts. Vocalize and tap the hood a few times. Better yet, lift the hood to alert any slumbering guests of your intentions.

3.  Antifreeze is terribly toxic for dogs and cats. Even a few licks of the stuff can cause kidney failure and severe neurological symptoms, usually resulting in death. Unfortunately, most antifreeze products have a sweet flavor making them appealing to dogs. Cats are too discriminating to voluntarily taste the stuff, but should they step in antifreeze, they will ingest enough to be toxic during their grooming process. Please prevent your pets from having any access to antifreeze by checking under your vehicles for leaks and storing antifreeze containers in a safe place.

4.  Wintertime is definitely dress-up time for dogs, when the clothing is functional rather than just adorable. Just like us, many dogs are more comfortable outside when wearing an extra layer. Smaller dogs in particular have difficulty maintaining a normal body temperature when exposed to freezing conditions. If the love of your canine life happens to be an Arctic breed (Malamute, Husky, Samoyed), no need for canine clothing!

5.  Regardless of season, all animals need access to water round-the-clock. If your pet is reliant on an outdoor water bowl, strategize a way to prevent the water from freezing. Water bowl heaters work well. Additionally moving water is more resistant to freezing- consider creating a little “drinking fountain” for your pets.

6.  Sure the weather is cold, but your dogs still need plenty of exercise for their physical as well as their psychological well-being. Besides, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of relaxing by the fire with a content and tired dog at your side! If the weather is truly too inclement for both of you to be outdoors, look for an indoor dog park or consider doggie day care, assuming your dog enjoys such venues.

7.  I’m all for hiking with dogs off leash, but in winter be extra cautious around ponds and lakes for fear of thin ice. Not only is falling through the ice life threatening for dogs, it creates a situation that often becomes life threatening for the humans involved in the rescue operation.

8.  Salt on sidewalks and roads and even ice that adheres to all of that fuzzy hair between your dog’s toes can create irritation and sores. Inspect and rinse your dog’s tootsies as needed.

9.  I strongly encourage having dogs and cats live indoors. If your living situation absolutely prevents this, and there are no other viable alternatives, please provide your pet with an enclosed shelter that is warmed by a heating device and contains plenty of clean, dry bedding. Also, remember that your pet needs just as much attention from you in frigid temperatures as during the warmer seasons.

10.  ‘Tis the time of year when we humans tend to overindulge, eating all kinds of things we shouldn’t. Don’t allow your pets to become a victim of this holiday spirit. In addition to adding unwanted and unhealthy pounds, eating rich and fatty foods predisposes them to gastrointestinal upset and pancreatitis either of which could land your four-legged family member in the hospital for several days (not to mention create some significant rug-cleaning expenses for you).

What steps do you take to ensure your pets will be happy and healthy during the winter?

 

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pet Photos with Santa
Many dogs are uncomfortable with the holiday picture frenzy

I don't have children, but I consider my dogs to be my furry kids in everything from choosing the best daycare to researching safe toys. When the holidays come around, they each have a stocking hanging over the fireplace and Christmas themed collars. And for years, I took my canine crew to the pet store to get their photo taken with Santa. The holiday ritual has become so popular that I noticed my local mall's Santa's workshop now has a weekly pet night!

Santa photos are great additions to family holiday cards, but for many dogs, getting their picture taken is not fun. Getting plopped into a stranger's lap can be stressful, especially when they're wearing a funky costume. Then mix in attempting to get the animals to stay still, trying to get them to look at the camera, flashing a bright light in their eyes, and dealing with the distraction of the other pets waiting their turn.  

It's important to know what your dog is comfortable with before bringing them to a Santa photo shoot. Ask yourself if your pup is okay with:

  • New environments
  • Strange people and dogs
  • People in costumes or other strange outfits
  • Flashing lights
  • Being handled and restrained by a stranger
And remember to manage your expectations. Asking your dog to maintain a stay or to turn their attention to the camera can be difficult, particularly in a hectic environment. Observe your pup's body language and leave if they're not comfortable. If you think your dog may not enjoy a visit to Santa's workshop, consider a photo session at a private studio instead of visiting a busy pet store or mall. In my case, I started taking my own holiday pictures at home.   Remember that Santa photos are supposed to be fun for both of you!

 

News: Guest Posts
Puppies Aren’t Presents, give Puppyhood instead
New coffee table book featuring life-size photographs of puppies is the perfect excuse to take time during this crazy season to celebrate small {canine} wonders.
PUPPY

Oh they’re cute, they’re downright addicting. It was precisely this reason that when I was approached to find and photograph puppies for a book titled Puppyhood: life-size portraits of puppies at six weeks old, I immediately agreed. I indulged in selfish daydreams about all the round pink bellies I would get to nuzzle and all the miniature toes I would get to massage between my fingers. But after the haze of the impending puppy-overdose passed, I realized this book project actually offered an opportunity far more important than getting high on puppy breath.

Having worked in the pet industry for nearly a decade, I have noticed one profound divide between the thousands of dog-loving people that I’ve met. It is an unspoken imperative that if you are a “properly educated” dog lover, you must ultimately align yourself with one of two parties: camp “spay & neuter” or camp “purebred”; never the twain shall meet. At its most extreme, this “rescue” vs. “breeder” mentality dictates that good animal advocates foster and adopt shelter dogs (and would never dream of owning a purebred dog) and good breeders are single-breed fanatics who live for dog shows and look upon mixed breed “mutts” with disapproval.

It is not exaggerating to say this debate can be as controversial as religious arguments for creationism versus scientific support for evolution!

Thankfully, these extreme stereotypes are impossibly inaccurate when applied to the dog-loving population at large: many responsible breeders also operate rescue organizations and many compassionate foster families also own purebred dogs. But who hasn’t played up their affiliation with one or the other camp in order to “fit in” with friends or colleagues? This social pressure is especially odd when arguably, the motivation behind it all is simply to love and be loved by dogs.

Meanwhile, we are constantly confronted with statistics about animal shelters overflowing (with purebred dogs nonetheless) yet the stigma remains that “mongrels at the pound” are somehow damaged, dangerous or un-loveable. On the flip side, nightly-news exposés on puppy mills or backyard breeder operations have become more and more common. Around the holidays, this media-fueled fire flares up, as some families “shop” for puppies to give as Christmas gifts, a practice that both sides of the dog debate condemn equally.

The puppy-gift trend is especially troublesome as puppies are clearly not toys, and they have this pesky tendency to grow into full-size dogs. Animal advocates like Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog” star Victoria Stilwell have spoken out against this act, spreading slogans like “Adopt Don’t Shop” in order to encourage people to do their homework before putting that puppy dressed with a giant bow under the Christmas tree.

Victoria explains: “No matter how cute they may look, it’s almost always a bad idea to give a puppy as a gift. Whether it’s from a shelter, a reputable breeder or a neighbor’s fuzzy little litter, the sad statistics regarding puppies who are surrendered to shelters after being received as presents are undeniable. Instead, consider encouraging potential pet owners to foster animals from their local shelter before adopting so that they can truly understand the responsibility that comes with bringing that pup into your family.”

Even more worrying is that a large percentage of holiday surprise-puppies are purchased from pet stores. Despite the widespread consumer appreciation that buying a dog from a pet store is a bad idea, many compassionate people are inclined to rescue the pup from its horrible circumstances.

Victoria warns, “please don’t think you’re ‘saving’ the life of that puppy from the local pet store—you’re actually unknowingly sentencing countless other dogs to misery and euthanasia by supporting one of the most abhorrent practices mankind has developed: puppy mills. Essentially all (99%) of pet store pups come from backyard breeders and puppy mills, no matter what the store owner may say.”

I admire how outspoken Victoria is about the critical issues facing dogs and people today, she certainly walks her talk. But as a writer, photographer and business owner within the pet industry, I have always tried to be more like Switzerland. Gently tiptoeing from one side of the dog debate to the other, hoping to stay objective. I do of course, take every opportunity to educate those around me (often to their chagrin) about the “dog beliefs” I am passionate about: the importance of spay/neuter programs, the superiority of positive reinforcement dog training, the inadequacies of breed legislation and of course, the importance of adopting, not shopping for dogs. But I also own two purebred dogs, one impulsively adopted, one researched and purchased from a breeder. Because of this dichotomy, I have always felt like a bit of a fraud in the company of extreme members of either dog camp. Similarly, I have wondered, do I walk my talk?

When presented with the Puppyhood project I recognized an opportunity to take action, to create something beautiful to bring people together. To unite us in celebration of the miraculous creation we are so clearly obsessed with… Dog, at its most precious and pure.

I am so proud of Puppyhood for this reason: it is simple and uncluttered; it allows each puppy to shine as the wobbly, wriggly, fluffy work of art that they are. More profoundly however, my hope remains that the book is a tangible object that allows both sides of the dog debate, as well as anyone with a fondness for dogs, to just stop for a moment and cherish the bits, big and small that make all dogs worth fighting for.

One added benefit I didn’t foresee, is that Puppyhood has turned out to be an ideal substitute for an actual puppy. So, consider giving the gift of Puppyhood this holiday season, or anytime a proper puppy fix is required!

Puppyhood is a stunning collection life-size photographs featuring six-week old puppies. The book itself is oversize at 13 by 11 inches, which allows enough space to bring each of these little ones to life. Twenty-five breeds are captured in engaging portraits, showcasing the expressions and tiny details that make puppies so irresistible.

AVAILABLE from Amazon.com, Abrams.com or anywhere books are sold. For behind-the-scenes photos from the making of Puppyhood, visit facebook.

“So sweet it’ll cause cavities, this delightful marshmallow of a coffee table book compiles 100 shots of pure and mixed-breed puppies at actual life size of six weeks of age sleeping, curiously studying the camera, playing, and resting.” —Publishers Weekly

“Making a bold bid for the most adorable animal book of the season.” –Jocelyn McClurg, USA Today

J.Nichole Smith is an author, photographer, designer and consultant specializing in the pet-industry. In 2006 she co-founded popular lifestyle brand, Dog is Good ®. Recently, Nichole packed up her dogs and re-located to London where she is currently completing her Masters in Marketing.

Victoria Stilwell is a world-renowned dog trainer best known as the star of the internationally acclaimed TV series, It’s Me or the Dog. A bestselling author, Stilwell frequently appears in the media as a pet expert and is widely recognized and respected as a leader in the field of animal behavior.

Photos by: J.Nichole Smith, www.dane-dane.com

News: Guest Posts
Toy Alert
Study finds Hormone-disrupting Chemicals Leach from Some Plastic Toys

The toy aisle is meant to be all about fun, but recalls, toxic imports and a dearth of regulations have left dog owners facing tough choices. Many toys are made of plastic and may contain chemicals that interfere with hormones.

A new study by researchers at the Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University shows that BPA and phthalates, chemicals that disrupt hormones, “readily leach” from plastic or vinyl bumper toys used to train retrievers.

Philip Smith, a toxicologist and co-author of the as-yet unpublished study, uses plastic bumpers to train his Labrador Retrievers, Bindi, age 11, and Huck, age 5. He wondered if the bumpers might expose them to hazardous chemicals.

In fact, the compounds are hard to avoid. BPA, the building block of polycarbonate plastic, is found in most food and drink cans; phthalates are common in food packaging, personal care items and vinyl plastics.

“BPA and phthalates come from many, many sources” besides pet toys, Smith says. So a dog’s “cumulative exposure may be significant.”

The study, conducted by graduate student, Kim Wooten, is one of the first to examine these chemicals in pet toys. In children’s toys, some phthalates have been banned in the U.S. and the European Union. In July 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned BPA in baby bottles and children’s drinking cups.

Although their health effects in dogs are unknown, the hormones they interfere with regulate many biological functions.

Studies done mostly with rodents have linked BPA and phthalates to impaired development of reproductive organs, decreased fertility, diabetes and obesity, cancers, and behavioral and attention problems.

No, dogs are not mice. There are “species sensitivity differences” in regard to toxics, Smith says. For example, dogs are at greater risk than humans from eating chocolate. But while their sensitivity to synthetic chemicals may also differ, “we are unaware of specific reasons why they might respond in a significantly different manner.”

Available data suggests that the most vulnerable pets may be pregnant females “and perhaps young animals like puppies.”

According to a 2012 pet health report by Banfield Pet Hospital, some cancers and other diseases in dogs are increasing. “The rate of overweight and obese pets has reached epidemic levels in the U.S., affecting approximately one in five dogs and cats.”

The causes are unknown, but Smith says it’s possible that endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including phthalates and BPA, play a role.

Certain aspects of canine cancer suggest that dogs are sensitive to them, he says. For instance, exposure to estrogens raises the risk for mammary cancers. For metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes, researchers are finding that some hormone-disrupting chemicals appear to “affect metabolic endpoints, in addition to reproduction and behavior.”

For the toy study, the researchers tested orange and white bumpers from two unidentified makers, using artificial saliva to simulate a dog chewing a bumper. The amount of toxics released in a dog’s mouth couldn’t be determined due to the use of simulated saliva,

But what is a high exposure in dogs?

“We are not aware of any exposure guidelines pertaining to these particular chemicals and dogs,” Smith says.

They suspect the levels released from the bumpers would be very high, though, compared with children’s toys.

The study also examined BPA and phthalates from ordinary plastic pet toys sold in stores. The bumpers leached more, but the results suggest that the other toys might have released other hormonally-active chemicals.

Smith highlights the uncertainty that shoppers face, saying the bumpers might have been made from different materials, or perhaps the packaging limited the release of some chemicals before the experiment.

Or, the less affected toys may have involved “materials that are also used in the manufacture of children’s toys.”

“We’re not really sure, but intend to pursue the question further.”

Good thing for pet owners.

“Given the extent of plastics in the human-canine environment,” Smith says, avoiding the chemicals entirely may not be possible.

But not all plastics are the same. When it comes to leaching of chemicals “each type is very different.”

“That is why studies on individual products are important.” Pet owners need the information “to make thoughtful decisions.”

Some pet toy makers say they use BPA-free plastics.

But owners may wonder why it’s even a question. Why should they have to worry about chemicals in toys or migrating from cans, even into “organic” food, to add to their dog’s exposure?

At least—at last—it is being studied.

Smith’s team plans to continue studying the exposure of pets to chemicals. “We think there is a great deal to be learned about potential pet and human health impacts from chemicals in the environment,” he says.

And as they learn, Smith says they hope to yield the data needed “to inform decisions about how we manufacture pet products, which ones we buy, and what we allow our pets to chew.”

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Teaching Dogs to Drive
New Zealand SPCA takes on the ultimate training challenge

Animal trainer, Mark Vette, set out to train the impossible, all in the name of creating positive buzz for the SPCA in South Auckland. Mark decided to showcase how intelligent shelter pets are by teaching dogs to drive a car.

The pups were chosen from a short list of candidates at the shelter. After seeing how each dog responded to targeting objects through clicker training, Mark chose Monty, a 10-month old Giant Schnauzer deemed uncontrollable, Ginny, a 1-year old Whippet Mix rescued from abuse, and Porter a 10-month old Beardie Mix found roaming the streets.

The three dogs then moved to a farm to begin intensive training. Mark and his team began teaching 10 individual behaviors, from pressing a starter button to shifting gears, that chain together to become driving a car. The vehicle used was custom made by engineers for animal drivers.

Within one week the superstar pups were putting their paws on targets shaped like parts of the car. The next week they learned to hop into the drivers seat and put their paws on the steering wheel. By week five the canine crew began to accelerate and brake on cue.

In just two months, the dogs were driving the modified car with enthusiasm (made possible with clicker training!).

It’s incredible to see all the steps leading up to training such a complex behavior. It also shows how amazing shelter pets are and that there’s no limit to what you can train a dog to do!

News: Guest Posts
Conservation Pup In-Training: Part VI
A New Dog-in-training Joins Up

October and November have been the most exciting months of 2012 for Dogs for Conservation. More than a year of hard work and patience have paid off and we now have some tangible things to show for it!

In October 2012 we had the wonderful opportunity to both save a life and acquire another great detection dog! Formerly known as Allie, now named "Terra" (as in "Terra Firma"), this female Border Collie was found as a stray and was looking at her last days before being euthanized at a Texas shelter. That was when Ruff Mutts Border Collie Rescue saved her life and realized she had potential to be a working dog! Debbie Schwagerman, Director of Ruff Mutts, wrote:

“Allie actually came from the Wichita Falls animal shelter. She was picked up as a stray and no one claimed her. In fact, even after she was available for adoption, no one adopted her and no other rescue stepped up for her. I agreed to take her at the last minute, and she was transported out to me in Terrell. I knew from the minute I met her she was born to DO something.”

Terra was then evaluated and temporarily fostered by Bob and Karen Deeds of Canine Connection in Fort Worth, TX where she was deemed a wonderful prospect for detection work!

Soon after that, we at Dogs for Conservation contacted Bob Deeds about any dogs he knew of that might work out for our program … and the rest is history!! Terra is currently being trained by our head trainer Tiffanie Turner to detect the highly endangered Houston Toad! Terra is the sweetest girl who gives the best doggy hugs I have ever seen!! She is crazy about her ball, and that has been the key to teaching her how to "learn to earn” … she did not even know how to sit when we got her!

While Terra sniffs out toads, Ranger has stepped up his training a notch and has finally been introduced to a target odor. Many months of preparation and fun have led up to this time, and so for Ranger it is just another game! He has been learning how to use his nose properly and efficiently, learning how scent behaves in different terrain and weather, and of course his obedience training continues every day as well. All of these are pieces to the puzzle that will ultimately have our “puppy” working well in the real world in 2013. It amazes me daily how much he enjoys what he is doing… I am so proud of him!

Until next time, feel free to visit us on our website or on our Facebook page for regular updates on Ranger and Terra’s progress!!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Nutcracker
Group raises money for therapy work through their holiday performance

If you love the popular holiday classic The Nutcracker, you have to check out the canine version being performed by 29 dogs in the Chicago-area. And these pups don’t just perform for fun, they're all volunteer therapy dogs that use the show to raise money for their work with the PAWSitive Therapy Troupe.

The Nutcracker features Gracie the Sheltie as the Sugar plum Fairy, Bailey the Shih Tzu as the Nutcracker Prince, Sam the Golden Retriever as the Mouse King, and Lily the Pug as Clara. Amazingly 12-year old Gracie is deaf, but you would never know it from her beautiful solo dance. It takes about 1,000 hours to prepare for the big performance where the dogs are clicker trained to follow hand signals in synchronized precision.    

The PAWSitive Therapy Troupe first performed the canine Nutracker back in 2000 to cheer up sick kids living with their families at a Ronald McDonald House. It was so popular that they expanded production to fundraiser shows to raise money for their therapy work. The first year they sold 800 tickets in the first couple of hours and had lines down the street. This year their shows are sold out, but you can support the cause by buying a DVD of the show on their web site.

Actors, therapy dogs... is there anything that these pups don't do?!

News: Guest Posts
Family Dies to Save Dog
Tragic ending to heroic efforts
dog swim ocean

Tragedy struck a northern California family when their dog, Fran, was swept out by a wave while playing fetch at Big Lagoon state beach. Sixteen-year-old Gregory Kuljian immediately dove in to save her. Seeing his son struggle in the eight-to-10-foot surf, Gregory's father, Howard Kuljian, 54, quickly followed. Gregory made it out, but returned to the churning waters along with his mother, Mary Scott, 57, to rescue his father.

All three drowned as Gregory's 18-year-old sister, Olivia, and girlfriend watched in horror. The group had gathered at Big Lagoon state beach near Arcata, California, for a leisurely stroll where signs warned of dangerous sneaker waves. The dog, Fran, safely made her way back to land.

News: Guest Posts
Take a Study Break with a Dog

Final exams at college are always stressful. You’re studying far into the wee hours, cramming facts and formulas into your tired brain, worrying about grades, neglecting your nutrition, sleep and exercise needs, and counting the days until your last exam is done and you can go home. Add to all of that stress the fact that you’re away from the comforts of home, including your beloved family pet.

Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has come up with a creative solution for some of its students: Puppy Room. As the Dalhousie Student Union Facebook page poster says, “Yup, it’s a room full of puppies.”

Or more accurately, the students will hang out with some certified therapy dogs, coordinated by the local chapter of Therapeutic Paws of Canada. That program places therapy dogs with people suffering from high blood pressure, depression and loneliness.

Now they can add final exam-related stress to that list.

As soon as the Student Union posted about the idea on Facebook, it went viral. The therapy dogs will be on campus for several hours on three separate days during exam week. All of the dogs are at least a year old, so while they might not technically be puppies, I doubt any of the students will care.

My thought? Other universities and colleges should jump on this wagon. They could use therapy dogs, or better yet connect with local shelters which might actually have some real puppies that could use the socializing and play time with the students. The puppies gain people skills; the students do better (we hope) on their exams. A big win-win.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Lab Mix Included in Restraining Order
Panzer becomes the first dog to be protected under a new law in Mass.

This summer Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a new law that allows pets to be included in domestic violence restraining orders and it's already been put to good use.  

Just before Thanksgiving, a Labrador mix named Panzer became the first animal in Massachusetts to win protection since the new legislation passed. A Marshfield, Mass. woman filed the restraining order against her boyfriend, who had a history of abusing both the woman and Panzer. The 6-year old pup is now staying in a foster home while the woman and her son are in a domestic violence shelter. Once they find a safe place to live, Panzer will be reunited with his family.

Less than half of the United States currently has similar legislation in place. With 85 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters reporting pet abuse in their family, we have to get that number up to 50.  It's critical that we protect the ones we love--both two and four legged.

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